5 steps for creating more diverse and inclusive content that makes an impact
by: Amy Blasco
The Black Lives Matter movement has triggered far-reaching protests and discussions about systemic violence and racism against Black men and women and other people of color in the United States and beyond. Many hope this modern civil rights movement will lead to lasting change in all parts of society.
From a marketing perspective, dozens of companies have announced intentions to make their advertising campaigns more diverse and inclusive, with some going as far as changing their names and brands all together. The industry has faced calls to make content more diverse and inclusive for ages, and many people hope that the Black Lives Matter movement will lead to lasting change.
With current events in mind, Verdin would like to share five actionable steps brands can take to be more diverse and inclusive.
5 steps for creating more diverse and inclusive content
- Check your bias: Implicit bias, or unconscious bias, refers to the unconscious attitudes or stereotypes that affect our actions and decisions. Human brains are wired to automatically sort and categorize information about the world around them, which causes us to form implicit biases. In the last several decades, there has been a great deal of research and training done to help people become aware of their biases. There are lots of resources out there, but an easy place to start is Harvard’s Project Implicit®, which includes a list of Implicit Association Tests. Being aware of implicit biases is the first step to creating more diverse and inclusive marketing content.
- Assess your team: Does your team reflect the audiences you’re trying to reach? Research has shown that a more diverse and inclusive team leads to higher revenue, greater innovation and better decision making. From a marketing perspective, teams are able to make more emotionally resonant campaigns when they can relate to their audiences’ experiences. Hiring and retaining a diverse team can sometimes be a challenge, especially for companies located in traditionally homogenous areas. Here are some recommendations for widening the talent pool when hiring. A key thing to remember, however, is that in order to truly thrive your team must also focus on inclusion. According to Rita Mitjans with Human Resources firm ADP, “Diversity is the ‘what’; inclusion is the ‘how.’ Diversity focuses on the makeup of your workforce—demographics such as gender, race/ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, veteran status, just to name a few, and inclusion is a measure of culture that enables diversity to thrive. Inclusion requires that everyone’s contributions be valued.”
- Research your audience: The best campaigns are those that truly understand their audience—their needs, wants, challenges and feelings. Of course, inclusive marketing doesn’t mean you have to include everyone. Your audience should be relevant to the product you’re promoting. That said, it’s important to cultivate reliable demographic data that includes a range of categories and then dig even deeper by interviewing key community members, holding focus groups or attending relevant community events.
- Be a problem solver: A key component of marketing and advertising is knowing your audience’s problems—often called pain points—and then figuring out how your service or product can solve them. Remember that one of those problems could be not feeling seen or served by your brand. Not sure where to start? Ask questions. This can be done through surveys, social media or even a feedback section on your website. This might seem overly simple, but it’s the most direct way to get valuable information. And the answers might surprise you.
- Edit as needed: When reviewing content, make sure to edit for bias or messages that don’t feel genuine. A good resource for editing is the Consciousness Style Guide, an online database of inclusive language and terminology broken down by demographics. As for determining whether something is genuine, it all comes down to your brand. What is your brand known for? Does your message reflect your brand’s values? Or are you trying too hard to be something you’re not? Listen to your audience and connect with them on a human level. More and more, people are starting to see brands as people themselves, so authenticity matters.
A tale of two brands
Here is a side-by-side comparison of two brands’ attempts to create culturally diverse and inclusive marketing campaigns. Which one do you think followed the five steps listed above?
Back in 2017, Pepsi created an ad inspired by the #BlackLivesMatter movement with the goal of sharing a “global message of unity, peace and understanding.” The ad has Kendall Jenner of Keeping up with the Kardashians giving a Pepsi to a police officer during a protest.
The response? People hated it, calling it insincere and tone deaf. Why? According to Ann Gynn of Content Marketing Institute, “Pepsi isn’t known for its social consciousness and the idea that drinking a Pepsi could solve the conflict was absurd to many.”
The Bumble ad, on the other hand, hits the mark simply by telling real stories about its diverse range of real-life New York City customers, including an opera singer, a political activist, an entrepreneur and more.
“The ‘Find Them on Bumble’ campaign is a good example of how a brand can market its customer diversity as one of its biggest assets,” writes Pamela Bump in a marketing blog for Hubspot. “When you see multiple people with different backgrounds and motivations using the same product, you might feel that the product is of good quality or you might just connect more deeply with the marketing.”
So what kind of stories is your brand going to tell? Need help telling them? Visit www.verdinmarketing.com for more information.