The importance of diversity in marketing

Olga Egorsheva discusses how brands are placing a greater emphasis on inclusivity and diversity in their marketing content, and why the effort needs to be made permanent

Brands are placing a greater emphasis on inclusivity and diversity in their marketing content. But the effort needs to be permanent to incite a real step change in people’s attitudes.

From its influence in the presidential election to the way news is streamed, social media has come in for its fair share of criticism. But for every negative, there is also a positive, and one of the highlights has been the focus on diversity.

When brands get it wrong, social media users are quick to act and hold them accountable. And when it comes to diversity in advertising and marketing – whether through a contorted effort to please or make a real change – brands know they have to get it right when portraying our differences.

After a few false starts, there finally seems to be an onus for more inclusive campaigns. Diversity is high on the agenda - from worldwide recognised events to talks and seminars at local levels, diversity is high on the agenda.

If the change in mindset is permanent, the impact can reach further than simply improving brand recognition.

The effect of advertising

There's no doubting the power of advertising and marketing. Successful campaigns change trends and have an influence on people. The initial goal might be to raise awareness, but the lasting effect has the power to impact further than a simple product purchase.

Whether it’s reflected on our screens or before our eyes in real life, diversity is still an issue. Women hold less than 5% of CEO positions in America's 500 biggest companies – that’s less than CEOs named David.​

The gender inequalities are well known in the tech industry, yet the racial disparities are even more alarming. Black and Latino men make up 5% of the tech workforce, while white men account for 76%.  

The numbers don’t add up.

Connecting with a new generation

The world is becoming more multicultural, so it’s no surprise to see adverts with diversity resonating more with young people. Creatives at advertising agencies are starting to tap into the younger culture’s positivity towards our differences and reflect it in the brands they represent.

Tackling a topic as important as cultural issues is no easy feat. And while it is admirable to see the changes, we must not forget a brand’s primary goal: to make money.

While creating a shift in the behavioural patterns to diversity is vital, they still need to meet targets. The result is to find a balancing act that pushes essential social messages and reflects the brand in the correct light.

Championing change

Insurance company Admiral recently reincarnated their male character, The Admiral, into a woman. It is a big step for a company associated with a boisterous ‘king of the sea’ type of character. Yet they were willing to take a step in a different direction to refresh a stale brand and incorporate more inclusivity.

Admiral MultiCar TV Advert- New Ideas

The conversations around diversity in advertising and marketing are certainly more frequent than before. And the change is driven by the demand and need for everyday people to feel more involved.

Can I be user-generated?

A key identifier to the emergence in demand for diversity comes from user-generated content (UGC), a method growing in popularity. Consumers identify with UGC because it's created by people just like them.

From hyperlocal levels to worldwide campaigns, UGC is finding its way into marketing because audiences demand diverse, authentic content. A growing number of brands are realising that content reflective of real people resonates stronger than staged campaigns.

Customers have grown tired of waiting for brands to represent them, so they took matters into their own hands and conjured up content online that was reflective of them. As a result, brands now want to include that same content in their campaigns.

AI changing the mindset

Many argue that artificial intelligence (AI) holds the key to a complete change in the way advertisers approach diversity. Humans often tend to refer to their gut feeling, which essentially sees them choosing what they know.

AI can remove any ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’ from the thought process. It has the power to eliminate bias and offer neutral answers based on the datasets and algorithms provided. If we trust in the data AI is learning from, the results can offer more clarity and a chance for real change.

The main task lies in correctly creating a dataset of training and not needing to retrain the AI models. Once that happens, marketers and creatives will make decisions that reflect the world today, rather than ones some of them may have built into their subconscious.

Power of persuasion

Brands have an important role to play in the conversation. When advertising is well executed, it can shift the mindset of the public and help shape viewpoints of the world. More companies that champion diversity and keep it at the forefront of the public’s mind will be leaders in creating change.

While optimism still has to be framed in a cautious light, forward-thinking creatives are becoming part of the solution. They are making marketing material that is pro-diversity on gender, sexuality, race and disability.

Change can be uncomfortable, and it takes time. A utopian world of 100% diversity in marketing is still some way off. But the changes that are now happening, coupled with technological advancements, are acting as the antidote.

The results could see a real change in people’s mindsets. Not just as change in their ideation to a brand.