Corporate Branding via Instagram: Does Visual Representation of Diversity in Business Communication Matter?

Hope, Krystal Anne
Kim, Ji Young
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Among people in the United States, Instagram is the third most used online social media platform among adults (Perrin & Anderson, 2019). The author of this paper uses critical theory, critical race theory, and visual cultural communication analysis to examine the brand communications of five top brands on Instagram. Five scales were used to complete a quantitative visual content analysis to measure the representation of diversity; the relationship images containing skin tone diversity and social media engagement. A sentiment scale was utilized to analyze comments. Three research questions we asked: RQ1: To what extent do images on Instagram (of the selected brands) present diversity of the people in terms of the skin tone, body size, gender, ableness, and age? RQ 2: To what extent can images which contain skin tone diversity (of the selected brands) be associated with the numbers of “like,” “shares,” or “comments”? RQ 3: To what extent are skin tone diverse images on Instagram (of the selected brands) associated with the sentiment of the “comments” images have. An inventory of one month of images and 5% of the comments associated with them were evaluated. 256 images with 334 people along with 2,310 comments were analyzed. The results showed that there was no representation of visual disability. Ninety percent of images among the five selected Instagram brands were women. Eighty-seven percent of the people present in the photographs were youthful in age. The skin tones represented were typically light-colored tones. People who were in the images were typically adults with little to no body fat on a scales of little body fat to a high amount of body fat. Overall, it appears that the average number of likes increased for the diverse images but the comments and tags decreased. On average, images of people with diverse skin tones were slightly more likely to receive a comment with a positive sentiment, less likely to receive negative sentiment and were less likely to receive a neutral sentiment. There are examples of Eurocentric, homogenous ideologies of marketing present in all of the brands studied. The selected brands show preferences towards certain types of physical characteristics. The companies reinforce their own ideologies using images that they present as a brand on Instagram. Images posted by brands on Instagram are consumed by millions of people around the world. It is vital for brands to consider how their content reinforces some ideologies and leaves many other physical representations.
Communication, Business administration, Mass communication, brand communication, critical media studies, critical race theory, Instagram, social media, visual communication
78 pages
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