To survive in the future, your brand must have a diversity and inclusion strategy

February 26, 2019

[Header image credit: Canva]

By Julia Vanderput, Senior Strategist at The Marketing Arm

This business is, ultimately, the business of culture-making. And, over the last decade, the rise in popularity of shows such as Mad Men and The Pitch and, most recently, media splashes like Time’s Up Advertising, has given non-industry folks a peak behind the curtain.

The jig is up. Consumers, particularly younger consumers, know we’re culture-makers and are demanding that brands capitalize on their influence and fix social issues. Brands are listening, and for good reason.

For target audiences, especially those proving to be most valuable to brands, normalizing and motivating consumers to strive for diversity and inclusion is extremely important.

To survive in the future, your brand must have a diversity and inclusion strategy.

We all know the power of millennial consumers. I won’t bore you with regurgitating the widely available data points out there because if you’ve read an industry rag in the last 10 years, you’ve seen at least one article about why you should captivate them. I want to focus on a more useful data point: How.

Deloitte pointed out that millennials are unique in viewing differences in perspective (i.e. diversity) as a tool that enables empowerment and engagement in communities: “[Millennials believe] improved outcomes are a result of the acceptance of individualism.” In other words, Millennials like to see diversity.

This makes sense because 42% of them are multicultural. And if you’re not yet convinced your brand should, at the very least, showcase talent that demonstrates multiple ethnicities, know this: Gen Z is projected to be the very last American generation to have a Caucasian majority.

But what is diversity and inclusion?

I once met Doug Melville, Chief Diversity Office for TBWA North America at a diversity and inclusion workshop. He asked our group to define diversity and inclusion. While most of us could come up with a definition for diversity, we heard crickets when it came to inclusion. And this is where brands are failing at diversity and inclusion strategies.

Audi’s 2017 Super Bowl ad ‘Daughter’ addressed a laudable cause – gender wage gap. In it, Audi checked off the diversity box by bringing to light an issue that impacts women.

But negative social sentiment far outweighed the positive. Consumers were vocal about feeling it was disingenuous and many treated it as propaganda. By throwing themselves into the cultural movement, Audi also held a magnifying glass to their own gender equality, which is mixed at best. They had a diversity strategy but not so much an inclusion strategy.

These cases ultimately didn’t understand what diversity and inclusion looks like in 2019: Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.

Budweiser: Shining a light on its diverse past. 

“You don’t look like you’re from around here.” The cringy words open Budweiser’s 2017 Super Bowl ad showcasing the story of its founder who immigrated from Germany. Budweiser here is doing both diversity and inclusion – it’s highlighting an immigrant story while also aligning it with American meritocratic values. Most importantly, it backs up this diversity and inclusion message because it’s a brand truth. It is the story of its very inception.


Gillette: Reframing masculinity to reach millennials.

Most recently, we’ve seen Gillette’s ‘Best a Man Can Be?’ campaign create a whole lot of buzz – most of it controversial. But did reframing masculinity and rallying men to advocate for women work from an advertising standpoint?

P&G’s grooming sales fell 3% in 2018 mostly because of millennial-focused brands such as Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club. The diversity and inclusion strategy shifted perceptions of the brand as grandpa’s razor to a bold millennial brand.

It paid off. Just last month, P&G CFO Jon Miller said the ad “had unprecedented levels’ of customer engagement, which helped them connect more meaningfully with younger consumer groups.” On Facebook, positive engagements (shares, likes, loves) outpaced negative ones with a ratio of 9:1. Tens of millions of dollars were generated in media exposure, largely positive.

Great diversity and inclusion strategies come from the inside out.

The Marketing Arm has built much of its legacy through sports marketing. Even in this male-dominated space we see tremendous value in diversity and inclusion strategies. As our very own CEO of Entertainment and Luxury Jeff Chown pointed out in AdWeek recently: Brands investing in the [esports] space will want and expect the sport to rehab its image of being hostile to women and minorities. Twitch and major publishers have initiatives to boot off the most caustic behavior. Brands can help with visibility and representation and emphasize the ways gaming actually is inclusive.

One of the main reasons why I joined TMA in the first place is because, like any agency that truly understand how branding works, we understand the importance of walking the walk.

As such, when I’m pitching diversity and inclusion strategies to clients I can confidently speak to TMA’s own diversity and inclusion strategies. From strong and thriving employee groups such as the TMA Women’s Initiative and Discover_TMA (our diversity and inclusion initiative) to a commitment to hiring diverse talent and vendors, our clients benefit from TMA understanding the value of diversity and inclusion deeply.

Does your brand need help with its diversity and inclusion strategy? Let’s connect!