Technology is, without a doubt, changing the way companies spend money to engage their consumers. However, this younger generation of consumers is asking companies not only about their product but also what they stand for. Millennials are more diverse in many ways, ranging from race and ethnicity to sexual orientation and gender identity and therefore react more positively to diverse representations in advertising campaigns. If businesses don’t keep up with this burgeoning buying powerhouse, they are at risk of disappearing. Executives are taking note and taking action to ensure their brands stay relevant.
"If your brand were to disappear tomorrow, who would truly miss you?"
Marketing experts gathered for two events recently to discuss the need for diversity and inclusion in branding and tips for how to reach more diverse audiences. At the 2nd Annual Digital Transformation Forum, panelists discussed Seth Godin’s thought-provoking question. Led by Anthony Shop, chair of the National Digital Roundtable and co-founder and chief strategy officer at Social Driver, marketing leaders from diverse industries around D.C. looked at how brands are changing their approach to marketing and why.
DC Communicators also hosted “Reaching Diverse Audiences: Tips and Tools for Marketers” to discuss how to communicate with target demographics authentically.
Below are tips from both events to expand your brand’s reach to more diverse audiences and how to communicate with them effectively:
- Diversity Starts With Your Organization
In order to truly connect with diverse communities, businesses must have a team of diverse individuals from various backgrounds who understand the nuances of the audiences they are trying to reach. Karina Hurley, director of strategic communications at AARP, says to take advantage of the people in your organization who are part of the desired target audience and run things by them to get their input before they are published. Joel Payne, Democratic strategist and former director of African American Paid Media for Hillary for America, agreed, noting that he always ran ideas past a diverse circle of people he trusted before making a decision. “Ask them how the idea sits with them” and be open to feedback, Payne said. You might be surprised with the reaction.
- Make Your Table Longer
In 2016, AARP released a survey asking how many of their members identified as LGBTQ. They were surprised to learn 2.4% of their members self-identified as such. Immediately, under the direction of Dr. Nii-Quartelai Quartey, AARP partnered with SAGE to start building a longer table. They commissioned a first-of-its-kind study, looking through an intersectional lens at the unique ways members were impacted by AARP programs. They got to know their audience, engaged in communities they wanted to target, and tailored their advertising efforts to reflect the people they wish to serve.
- “Nothing About Us Without Us”
Not only do companies need to have longer tables, they also need to be more accessible. Ensure that the images you are using to market to diverse audiences are truly representative of their realities and that the team you use to create the assets is as diverse as possible. Teresa Danso-Danquah, NextGen Initiatives manager at Disability:IN, highlighted that many executives do not consider the disabled community when thinking about marketing. Often, content about people with disabilities is one-dimensional and places the able-bodied viewer at the center of the narrative. To combat this, Disability:IN wanted to showcase a diverse workforce and started a stock photo library with images of those with disabilities in the workforce. Every person they hired to produce those images was disabled and the photos were of real disabled people in the workforce going about their daily tasks.
- Culture Is Not Monolithic
Shakirah Hill, vice president of digital strategy at Metropolitan Group, advises her clients to “check their assumptions at the door” and not to enter marketing meetings thinking they know everything about a certain demographic. People within the same demographic can be very different, said Mariana Roig, co-founder and vice president of strategy at ROIG Communications. She advises clients trying to reach the Hispanic/Latinx community that there is “diversity within diversity.”
Social Driver’s Anthony Shop shared an example of a merger of two LGBTQ, military advocacy organizations. Servicemembers in conservative locations did not want to be outed by the new brand, and other members wanted to use the new brand on swag and in Pride celebrations. They decided on traditional branding (using red, white and blue) and a name that only hinted at a progressive nature (the Modern Military Association of America). They also embraced an optional tagline and branding options (including a secondary energetic color palette) that owned the LGBT space and gave members the flexibility they wanted.
- Diversity, Equity And Inclusion Are All Critical
Reaching diverse audiences is crucial for brand growth. A University of Georgia study found that minority buying power is growing at a faster pace than the white consumer market. "The combined buying power of Black, Asian American and Native American people is estimated to be $2.2 trillion in 2016, a 138 percent gain since 2000," according to the report. Brands that want to be relevant in the future can’t afford to just focus on a narrow audience.
For example, when working to align two of Johns Hopkins subsidiary hospitals under one brand on social media, Social Driver developed micro-campaigns to better reach women and minorities. These campaigns ensured that all patients understood the quality care that they would receive at Johns Hopkins hospitals, and that Johns Hopkins was focused on the issues most likely to impact them.
Equity and inclusion are equally as important for brands to consider. As the world becomes more diverse, how do we make sure that everyone has an equal seat at the table? In the case of the Victory Fund, they make sure marginalized groups like LGBTQ communities are represented in government. Social Driver helped the Victory Fund and Victory Institute to redesign and launch their new digital strategy to grow the number of LGBTQ elected officials and elevating LGBTQ leaders at all levels of government.