During the creation of an advertising campaign, today, more than ever, there is a need to relate to the diverse range of individuals who make up the target audience.
In this way, diversity in marketing is on its way to becoming the default setting and not the exception.
To reflect this shift in the emphasis towards inclusivity, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority has recently vowed to be stricter with ads portraying minority stereotypes. This means marketing campaigns need to pay closer attention to gender, ethnicity, sexual preference, religion and ability.
Marketing campaigns that place a bigger emphasis on inclusivity have the ability to change people’s mindsets rather than reinforce negative stereotypes, and this can have a long lasting effect on audiences.
Tackling cultural issues as a brand is not always straightforward, however, as insensitive marketing campaigns can cause reputational damage.
An understanding is key
Some brands who have attempted to tackle sensitive cultural issues but have done so in poor taste, have been accused of ‘jumping on the diversity bandwagon’.
One example comes from Pepsi’s 2017 ad campaign, which saw Kendall Jenner presenting a police officer with a can of Pepsi amid an ongoing protest.
This campaign received a huge public backlash as it appeared to trivialise demonstrations that centred around sensitive social justice issues.
Another infamous ad, produced by Protein World, portrayed a bikini-wearing woman alongside the question ‘Are you beach body ready?’.
Again this received a huge backlash, with many of the banner ads actually being defaced by the public. However, the brand has recently changed its tune and in 2018 released its ‘Every Body Works’ campaign.
When companies get it wrong in this way, social media users are often quick to react.
But one of the worst things a marketing campaign can do is shy away from diversity for fear of tokenism or getting it wrong. Instead, by having a diverse marketing team behind the creation of any campaign, a company is more likely to ‘get it right’.
One of the first steps towards generating an inclusive marketing campaign, and doing it well, is to increase the diversity in teams that do the creative work.
People of different ages, genders, socioeconomic backgrounds, skin colours, abilities and sexualities can add to the diversity of any marketing team and generate a genuinely inclusive marketing campaign that reflects the world we live in.
As well as championing matters of social responsibility, campaigns that ‘get it right’ can benefit from increased brand recognition and long term loyalty.
By including a wide variety of people, akin to the range of diversity we see around us each and every day, campaigns can engage and resonate with wider audiences.
The current climate
Although recent years have seen double the amount of minority figures being represented in UK ads, many brands still tend to cast these figures in supporting roles.
In fact, less than 10% of UK ads cast minority groups in protagonist roles, but examples can be found in both Sainsbury’s and Nike advertising campaigns.
To reflect this ‘face-value shift’ towards realness, many customers realise that some brands are offering an inauthentic and tokenistic step towards inclusion.
With this in mind, it seems we still have a way to go with regards to diversity and marketing – brands must work harder towards authentically representing the full diversity of the UK.
According to some customers one key part of the shift towards inclusivity are diverse companies that are diverse not just for the sake of being ‘cool’, and campaigns that champion the movement authentically without making a song and dance about it.
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