In 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement shone a spotlight on the lack of representation across the communication mediums brands use to reach their consumers, and demonstrated the need for immediate action to address the crisis. This spark of awareness came with a bit of an “it’s about time” attitude from the BIPOC community, but nevertheless, it finally mattered to (almost) everyone. But what was to be done?
Marketers quickly came to realize that representation was a vital need and not a viral trend. They disproportionately leaned on their BIPOC employees or agency partners to teach and launch DEI initiatives, without realizing the full burden of the task, and relied heavily on the now overused “listening and learning” response. Two years later, progress is slowly being made - DEI commitments promised, executives hired, consultants brought in, and new initiatives implemented. Marketers and communicators must continue the hard work to ensure representation matters, always.
To help, we’re sharing what we think are the two most important things brands need to embed into their DNA to make sure DEI is an integral part of everything they do.
1. Don’t Be Performative
Remember the black square. Remember those statements of “we’re listening and learning” that seemed to come from every direction. So do consumers, and they are still watching. They want to know if you meant what you said. Millennials and Gen Zers are value-driven consumers, “and require brands to be authentic and trustworthy…and expect you to show social responsibility by being inclusive and supporting important causes (Bazaarvoice, 2022).” This means they are looking to the brands they love to ensure they are representing at every turn.
When developing a strategy or initiative, make sure you mean it. Executing a program or campaign just to make your brand “looks good” is obvious and will become transparent very quickly, especially to underrepresented communities. Work with your team and agency partners to design work that aligns with your values, yes, but also represents diversity, equity and inclusion. If you find it to be a challenge, now is the time to do an audit and evaluate what you want your brand to stand for, and how you will implement the changes across the board, not just in the public facing materials you produce.
2. Representation Matters
Representation is in the marketing materials you produce, the partners you work with, the language you use, and who you associate with. It is important to remember that representation goes beyond race, and includes the marginalized and underrepresented minority communities that exist: LGTBQAI2S+, people with disabilities, women, socioeconomic, elderly, and others. Ensuring your customers (and their friends) see and hear themselves when engaging with your brand should be a top priority. If your DEI commitments are not weaved into everything you do, those value-driven consumers we mentioned above will see through you and perhaps decide not to associate with your brand any longer.
If you are uncertain or unclear about how to prioritize representation and DEI, consider working with a consultant to take your team through training. It will help everyone to better understand what it means and why it matters, not just in the work they produce, but how they move through the very diverse world in which we live. DEI is something everyone should be fluent in and this article from Forbes shares some key points about why.
Representation has a profound impact on mitigating the stereotypes of marginalized groups. It validates the members of these communities and works to decrease the opportunities for them to be “othered.” This also provides brands the opportunity to change the antiquated one-tone narratives into one that celebrates the diversity of the cities and countries in which they operate.
Inclusive initiative worth noting…
BAND-AID ® is a brand to watch, especially with its OURTONE™ product - bandages in three shades of brown to be more inclusive of the BIPOC community.
Honourable mention: we’re here for what Ben & Jerry’s is (always) serving.
Written by: Melissa Prince, Senior Account Director | June 2, 2022
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