The Importance of Authentic Diversity in Marketing

Diversity in your marketing efforts is increasingly important. Today’s socially-conscious consumers prefer to do business with brands that make them feel represented, and that means recognizing that your customers or clients are coming from all walks of life, with a wide range of cultures and experiences.

However, you have to be authentic in the way that you approach diversity in marketing. Otherwise, your efforts can seem hollow. The wrong kind of ad can end up alienating consumers and earning you negative press, like when Unilever’s Clicks brand made headlines for using advertising images that suggested Black hair was inferior; or when Jo Malone perfume erased actor John Boyega from his own marketing campaign.  

Here are some tips that can help you tap into the authenticity your marketing efforts need:

Markets are More Diverse than Ever

Racial and ethnic minorities now make up about 40% of the US adult population and according to 2018 Census data, more than half of children 15 years of age and under belong to a minority group. Close to five percent of the population identifies as LGBT. Surveys show that more than one-tenth to one-fifth of Americans self-identify as having a disability. Practicing inclusion in your marketing efforts means paying attention to, and being representative of, different groups. Otherwise, people will simply go to a brand that makes them feel seen.

Make Diversity a Team Effort

Teams made up of individuals with diverse backgrounds and experiences are proven to be more productive and creative. Homogenous teams can end up making decisions in an echo chamber that fails to benefit from alternative expressions and thoughts. Build a team with the goal of cultivating a culture of inclusion and respect. Then bring that commitment to producing representative marketing campaigns. 

Keep in mind that understanding the viewpoints and experiences of underrepresented groups is not solely the responsibility of people on your team who are members of those groups. A commitment to inclusion, both within your organization and in your customer-facing work, is everyone’s job. You also want to seek feedback from your consumers, your community, and your influencers. Reach out and talk to people about what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong as you go, then work on improving.

Broaden the Imagery You Use

It’s time to make the images you use in your marketing efforts more inclusive. You can change the under- and misrepresentation of racial and ethnic minorities, people of color, and members of the LGBTQIA community. If your audience doesn’t see images that are relatable to them personally or to the society they live in, there are plenty of other brands out there that may capture their hearts (and their dollars). Diverse images in your ad campaigns make a clear statement about your company’s stance on inclusion.

Avoid Tokenism and Common Stereotypes in Your Ads

Avoid adding diversity into your marketing images and efforts just to check a box. Cast a critical eye over your ads before they go out. If one model or actor stands out because they look different than everyone else in your ads, that’s a problem. True authenticity means including diverse imagery and people in your ads in a way that seems natural.

Eschew Common Stereotypes

It’s hard to look back on ads from past decades without laughing, simply because they’re full of stereotypes and insincere messages. Remind yourself that women aren’t consigned to kitchens, men don’t hide from childcare duties, and Millennials aren’t all focused on their coffee and phones. Members of the LGBTQIA community are still around even when it isn’t Pride Month, women lead complex lives just like men, dads make great parents and people with disabilities do the same ordinary things as everyone else, like shop for groceries and buy computers.

Stop Aiming for Perfection

People are tired of the “Instagram-ready look” in marketing. It’s time to include real people and real situations in your marketing efforts. Include models or actors who are all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, abilities, ages, and gender identities. Show models in situations that are relatable to your audiences. For example, a heterosexual white couple dressed for work sitting down to a full breakfast with school-aged kids might be less relatable than a biracial family pausing to connect at the kitchen counter on their way out the door.  

The right approach to diversity in marketing has more power than you may realize to shape the future of your brand. Working towards an inclusive marketing strategy will present some challenges, but it’s also your chance to show your audience that you deserve their attention and loyalty.

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