Brands are stronger when they prioritize diversity. Not only is it strategically important to represent diverse talent in campaigns, but it is also an ethical imperative too. It helps brands to reach a broad audience successfully, effectively, and appropriately. It also holds a mirror up to society and ensures that everyone, no matter their appearance, sees themself represented by the brands that they love.
As society and consumers take an increasingly stronger stance on the importance of diversity and inclusion, their tolerance for organizations that don’t evolve with movement lessens. Consumers *want* to see more diversity. Performative activism is transparent and customers see straight through it. If your brand is not embodying and valuing diversity in a meaningful, altruistic, and genuine way, it shows.
When the scales of privilege are still so vastly tipped in favor of white, heterosexual, cisgendered slim people, there is still much work to be done. Not ‘seeing’ color or bias is not the solution, the present situation must be acknowledged for corporations to take appropriate and active considerations to level the playing field and emulate equality. Having one plus-sized model out of 100, or posting a black model for Black History Month is the kind of tokenization that simply, and rightly, won’t fly anymore.
The BLM movement of 2020 not only challenged racially motivated violence against black people, but penetrated every level of society and demanded a re-evaluation of how people of color are perceived, represented, and treated. Brands who were not doing enough were being called out, and some made the error of wrapping up performative activism under a transparent guise of allyship. Society called for brands to take tangible action. More than just a movement to release a statement on and continue, this societal disruption should stand as a new mandate of what is expected going forward. Genuine allyship continues offline for many months and years - it doesn’t end when the matter stops trending on Twitter. Check out some brands who got it right, and got it wrong, here.
This movement also meant that many counts of discrimination and racism that previously went unacknowledged were finally given the reception they deserved. Historic accusations were unearthed, and no organization was safe. The right response won’t float if it is performed by an organization with a history of discrimination and bias. This is a prime example of why diversity needs to be innate for it to be genuine.
Proctor and Gamble’s 2018 Emmy-winning ad ‘The Talk’ depicts African-American mothers discussing race with their children - from casual bias to what to do if pulled over by the police. By exposing the conversations that happen behind closed doors in African-American homes across the country, it shows viewers the reality that being Black entails. Their global communications director Damon Jones said he was ‘hopeful that we can make progress towards a less biased future by recognizing the power of people of all backgrounds and races showing up for one another.’ Looking at the infrastructure of a brand, as well as their creative output, Adidas has pledged to hire Black and Latino people for 30% of their new US roles. Giving back to the community, they also pledge 50 college scholarships for outstanding Black people in the next 5 years.
It isn’t just about race. Representing gender, sexuality, disability, and all of the other things that make us unique is important too. Microsoft recognized that their controllers were not suitable for children with missing limbs or physical disabilities, so a 2019 campaign, entitled ‘We All Win’, focused on what playing games meant to children and how an adaptable controller helped them to be able to do this.
Ultimately, it is as Michael P. Krone says in ‘Diversity Marketing & Cultural Awareness’; ‘If your customers are different than you and they feel unrecognized, you will begin to lose them.’ And more so than this, it is the right thing to do. How can we do better? We can mean what we do, embed it into our brand values, and keep it as a priority. Tokenism is dead. Nothing less than authenticity will do. The people have spoken - and more power to them!
I’d be interested to know how your creative teams promote diversity and inclusion in your content Drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s chat!