In 2017 Google conducted a study and found that 75% of participants surveyed stated that they would like to see a better representation of diversity from brands in advertising. Even more interesting is the fact that 70% also stated that they were “more likely to buy from a brand” that they felt took a stance on important issues as such. We know diversity is of paramount importance, so why then does it become such a challenge for many? The truth of the matter is that we are enveloped in a rapidly evolving landscape where many traditional tactics are quickly becoming null and void.
In order to remain competitive in contemporary society, businesses must take actionable measures to make a difference and genuinely put the issue of diversity at the forefront of their agenda. It’s not just a matter of sales, it’s a matter of social responsibility.
There are numerous factors which will determine the success of your marketing campaign efforts. However, one of the most important considerations that has an effect on your business’ impact is diversity.
This article will discuss why diversity is vital to any successful marketing strategy as well as touch upon common mistakes made in marketing campaigns and how you and your business can work to improve your approach in order to remain effective in this competitive and rapidly evolving landscape.
The Salad Bowl Theory
“Melting pot”. This has long been the term used to describe a population infused with rich cultural and ethnic diversity. The issue with this concept for the purposes of marketing and advertising lies in the fact that it signifies a reduction of sorts on some level; the melding together of multiple components so that that eventually all become one.
However, the truth of the matter is that society is much more like a salad bowl of sorts where components (individuals) are combined together (in the form of a population), yet still maintain the ability to retain their own unique individuality.
This cultural “salad bowl” theory that has been making its rounds among the scientific community is one that can serve as particularly useful to businesses for the purpose of refining their marketing strategies.
Indeed, society, especially in this ever-expanding global marketplace, is a salad bowl of sorts. Each culture, each gender, each religious and age demographic are all part of one macro structure, but still all demand the unique attention and consideration of brands.
Four common errors in traditional marketing & advertising
According to research conducted by Penn State University, there are four common errors that can often be seen in traditional marketing:
- Members of a target audience are all lumped together in one undifferentiated mass.
- A general marketing approach is used to address all members of a target audience.
- Diversity is seen as more of an image building tactic where businesses essentially adopt a “symbolic minority representation” in their marketing campaigns or simply consider translation of their message into different languages as a sufficient approach.
- Diversity is interpreted through the lens of charity.
So how do we avoid such common pitfalls?
In order to remain competitive in contemporary society, businesses must embrace this “salad bowl” concept and take actionable measures to better incorporate diversity into their campaigns. However, diversity doesn’t just stop with gender, ethnicity, culture, sexual identity, age or religion.
Businesses must take it a step further, considering secondary factors such as diversity in languages, marital status, parental status, education, income and geographic location among others in order to be successful. Through better research they must learn to identify what truly appeals to the individual segments in their demographic and they must use this information in order to craft authentic, unique and personalized messages to each. Simply copy and pasting or translating your message alone is not sufficient. You as a company, as a marketing manager have a duty and responsibility to take the time and effort to show you truly care.
Furthermore, adopting greater diversity among employees such as marketing managers and executives is vital to success in order to help eliminate bias and adequately represent demographics of interest.
According to 2018 Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up 47% of marketing and sales managers, however African Americans represent just 6.7%. Asians represent only 5.4% of individuals employed in this occupation and those identifying as Hispanic or Latino represent just 9.7%.When it comes to public relations and fundraising managers, the numbers are much more progressive for women who represent 72% of the population employed. However, the numbers for other minorities are staggeringly low. Africa Americans and Asians both represent just 6.7% of those employed and those identifying as Hispanic or Latino represent only 9.7%.The challenge of diversity becomes significantly less ambiguous in light of this data. We as an industry must strive to do better.
The approach to crafting a successful strategy
So, what more can your company do in order to create a winning strategy? Research by Penn State University suggests that companies adopt the “Three I” approach when it comes to crafting successful marketing campaigns.
- Identify the communities comprised of your target audience.
- Identify the values and beliefs that are held within these target communities.
- Identify personalized marketing strategies which match the values and beliefs that have been identified in the target communities you are addressing.
For example, let’s say for a particular campaign the target demographic is African Americans. Marketing and consumer identity research has shown the community holds a number of essential values which businesses should embrace in their marketing efforts.
For one, African Americans tend to view the world through an Afrocentric lens and tend to place a high level of importance on authenticity, straightforwardness and assertiveness. Research has also shown that the community is very receptive to companies who place an importance on community values and giving back. Much like other communities, African Americans also highly prefer to be represented when it comes to the decision-making process and the community places a high level of importance on being represented in a positive light.
So how then does a company successfully work to integrate these research findings into their marketing strategies in order to remain effective? For one, authenticity as well as a forthright approach to your message is key. Furthermore, given the lack of diversity in traditional marketing one can imagine how essential it is to have a representative of the community not only partake in crafting the message but also representing the message. Additionally, companies should strive to encourage and embrace feedback from the community.
This, however, is merely the tip of the iceberg as further segmentation will be fundamentally necessary in order to have the greatest impact.
Five values essential for progress
According to Penn State University’s findings, there are five essential things that companies must learn to do in order to successfully integrate a greater degree of diversity into their marketing efforts. They must:
- Value the uniqueness of their target communities.
- Value both “cooperation and bridge-building with community leaders and organizations within the community.”
- Value the target community’s unique “cultural beliefs, symbols and practices”
- Value the various differences in “language, dialects, practices and social conduct.”
- Value word-of-mouth and interpersonal communication with their target communities.
In order to be effective, companies must make an effort at developing strong connections with their target communities and forging authentic relationships. They must not only embrace but celebrate the unique differences among various demographics. Most importantly, they must genuinely care to make not just an impact, but a palpable difference in their marketing efforts.
Diversity in marketing often unfortunately presents a challenge to many companies. In light of recent research, we find that diversity within the marketing and advertising industries serves as a significant factor in perpetuating the issue.
As a result, companies must do more to not only take strategic action in order to better represent their target communities, but to also incorporate strategies for increasing diversity internally. Just as businesses refine and revamp to stay ahead of the latest trends and technologies, so too must they do the same when it comes to our ever-evolving society.
It’s also of vital importance to understand that diversity doesn’t just begin and end with ethnicity alone. Diversity in gender, religion, culture, ethnicity, sexual identity, age, socioeconomic status and more should be considered in order to remain effective. Use this article as a guide to help your company make a difference in 2019 and take greater responsibility for integrating diversity in your marketing and advertising efforts. Show your audience that you genuinely care to take the time and effort to make a difference – to forge a relationship – to be impactful – and they will reward you with a lifetime of loyalty. What are your thoughts on the state of diversity in marketing and advertising? What are some ways you feel businesses and marketing professionals can make a difference? Let us know in the comments section. We would love to hear your thoughts!