Diversity is a missing strategic gap in marketing, not just a rights issue

Acting like diversity doesn't affect your brand isn't just discriminatory, it's simply bad marketing practice, argues International Creative Services' Anne Miles.

It’s easy for people to bang on about diversity or ‘girl power’ because it is a right, or because it is the ‘right’ thing to do (which I do agree with), but perhaps it is even more pragmatic than this and simply a sign that businesses are not delivering on strategy.

In my experience client side dealing with agencies and brands over the years, it seems the real issue in our industry is that strategy is often off. Part of this is because we don’t have diversity on our minds. At best, we think about adding a few token photos in the casting, and that’s about it.

We are not properly understanding our audience segmentation and therefore the work we produce is off track. With each stakeholder in the business having their own tools and ways to define the customer segment, they aren’t aligned.

Just take a moment and compare the customer profiles used by your research company, media agency, creative agency, marketing team, brand strategists, and your sales teams. I bet you they’re not aligned. They may not actually be deep enough to understand who the potential market audience really is, which is the real issue. Current customers and potential customers are two very different things.

The current sales results are the most accurate indication of who is buying into the current brand or product strategy, channel selection and creative executions. but it is not necessarily an indication of where the real growth could be.

Unconscious bias is a default for many of us, which impacts the strategies we develop and the work we produce.

Let’s be certain what unconscious bias is – it is racism, but when we don’t intend it. Education and changing the way we look at things is the cure.

We’ll always have racist people who are intentionally disrespectful of others, but let’s focus on changing those that mean well, but just don’t realise they’re doing it. As marketers, we have the power to impact this.

We don’t have to apply a blanket set of rules that says that all our communications need to be automatically diverse and must connect with all audiences at all costs.

If there are brands that want to be all about men and don’t see any need to be connecting with women, then go for it. If there are brands that want to target youth and polarise the older generation, then go for it. Just so long as no one is degraded in the process and we all have equal rights. Let the colours of the rainbow be celebrated, and ensure we don’t have one big grey pot where everyone is the same in our quest to be overly politically correct.

To really apply deeper strategic thinking into the creative we produce, let’s begin with customer segmentation for the potential market and ensure all our agencies are aligned with one agreed position.

What mix of the potential market is actually male or female, gender neutral, aged a certain way, or a culture of a certain preference?

If we don’t have diversity on the agenda before we produce the creative, we’ll be off track and potentially disrespectful in the process. Many of those products that have been typically considered male dominated are likely not so any more, and those brands that were middle/white Australia are unlikely to be that any more either.

Those brands (and I’ve seen them) who think their audience has always been one way and keep on behaving that way are missing the growth. Looking at your audience potential regularly must be done to remain in growth mode. In turn, putting a lens of diversity over it you will get new answers.

Only from here we can move into creating the most meaningful value propositions, the messages that resonate, the language that aligns, the casting choices that make us feel understood, the tone of the cinematography that feels right, the stye of edit that sits well, the selection of music that moves us.

Even the way we crew our projects, the approval chains we put in place and all those micro processes we use throughout the creative process have an impact on our ability to remain on track for this potential market.

We do need to tread lightly here too, as we should not lose our heritage and what makes us part of a certain brand, or part of being Australian in the process either. Most of all, we need to separate out the way we think about diversity and ensure we are respectful to all.

Anne Miles is founder and global executive producer of International Creative Services.


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