Authentically inclusive marketing has been saved
Cover artwork: Tank Design
On a given day, up to 10,000 discrete advertisements bombard consumers during their waking hours.1 Consumers—especially the youngest generations—are expecting more from these messages than just details about the latest seasonal sale. Rather, they are questioning whether a brand supports diversity and inclusion both publicly and behind the camera—and this focus is becoming increasingly important to brands as well.
As the consumer population diversifies—by race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, or differences in ability, for example—it’s imperative for brands to authentically reflect a range of backgrounds and experiences within their messaging if they expect to effectively connect with future customers. In our survey of 11,500 global consumers, we found the youngest respondents (from 18 to 25 years old) took greater notice of inclusive advertising when making purchase decisions (figure 1).
What’s more, when we examined the US results by ethnicity and race, respondents were up to two-and-a-half times more likely to be aware of a brand prominently promoting diversity when making a product or experience purchasing decision if they identified as Asian or Pacific Islander, Black or African American, Hispanic American, Native American or Alaska Native, or multiracial or biracial.
But it’s not enough to just market inclusiveness or diversity, as our results also show 57% of consumers are more loyal to brands that commit to addressing social inequities in their actions. Appealing to the loyalties of future customers can require brands to demonstrate they are promoting equitable outcomes in all their spheres of influence: via hiring and retention, using diverse suppliers, or marketing products for users of differing abilities.2 And our data tells us that high-growth brands (defined as those with annual revenue growth of 10% or more) are more frequently establishing key performance metrics for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) objectives than their lower-growth competitors.
Our data tells us that high-growth brands (defined as those with annual revenue growth of 10% or more) are more frequently establishing key performance metrics for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) objectives than their lower-growth competitors.
These findings reflect the contours of a changing society. New US Census data shows that in the past decade, the white population has declined for the first time in history, and people who identify as multiracial, Hispanic, and Asian are driving much of the population growth.3 A 2021 Gallup poll highlights that LGBTQ identity has risen from 3.5% in 2012 to 5.6% in 2020—and includes one in six among Generation Z (ages 16 to 26 in 2021).4 And the World Health Organization reports that globally, 15% of the population lives with a disability—a category of consumers that is rarely featured in representative advertising.5
Many of these developments should inform the way brands speak to younger consumers, especially Gen Z. Overwhelmingly, 94% of that generation expects companies to take a stand on important social issues, and 90% say they are more willing to purchase products that they deem beneficial to society.6 But creating loyalty within Gen Z also requires authenticity; these younger consumers will notice if brands aren’t making a genuine, holistic effort to live those DEI values.
As it happens, committing to battling social inequities and championing DEI also ends up being a gateway to growth. In our survey of over 1,000 global executives, we found that the highest-growing brands are committed to achieving equitable outcomes across all their areas of influence—workforce, marketplace, and society—in ways their lower-growth peers are not.7 They measure their DEI efforts more holistically and do it more often in almost all areas (compared with low-growth organizations), with a statistically significant difference in four dimensions: talent acquisition, talent retention, brand messaging, and community investments (figure 2).
For instance, 33% of high-growth organizations have established key performance metrics for diversity in talent retention, compared with only 17% of negative-growth organizations. And 23% of these high-growth organizations have established ways to measure diversity in their hiring, while only 15% of negative-growth organizations have done so.
There were similar differences for external endeavors: 27% of high-growth organizations have established equity metrics for community investments (versus 18% for negative-growth organizations); and 38% of high-growth organizations have established similar metrics for their brand messaging campaigns (versus 30% for negative-growth organizations).
Luckily for marketers, they most likely already have a champion in the C-suite. According to the 2021 Fortune/Deloitte CEO Survey, 94% of CEOs indicated that DEI was a personal strategic priority, and 90% agreed that their organization aspired to be a leader on the topic.8
Essentially, consumers want to support brands that represent them and their values. And organizations that have made DEI efforts a core priority also recognize that it’s just as important to feature representation in front of the camera as it is behind the scenes.
How can marketers do this? There are multiple ways across an organization’s ecosystem, of which we’ve highlighted three:
For Laura Curtis Ferrera, global chief marketing officer of Scotiabank, artificial intelligence (AI) helps to audit messaging and ensure there is always accountability. “We’re really investing in representation—inclusion by design—at all levels,” she says. “We tried to do it manually, but it’s really time-consuming and you may miss things. And when you add a human, you add bias to the process. So now we do it using AI; then we have someone whose actual job title is around managing the inclusion-by-design mandate.”11
In the end, future generations and growing populations of diverse communities are expecting more. Simultaneously, the highest-growing brands are reducing the cultural and demographic distance between the makeup of their teams and the markets they aspire to reach. Marketers can help their organizations not only hone their messaging but also support a company’s transformation to a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive organization, thereby underpinning their brand messaging with authenticity.
The Global Marketing Trends Executive Survey polled 1,099 C-suite executives from global companies located in the United States, France, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands in April 2021. This survey asked chief executive, marketing, information, finance, operating, legal, and human resource officers their thoughts on a variety of topics driving the evolution of the marketing function.
The Global Marketing Trends Consumer Survey polled 11,500 global consumers, ages 18 and above, in May 2021 across 19 countries.
See the introduction to learn more about both studies.
Cover artwork: Tank Design