Getting Diversity in Marketing Right
by Angie Ash, EVP
Look, well, anywhere, and you’ll see companies clearly working hard to reflect diversity in their marketing. But are they doing it right? Meaning, is it resonating with their customers and prospective customers?
If you’ve been making an effort to show diversity in your marketing too, below are some reasons it may be falling flat with your target audiences. And steps you can take to make sure you do it right in the future!
True story: Unfortunately, the focus on reflecting diversity in adverting is primarily on racial and ethnic diversity. However, diversity extends well beyond this. It encompasses sexual orientation, disabilities, socioeconomic status, and more. While it’s great to make a conscious effort to include people of color in more ads, you should consider other types of diversity as well.
For example, not too long ago, you would never see an “average” girl, much less one who’s obese, in an ad. Today, companies are working hard to convey body image diversity, and ads featuring people of various weights and fitness levels proliferate. You would also never have seen someone wearing eyeglasses in any type of ad unless you were portraying someone as ‘nerdy’ or ‘brainy’. Today, Millennials and Gen Z rock eyeglasses without qualms and respond well to seeing them worn on models in ads. Open up your laptop and critically look at your website, your banner ads, and your social media channels. If you’re featuring lifestyle photos, is everyone “perfect”?
Here are Other Reasons Your Diversity Message May Be Falling Flat:
Your marketing doesn’t reflect your population.
Your social media, digital campaigns, and website banners should mirror your current customers and appeal to new ones. This can be tricky to get right. But what works for a store that’s located in a large city or college town may not ring true for the retail jeweler in a rural area. I have a retailer with an upscale store located in a relatively rural area that’s well outside big-city limits. The marketing visuals we use are still upscale but they can’t be too sleek or it would be a marketing fail. We have another retailer in Texas that has a large percentage of Hispanic customers. It would be an insult to overlook Hispanics in our marketing visuals for that retailer! Do some due diligence and think about your local population. Are they represented in your marketing efforts?
Keep in mind that the effort to include diversity in your advertising shouldn’t feel like a race to meet some undefined quota, though. You don’t need to count the number of underrepresented people in your ads. I’ve seen TV commercials where it feels like the advertiser is using marginalized people as props for their benefit. Doing so misses the point, which is to get to a place where diversity occurs naturally.
Sadly, we’ve still a long way off. Turn on the TV and you can tell brands feel like they have to check all the boxes or they’ll offend someone. But, here’s the thing. There’s nothing wrong with having only one race or ethnic group in an ad. The issue begins when they’re all that’s represented in your ads. That’s what people notice.
Are you discriminating against customer age?
Do your engagement gallery visuals and social graphics feature young 20-somethings when a good percentage of your engagement customers are older than this? What about second-time bridal customers? Age discrimination is a thing, unintentional though it may be! Although we have a few retailers who say their young engagement ring customers are in their early 20s, the vast majority are closer to 30. If you’re constantly trying to appeal to the younger demographic, you’re ignoring the rest. Make a concerted effort to reflect your customers’ age sets. The same goes for your fashion jewelry purchases. Most of our retailers say higher-end fashion jewelry is purchased by those 40+ in age, not the 20-something set. Brands should recognize this too! Visuals should follow suit.
Don’t forget about the ring.
Want to know why there’s hesitation to shop in a local, fine jewelry store? Maybe because you’re always focused on showing off those “wow” pieces on social media that only a select few can afford, or honestly really want. Your customers don’t have the last name Kardashian, and they likely won’t always have super-flashy taste. Want to be more approachable? Show a range of bridal styles and price points to relate to a broader aesthetic and taste.
You talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.
What do customers and prospective customers see when they walk through your store’s door? Sure, you should expect everyone who works for you to be professional in dress and demeanor. But do your salespeople reflect the diverse marketing visuals you’ve worked so hard to convey? As humans, it’s our natural tendency to gravitate toward people who look and think the way we do. One of the downsides of this tendency is that when we’re only working beside people like us, they’re more likely to reinforce our way of thinking and our unconscious biases. Hire the best people for the job, but make sure your mindset is not swaying you.
Everyone’s goal should be to arrive at a point where diversity is second nature. At this point, we don’t have to think about whether or not our advertising is inclusive because we’re embracing it and living it ourselves. That’s a big goal. And we have a lot of work to do to get there.
The change starts with you!