We’ve all heard the classic adage, “With great power comes great responsibility.” It dates back to the first century BC and is still applicable today, even in business.
Having an audience — customers, employees, social media followers — is powerful. So we say: with an audience comes great responsibility.
Whether four or 400,000 people bear witness to your marketing content on social media, and email campaign, virtual event, or the side of a city bus, it’s even more important to leverage what you publish for good. It’s important to consider how your messaging impacts those who see it.
A diverse and inclusive approach to marketing has bottom-line advantages including:
- 83% of Millennials prefer to buy from companies that align with their beliefs and values
- 71% will pay more for a product if they know some proceeds will go to charity
- 61% of consumers think diversity in marketing is crucial
- 38% are more inclined to trust brands that “effectively embrace diversity in their marketing”
In 2016, Johnnie Walker released a bi-lingual ad called “This Land” — “Está Tierra es mía” in Spanish — to celebrate America’s cultural diversity.
According to the ANA, “viewer sentiment for the ad was overwhelmingly positive (90%) and helped spur high digital interactions relative to brand spend. The ad drove two-thirds of the brand’s total earned digital interactions over the last five years.”
It’s clear that customers spend more money to support inclusive companies and brands. While increased revenue shouldn’t be the only reason to consider diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in your marketing, it certainly demonstrates that consumers are ready to invest in brands that celebrate them.
Diverse and inclusive marketing can also drive innovation and creativity, build trust, and create more business impact. This article will unpack diverse, equitable, and inclusive marketing and why it matters today.
In this article
What are diversity, equity, and inclusion in marketing?
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is an initiative that ensures that everyone impacted by an organization — including employees and customers — is treated fairly and with respect.
DEI is not just about equality; it’s about enriching the employee and customer experiences by valuing differences in people, cultures, and backgrounds and how they bring us together.
DEI in marketing is about accurately portraying your audience in your marketing and advertising. This means thoughtfully considering and celebrating the differences among your community and featuring diverse audiences of different ages, genders, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and disabilities. It also means ensuring equal access to opportunities, resources, and experiences.
“Diversity is being asked to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.” — Vernā Myers, Inclusion Strategist.
Gillette’s #MyBestSelf campaign illustrates how inclusive marketing not only reaches and resonates with a variety of razor-using customers, but also highlights important moments that many other companies don’t feature in their marketing.
In this commercial, Gillette focuses on the experience of a dad teaching his transgender son how to shave for the first time. Gillette colors outside the lines of the typical razor commercial, telling its transgender audience they are seen and celebrated.
A survey revealed that nearly 80% of respondents liked the ad, 77% said it made them hopeful about the future, almost 60% said they would remember the ad in three or four months, and 34% said it made them want to buy Gillette products.
How to build an inclusive and equitable marketing framework
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are on the minds of many marketers. 70% of consumers feel that brands should take a stance on political and social issues, and one way they can do so is through their marketing.
We tapped Candace Williams, Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Vimeo to better understand how marketers can think through their strategies with equity, inclusivity, and diversity in mind. She explained four main tenets all marketing teams should keep in mind.
1. Partnerships are important
Your organizational values extend far beyond your marketing and advertising — it’s also communicated through your company affiliations and who you partner with.
“Partnerships are important,” confirmed Candace. “If I don’t see values or intersections with which I align [in an organization’s marketing,] I look to who they are partnering with. Are they supporting certain nonprofit organizations?”
Companies are likely to partner with and support organizations that share their values. “So, you have to look beyond the product and see who they’re aligned with,” Candace said.
Companies can lose focus on their target audience. By honing in on a select group or groups of people, it’s easy to lose traction with everybody else — other groups and generations can think, ‘that’s not for me.’
“Even if their marketing doesn’t speak to every type of consumer, brands can communicate their values through their affiliations and partnerships,” says Candace. “Moreover, companies need to be bold. If you’re sponsoring nonprofit organizations or offer fantastic employee resource groups, don’t let the work go unseen. Let it be out there and part of your marketing strategy. This drives revenue, and it’s good to celebrate publicly, too.”
2. Consider your audience as real people, not faceless personas
It’s easy to forget that a target audience is made of real people, not faceless personas. Marketers have had their fair share of audience research and potentially reduced buyers to one-line demographics and generic descriptions.
While building personas is helpful for building the foundation of your product and marketing strategy, it’s important to remember the unique components and dimensions of your audience — and celebrate those in your advertising.
As a marketer, your job is to understand these differences in order to foster diverse marketing and cater to different consumer behaviors. One of the best ways to do this is to diversify your marketing team.
3. Diversify your marketing team
Your marketing strategy is born from your marketing team. And a more diverse and inclusive marketing team can strengthen your strategy with more perspectives and personas.
“When I think about marketing teams, it’s almost impossible to have an inclusive product that’s innovative and includes all kinds of intersections if you don’t have a marketing team reflective of that,” shares Candace.
If you’re working to restructure your marketing team, you’re not alone. “When you’re building something, you tend to gravitate towards people who look like you and are similar to you — then you think, ‘Oh, gosh, I forgot to consider the diverse aspects of what we might need.’”
It’s not too late to diversify the voices that influence your marketing strategy. In addition to hiring new marketers, you can also gather insights from employee resource groups (ERGs). “There are so many ERGs or external insight groups for marketing teams who want to learn more,” says Candace. “Consider asking, ‘What does my LGBTQIA group think of our marketing? What about our BIPOC group?’”
Candace also warns of potential risks when businesses don’t consider diversity when growing their team, “when you don’t [check in with your different diversity dimensions], you lose some critical information and innovation that could be happening.”
Additionally, work with a diverse range of freelancers and contractors. It may be tempting to stick with a select few reliable folks. However, the more diversity in your freelance roster, the wider range of voices you have represented in marketing materials.
“Where business groups go wrong is considering themselves the owners of the employee or customer experience — so they must know all there is to know,” shares Candace. “Companies should be intentional [with gathering insights and diversifying their perspectives,] because otherwise, you’re just really creating a product based on a one-dimensional view of your marketing team.”
4. Follow through with action
Marketing is a promise to deliver your product or service to your customers. When companies don’t follow through on what they promise in their advertising, customers are likely to have an unfavorable experience and perception of the brand.
This also applies to diversity and inclusion in your marketing: “There’s a difference in making a statement and taking action,” says Candace. “Some companies will say, ‘Oh, we made a statement, so we’re okay.’ But, what is the value that supports the action behind your statement?”
Whether you’re marketing to customers or employees, it’s critical to follow through on the promises of your marketing message. Candace encourages marketers to stay in touch with their colleagues on the product and human resource teams. By removing silos and championing open communication, marketers can understand the customer and employee experiences each team delivers and be sure to market them appropriately.
This also fosters DEI across the organization, too. “It goes back to the basic ingredients for diversity, equity inclusion, which are ensuring the right people have a seat at the table,” confirms Candace.
Examples of equitable and diverse perspectives from great brand marketing campaigns
In the last five to ten years, more brands have featured a diverse and equitable perspective in their marketing campaigns to tell beautiful stories and address important issues with video.
Let’s look at a couple of examples.
“Equality” by Nike
Nike’s “Equality” ad features some of the brand’s most famous athletes, including Serena Williams, LeBron James, and Kevin Durant. Its message is simple: “Worth should outshine color.” The idea is to encourage people to be themselves, play fair, and take action against discrimination.
In the ad, actor Michael B. Jordan narrates a powerful poem on equality ending with “If we can be equals here, we can be equals everywhere.” Singer Alicia Keys performs a new version of “A Change Is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke.
“Belong Anywhere” by Airbnb
The 2019 “Belong Anywhere” ad by Airbnb celebrates cultures around the world by featuring a variety of guests, cuisines, and cities.
Airbnb’s purpose is to create a world where anyone can belong anywhere. With this campaign, the brand shows that everyone has a place in the world no matter where they are from or what they look like.
Notice that besides diverse and inclusive advertising, these campaigns have one thing in common—they leverage the power of video marketing to communicate their message and reach their audiences.There’s a reason that 86% of marketers use video as a marketing tool. Aside from getting higher engagement and overall ROI, videos are easier to repurpose and have a long shelf life. Moreover, they’re a powerful storytelling tool, especially when communicating emotional, impactful messages.
3 ways video can help your diversity and inclusion marketing initiatives
Online courses for employees
Video is a helpful asset for corporate training and education, especially for visual learners. Suppose you’d like to speak to unconscious bias; using video, you could educate employees on different types of discrimination — ageism, racism, sexism — that features real employees sharing stories about their experiences on the receiving end of unconscious bias.
Video as a medium is more engaging and effective in sharing emotions and communicating an important message, such as the experience of unconscious bias.
Quarterly reports on progress
If you offer ERGs for your employees, encourage them to share video updates that communicate what they’ve been working on or progress they’ve made across the organization. These can include diversity training sessions and other initiatives that help promote equity and inclusion across your teams.
Moreover, consider featuring these groups in your employer branding assets or even your product marketing collateral.
Customers love peeking behind the curtain to see how companies operate behind the scenes. By sharing videos from company retreats, monthly meetings, or fun happenings around the office, customers can better understand your company values and how your organization supports DEI initiatives.
Use video to share a story about an employee who has overcome adversity or achieved greatness, or even to highlight the contributions each person makes to your organization. Additionally, capture short clips of interviews with people from different backgrounds, showcasing unique experiences and what they bring to the table at work.
Why diverse and inclusive marketing matters
Diverse and inclusive marketing fosters trust and goodwill among your audience. It can also lead to increased sales, better products and services, and a stronger culture across your organization.
When it comes to marketing, DEI isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s good business sense.
“It’s about consistently leaning into diverse groups, having those insights, and understanding what drives your audience,” says Candace. “I like to log into the [Vimeo] platform and see people that look like me: female—my intersection—and Black—another intersection—and not having to search for it. I appreciate being able to see something on a marketing campaign and see faces that are our faces, of all backgrounds and diverse abilities.”
At the end of the day, featuring a variety of audiences, narratives, and cultures in your marketing allows even more opportunities to connect with people and share what your products, solutions, and brand can do.