Over the past few months, diversity marketing has been a key conversation amongst marketers around the world. After all, 2020 brought the question of diversity and inclusion to the fore. All around the world people demonstrated against racial injustice in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. Consumers denounced attempts from brands to appropriate the movement. Companies reflected on their inner workings, and looked beyond policies to discover what it actually means to be more inclusive as a business.
For many brands it was a much-needed wake up call. Now more than ever, marketers must ensure that their marketing is respectful and inclusive, while retaining its distinctiveness. And yet, when it comes to global marketing, diversity is all the more complex, as behaviours and attitudes towards diversity differ from one market to another. So, how can marketers make their global content more diverse and inclusive while staying true to their brand.
The benefits of diversity marketing
Before we get into the how, let’s look at why global brands should be more inclusive in their marketing. Beyond the moral imperative of fairer representation and communication, brands can benefit from more diversity.
Firstly, a more diverse approach to marketing provides marketers with more in-depth knowledge of their audience, and ultimately a tool for better conversion and brand fidelity. Secondly, in today’s hyper-connected world, too many brands are getting diversity wrong, resulting in their campaigns going viral for the wrong reasons. A diverse approach to marketing allows brands to be more mindful of the breadth of human experiences.
Younger generations (millennials and Gen Z) have higher expectations when it comes to a brand’s social and environmental responsibility. They look to brands for authentic commitment in helping bring about societal change – the question of diversity and inclusion being crucial. And this trend seems to be growing beyond younger audiences. According to Edelman’s 2020 Trust Barometer Special Report, 80% of consumers want brands to be a ‘problem solver’ and a ‘positive force in shaping culture’.
Diverse through and through
The first thing for brands to consider (before even looking at marketing), is whether their company is diverse and inclusive. It’s important that companies are as honest as possible when examining their inner workings, so they can see what needs to improve and whether diversity and inclusion are a strong enough element of the company’s culture. Beyond company culture, supply chains, representation in senior management, as well as policies and goals set by the business must be examined.
Brands should also look at their marketing team and ask the right questions. Is the team too homogeneous? What about partner agencies – are they diverse enough? The sad truth is that most marketing teams are not diverse enough. In 2020, the Marketing Week Career and Salary Survey revealed that 88% of 3,333 ad industry employees identified as white. Only 5% identified as Asian, 4% as mixed and 2% as black. Clearly, a lot of work needs to be done.
No matter how woke people might be, nothing replaces first-hand experience. So brands should make sure that their marketing teams aren’t uniform. If they are, the company should consider reviewing the recruitment process for fairer opportunities. Equally, they should look for partner agencies who truly understand the importance of diverse opinions and backgrounds.
Obviously, thorough research and testing before the campaign launch will help brands get it right. But, having a diverse team to work on creative concepts and messaging from the start allows marketing teams to develop a broader understanding of the human experience, ultimately enriching the brand.
The cultural complications of diversity marketing
Global marketing presents an added layer of difficulty when it comes to creating diverse content or being a more inclusive brand. Diversity can be perceived differently around the world, with different attitudes towards the social questions it raises.
For instance, LGBTQIA sexualities aren’t tolerated in many parts of the world, or the rights of LGBTQIA communities might vary. The role of women differs greatly depending on the culture. So does the role of religion. And of course, ethnicities and cultures vary greatly across different markets. So, as global brands tackle the rather delicate topic of diversity and inclusion, they must also look at diversity through a local lens to ensure they don’t cause offence or spark unwanted storms.
Tackling unconscious bias
Tackling unconscious bias
No matter how progressive we might be, everyone has biases. And professionals working in global marketing are regularly confronted with their own biases, often without even realising it. For instance, a Western and white viewpoint is almost systematically adopted by Western brands in their global campaigns (which is not surprising if you consider that their campaigns are often developed by Western, predominantly white teams). This can prove quite detrimental to brands, especially if their campaigns portray other cultures or minorities in a stereotypical or offensive way, consciously or not.
An Adobe report reveals that, out of 2000 respondents, 66% of African-Americans and 53% of Latino and Hispanic Americans feel their ethnicity is reduced to stereotypes in advertisements (source: CMO by Adobe, via Forbes). This is not a surprising statistic. It’s all too common for brands to rely on outdated, derogatory stereotypes. Everyone remembers the Dolce & Gabbana ad portraying a Chinese woman eating pizza with chopsticks, or the H&M ad featuring a black child wearing a hoodie that read “coolest monkey in the jungle”. Both ads were tasteless and hurtful to the groups depicted. And possibly neither of these ads intended to be harmful. They were the result of bias and blatant ignorance.
It’s important for marketers working on an international scale to understand how biases work and how different their perspective might be from other cultures. White, western marketers must fight their inherited feeling of superiority, left over from colonial times and stereotypical media representation.
More surprisingly perhaps, it’s not unlikely for marketers belonging to a marginalised group to perpetuate negative stereotypes against their own group. This is due to a problem of internalised oppression. This problem is probably most blatant with misogyny – female marketers and creatives can sometimes launch sexist campaigns almost unconsciously.
So, it’s key for any marketing professional to educate themselves on the history of minorities and systems of oppression to undo any biases or preconceptions.
Beyond diversity, inclusion
Sometimes even well-intentioned attempts by brands to celebrate diversity can be problematic. Think about the way brands portray people living with disabilities in advertising. Many brands choose to glorify Paralympic athletes, rather than adopt a perspective that shows the everyday reality of living with a disability. Of course there’s no harm in showing Paralympic athletes, their stories of resilience and physical prowess are truly inspiring. However, when viewers are only presented with a single narrative on people with disabilities, then there’s a problem.
It’s not only important to feature diversity in campaigns, it’s also crucial to consider how people belonging to the minority group will feel about the campaign. That’s the difference between diverse and inclusive marketing – diversity aims at representing everyone, while inclusion aims at making them feel that they belong.
Diversity marketing driven by insight
So, how can brands portray diversity with authenticity, to achieve inclusion with their marketing? The answer is simple – they need insight. Insight into how minority groups feel, what their challenges are, and how brands can help.
Take inspiration from brands who have created strong campaigns using insight into diverse human experiences:
For Pride 2020, Diesel released a powerful ad entitled “Francesca”. Viewers watch as Francesca, played by trans model Harlow Rose, in her journey to find her true identity as a trans woman. Part of their “For Successful Living” philosophy, the film emphasises to viewers that being true to oneself is the single most important element of life. At the end of the film, in the most surprising scene of all, Francesca is seen trading her Diesel jeans for a habit, as she enters a nunnery and a life of faith. This is a very powerful message from Diesel – as the viewer understands that Francesca’s truth is not just defined by her being a trans woman. She has a strong spiritual life too.
Womb stories, Bodyform
Essity (the company who own Bodyform) discovered that 62% of people feel women’s health and intimate experiences are not discussed openly, they realised it was time to make a change. As a result, Bodyform released #wombstories in July 2020. The campaign boldly portrayed the hidden and untold stories of women’s wombs. From menopause to IVF treatment, to miscarriage, to endometriosis, to the choice of being child-free… #wombstories delivers a raw and touching depiction of women’s complicated relationships with their wombs. A strong message from a brand who’s made it their mission to tackle taboos around menstruation and women’s bodies.
Sisters in Sweat, Gatorade
A brilliant example of diverse marketing done well is the 2017 Sisters in Sweat ad for Gatorade. In this campaign featuring Serena Williams, young girls are encouraged to keep playing sports. The choice of Serena Williams is great as she’s not only a celebrated athlete, she is also a black woman, a mother and a feminist. In the ad, Williams addresses her newborn daughter telling her she can be anything she wants to be, and encouraging her to practice sport to be stronger. A moving advert that portrays Williams in a human, authentic way and celebrates sisterhood in sports as a means to empower women.
Too often, marketers view diversity as a box to tick. And yet, diversity and inclusion are an opportunity for brands, not just to be fairer, but to be more authentic in the way they connect with increasingly diverse audiences.
At Freedman, we’re a diversity marketing agency – of sorts. We recognise how important it is for global brands to achieve diversity in their marketing and advertising. It can be tricky – complex matters like diversity become even more complex on a global scale. But, we provide brands with the local picture, helping them see what diversity and inclusion means to local audiences.
If you’d like to discuss how we can help you improve your diversity marketing to connect authentically with consumers around the world, get in touch. Or why not download our newest guide, Global Marketing Next: The Great Cultural Reset?