Industry News

How a DEI commitment can innovate your marketing

Rikki Roehrich
November 17, 2021

For years, companies have been bombarding consumers with advertising campaigns to inspire them to buy their products and services. During the same time, many consumers realized that some of those ad images didn’t even look like them, and some of the messaging didn’t even sound like them.

This lack of diversity in advertising may have even caused some consumers to look at competitor brands whose marketing more closely resonated with their cultural perspective.

The bottom line is: If consumers don’t feel represented, it’s easier for them to tune you out.

The United States is one of the most ethnically diverse counties on the planet –- but you wouldn’t know it from the advertising.

More than 40% of the US population is non-white in race. But these demographics are often lacking in advertising. For example, though 77% of global marketers say they are expected to use more diverse representation in their campaigns, 76% of them globally say there is still room for growth. Part of this may be related to the structure of the industry itself, with nearly 83% of advertising professionals identifying as white.

Furthermore, the problem is more than a philosophical one.

Lack of diversity can be a huge drain on one’s business. The majority –- 62% of consumers report that a brand’s diversity, or lack thereof, will have a direct impact on how they perceive the products and services of the company. Over one-third of these same consumers say they will stop using a brand if its advertising does not reflect their identity. These statistics are higher for underrepresented consumers. Alienating any group can severely impact your company’s ability to succeed in an increasingly diverse market.

But all is not lost.

Meaningful attempts to be more diverse and inclusive can result in forging better connections with your customer base. Trends show that consumers are more likely to buy from brands that positively reflect their experiences and perspectives in advertising.

“Companies that operate with a DEI mindset in their marketing and branding can attract more customers because by embracing diversity, they drive business,” said Sue Batterton, chief creative officer for The Richards Group.

“They foster richer, more authentic conversations with a wider group of people. They deepen relevancy and relationships with their brands. They attract a broader group of talent to join their teams. And they certainly enhance creativity in their problem-solving and communications,” Batterton said.

Batterton also said that it’s important for companies to partner with advertising agencies who can bring the right DEI tools to the table to ensure that their marketing and ad campaigns can truly be impactful in reaching diverse audiences.

Some experts say that agencies can’t fully help their clients tap into diversity until they update their outdated creative brief. The creative brief is a traditional tool used by most agencies to gather project details, goals, objectives, targeted messaging, visuals and key audience information so that marketing and ad campaigns can be created to strategically align with these insights.

However, most traditional creative briefs don’t automatically factor in DEI-elements which can be used to ensure that messaging, images and campaign visuals align with what will resonate most with a diverse consumer base.

Furthermore, these missing DEI elements can be a huge misstep since diverse organizations are 1.7 times more likely to be innovation leaders in their market. If you use a creative process that is diversity-driven then you are more likely to draw inspiration from unexpected places and these ideas can lead to more out-of-the-box campaigns.

“We’ve revised our decades-old briefing document to be a far more inclusive Idea Briefs for our clients,” Batterton said. “This new Idea Brief uses a far more robust audience backgrounder. DEI thinking is not a box to be checked in casting, but one that begins in strategy.

“We’ve also transformed our creative reviews and concept sessions into being brave spaces where all are invited to have a voice. All of this ensures that DEI is at the forefront when planning any marketing or ad campaign,” Batterton said.

The reality is that companies must prioritize increasing diversity in their marketing efforts if they want to win new customers, create new streams of revenue and build brand loyalty for years to come. To achieve this goal, there are several key steps to take, including:

Audit your current creative process.  Does your traditional ideation process factor in diversity solutions? Does it gather relevant insights on current DEI trends? Does it highlight what will resonate with diverse audiences, or even factor in what will completely turn them off?

Also, what about your creative team meetings? Do these meetings bring a nice spectrum of diverse voices and thinkers to the table?

If you answered “no” to some or most of these questions, then it’s important to take the time to identify all of the gaps in your current creative process. You should work to address these issues so that you can ensure that DEI is intentionally included throughout your creative process.

Onboard diverse team members. The advertising industry has been dominated by white voices for decades. One of the most effective ways to create diversity in advertising is by hiring diverse talent and ensuring they have a say in campaign strategy. A diverse team can offer solutions that will best connect with diverse audiences since they will bring their personal and cultural experiences to the table.

Another major benefit of creating a diverse team is that you can demonstrate to your audience that your company is taking authentic actions that back up its marketing messages.

Embrace an ongoing commitment to DEI. Any company that attempts diversity in order to “check it off the list” is going to fail. Customers can easily spot insincere attempts at diversity. If you go down the road of incorporating diversity without strategy, it often appears that your company is not being authentic.

The result of this is damage to your reputation and an undermining of trust and respect for your company, which is the exact opposite of what diversity attempts to achieve. Diversity and inclusion should be ongoing and continuous rather than a one-off message.

Understand your audience. The first step in creating any effective marketing is understanding who your target audience is -- then you can begin to understand their values. This process leads to the ability to draft effective messages and use the right visuals that resonate with customers. This leads to better business outcomes.

There is no denying that creating diverse advertising has to be done with great intentionality and with a long-term commitment. The changing US demographics demonstrate that if you aren’t diverse and inclusive, you may be alienating nearly half of the potential customers you could reach.

However, by using the tips outlined above you could be well on your way towards building a pathway that leads to greater DEI success today and for years to come.  

Rikki Roehrich is a seasoned content creator for a variety of marketing and small business brands. She has a passion for writing white papers, blogs, articles and educational materials on a variety of emerging trends in the marketplace.