Advertising isn’t effective if audiences aren’t connecting with the message, so it’s important to focus on empathy as the ultimate goal. Once we understand and connect to different ways of thinking, it is likely that inequality will begin to shrink, while empathy and connection will strengthen and solidify, with marketing at the heart of the action. After all, to change how people behave, we need to change how people think.
To ensure that you feel represented in modern advertising, marketing, and media, the first step is first and foremost, to vote with your wallet.
Vote With Your Wallet
- To ensure that the companies and brands you care about are practicing a diverse and inclusive message, vote with your wallet. We saw this in film over the last few years with the explosive success of films like Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians that brought diverse perspectives and were wildly successful at the box office.
- Marketing changes perspectives. It can (and sometimes does) stimulate positive change. Think about the Always “Like a Girl” campaign that won the Cannes Lion a few years ago. It changed the American lexicon and now “throwing like a girl” seems to have almost been eliminated from modern vocabulary in its previously stigmatized way.
- Inclusion also means more than making sure ad campaigns feature different races, genders, and ages; it’s focusing on portraying different kinds of people in fair, accurate and realistic ways. Stereotypes are lazy storytelling. Focus on cultural sensitivity, authenticity, and fairness. Greater than 50% of women work outside the home, so if you are representing an adult female character, odds are she works. Knowing the statistics and the background of your audience makes for a richer story.
- Make sure you avoid brands that rely on cynical or lazy stereotypes that prey on or reinforce society’s existing biases. Remember that awful Kendall Jenner Pepsi commercial that basically said that a Pepsi could end racial tension? Yeah, that was pretty awful and they had to pull it almost immediately. In the peak of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, it utilized lazy storytelling to exploit the current popularity of a reality TV star.
As consumers become more diverse and global, companies creating products that address the needs of global consumers may also need to show how they authentically empathize with and understand diverse views.
However, as you try to connect to a larger, more diverse audience, it’s important to observe a few lessons that we all have learned from watching companies come out of their comfort zones, and attempt diversity and inclusion:
- Lesson 1: Know your niche. Know your clients, customers, audience.
- Lesson 2: Track your data. Collect and Track all of your data. Know what your consumers value most.
- Lesson 3: Controversy equals free air time and social media exposure. Your company wins if you can get free airtime and media exposure, without controversy.
- Lesson 4: Be on the right side of the controversy. If you are a company taking a calculated risk, it is likely to pay off if you can show that you share values with your consumers.
Diversity and inclusion should not stand as buzzwords alone. Rather, they should be treated as a reflection point where brand managers and content creators strive for approaches that avoid both reductive stereotypes and perpetuation of classism, racism, and sexism.
Recent Examples of Inclusion in Marketing and Advertising
- Coca-Cola SuperBowl Ad
2. Adidas – Calling All Creatives
3. Proctor and Gamble – Love over Bias
4. Nike – Serena Williams SuperBowl
5. Air BNB
Obviously, this post could go on and on and on. Diversity and inclusion are incredibly important and a vital part of the dialogue as marketing and advertising continues to evolve. We’ll continue to see this conversation grow, not only as movements like #MeToo, #BlackLivesMatter, and dialogues about body positivity are hot topics that dominate the news cycle but also as psychographic targeting and the ethics behind more advanced mechanisms of retargeting evolve. In my class, we try to bring everything around to real-world examples and how those topics impact us now and how they will continue to impact our future. Ethics and diversity are core elements of this course and, simultaneously, are crucial parts of today’s marketing and advertising industry.