How to be skillfully inclusive in the age of diversity
Note: The author is Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for AMA San Francisco. The chapter will be exploring DEI-related issues via blogs, social media posts, and events in the coming months.
We see ourselves everywhere we look. In the news, in social media, on TV, billboards, wherever a message catches our eyes.
There’s a subliminal message: “You belong here.”
Or you don’t.
As humans, we experience belonging as a basic need that’s necessary for survival. Creating a sense of belonging is also smart marketing, especially in the face of dramatic shifts in demographics.
A sense of inclusion has not always been offered to all segments of society. While a lot of progress has been made in recent years, marketers need to regularly ask themselves if there’s more they can be doing. This is good not just for society, but for your bottom line.
Here’s the Opportunity
According to the 2020 US Census, California reflects these demographics: 39% of state residents are Latino, 35% are white, 15% are Asian-American or Pacific Islander, 5% are Black, 4% are multiracial, and fewer than 1% are Native American or Alaska Natives.
Nationally, Black consumers’ collective economic power is set to expand dramatically, from about $910 billion in consumption in 2019 to $1.7 trillion in 2030. The Hispanic population will grow to over 66.5M in 2023, which is 20% of the US population. This represents consumer buying power exceeding $2T.
Companies of all kinds are beginning to reflect acceptance of diversity, not just as change agents, but as smart business organizations. By including historically under-represented faces and voices in their messaging, they are both driving social equity and expanding their audiences. They are staying relevant and competitive.
Growing LGBTQ populations have increasing economic clout, especially among adult members of Generation Z. At the same time, this diverse population is sensitive to “rainbow washing” and inauthentic gestures of support. The issue is pronounced, especially following Pride Month, when companies begin and end their involvement with LGBTQ communities. One way to stay involved year-round to include public and political support for LGBTQ rights
Reaching Diverse Audiences
How do we reach these diverse audiences and speak to their dreams, desires, issues, and concerns? Is it in one voice? Or many?
There are two ways to go about reaching diverse audiences and engaging them fully and authentically:
Total Market Lens
Strategically, you may want to recommend a total market approach, including diverse segments in one fully integrated cross-cultural campaign. You will need to carefully consider how to represent diverse experiences and perspectives skillfully, without being tone deaf. Truly effective messaging and creative work can tap into the broader influences diverse audiences have on the culture at large.
Depending on the size, scope, and interests of your audience, you may decide to reach out to diverse audiences directly. With market segmentation, you divide a larger market into smaller groups of customers with specific needs and characteristics. Marketing segmentation allows you to tailor your messaging and approach.
Here’s an example: A large clothing retailer may want to target young, fashion-conscious women in one campaign. Another campaign might be aimed at mothers with a focus on comfortable, washable clothing.
Now how does this concept work with different racial and cultural groups? Here’s another example: A business that sells beauty products might create specialized products and targeted campaigns that address specific hair and skincare needs or traditions.
Executing on Your Strategic Plan
How do you create truly authentic content?
You won’t reach and persuade multicultural audiences unless you also craft and deliver content that’s perceived as authentic. To accomplish this, people from your target audience must have a seat at the marketing table, a voice in the room.
Diverse teams are more effective at creating content that resonates authentically with diverse audiences. When your team includes people with different racial and cultural backgrounds and experiences, you can include unique perspectives and ideas, more creative and effective marketing campaigns.
People respond to true insights rather than stereotypes.
We need to make a priority of hiring marketers and communicators who truly understand the lives of the people they’re reaching with their content. This kind of representation helps marketers avoid blind spots and brings more cultural intelligence to their work.
As marketers, we are tasked with breaking down the white-washed walls that have excluded millions of people in our communities. We can rise to the challenge of creating genuinely inclusive marketing and communications because creating a true sense of belonging isn’t something to be taken lightly. You can help all of your customers truly believe: “You belong here.”
AMA San Francisco will be taking on the complexity of this undertaking in a roundtable discussion — Talking Our Talk: How to Reach and Engage Diverse Audiences — on February 23rd at 1pm Pacific.