When it comes to diversity in marketing, we’ve come a long way. Although efforts have been made there’s still a long way to go for many communities to feel represented in this industry. Marketing has a very unique role to play in rewriting the rules, especially the way we approach diversity and exclusion in modern advertising.
“I think diversity in power can only make for a better society” – Grayson Perry
A recent survey of U.S. marketers found that more than 91% agree with this statement: “There is still room for growth in using more diverse images by marketers.” It’s clear that most American companies have a diversity “blind spot” that may be impacting business growth potential.
Even though it’s 2018, many marketers are still following the brilliant, but seriously outdated marketing strategy of Don Draper. Not being diversified in ads is the old way of marketing. Different messages resonate with different audiences. In order to avoid becoming the next #fail, or leaving money on the table by not appealing to wide range of audience, it is important to understand why diversity in advertisements matters, and how to diversify your content. Statistics show that America is becoming increasingly more diverse. Recent data reveals that growth among racial and ethnic minority populations outpaces that of Caucasians. It’s vital for modern marketers to know their audience, but they should also remember that diversity extends beyond race alone. Diversity means the inclusion of people of all races, ages, genders, disabilities, sexual orientations, religious preferences, social classes, economic classes, and the list goes on and on.
Despite making up 51% of the population, women only feature in a startling 33% of advertising. Women are rarely shown in positions of power, and when they are, these roles are usually linked to seduction, beauty or motherhood. There is also no representation of people with non-binary gender identities. We’ve seen major brands’ ad campaigns shift to appeal to various age groups, women and minorities, and in some cases, they even aligned themselves with social movements. Fenty Beauty, for example, is a cosmetics brand founded by Rihanna. Fenty is claiming to be “the new generation of beauty.” This revolutionary launch included 40 shades of foundation for women and men of all complexions and skin colors. “There needs to be something for a dark-skinned girl; there needs to be something for a really pale girl; there needs to be something in-between,” Rhianna said in a recent interview.
Today, promoting revenue and brand image means defining and communicating with audiences as individuals. This includes people of all ages, socio-economic classes, and genders. Ultimately, the key to staying competitive lies in providing diversified content for diversified audiences, in a way that represents present-day society.
In 2016, The New York Times published an article claiming that big brands were noticing the diversity paradox, and wanted ad agencies to do something about it. Their studies concluded that while 87% of the industry agreed that inclusion and diversity should be a priority. 82% believe that their most successful projects were produced by a diverse team, only 54% believe that the diversity in the advertising and marketing industry has gotten any better compared to the past five years.
The question all marketers should be asking is how can we create the change we want to see? Diversity is a big undertaking. Embracing it doesn’t just mean embracing a few tactics; it means changing the very way your business works. One reason why so many diversity programs fail is that they misunderstand the very nature of diversity. Diversity is not a quick-fix solution. It isn’t a weekend-long training program that can be done once and forgotten the next week. Rather, diversity is a long-term endeavor. It bears results over years, not months. Here are some tips to embracing diversity in your agency:
Track the platforms preferred by each demographic. If your audience is widely diverse, chances are, their social media habits will be too. Different demographics use social sites differently; therefore, your marketing efforts need to align with their preferences. While Facebook still leads the pack in terms of general usage (71 percent of Americans have an account), other platforms such as Twitter and Instagram have been growing in popularity among younger consumers.
Strengthen internal culture by conducting bias training throughout the organization and investing resources in formal on-boarding, training, and mentoring, with an emphasis on sponsorship of diverse employees.
Become aware of the subtle message your marketing communications send. As the world grows in complexity and diversity, businesses have to do a better job of understanding how bias, whether intentional or unintentional, influences your marketing. The more complex our world gets, the easier it gets for the intent of our messages to get misinterpreted. That’s why it’s important for everyone in your business to get training on identifying bias and strategies for addressing bias.
Invest in influencers. Influencer marketing is one of the most effective ways to reach your audience. According to a study conducted by Twitter, 40 percent of social media users have purchased a product because of exposure through an influencer. This report also found that conversion rates were over five times stronger when customers learned about a brand through tweets from businesses and influencers alike. Influencers have their own dedicated followers and can be useful in helping companies connect with new groups outside of their usual reach. These resources look at how influencers can help extend an organization’s message to a more varied range of people, because of the ability to relate to their interests and needs.
It’s one thing to talk about the importance of diversity and inclusion, but another to create a diverse culture. Even the most successful companies can find ways to improve upon driving diversity internally and in branding efforts. Penetrating new markets makes it more possible to generate new revenue. Not only does more diversity and inclusion contribute to a more aligned society, it allows companies to target new populations and increase response rates with relatable messaging, helping boost their bottom lines.
Brands are already demanding it. Now we need to not only demand it, but live up to it as well. We must stop the silence and escape the paradox. Doing so is the only way anything will change.
For more helpful resources on this hot topic, visit this Guide to Diversity and Inclusion in Modern Advertising