The world has been and always will be a place filled with incredible and exciting people with endless different backgrounds and perspectives, and some people might say that the digital marketing industry has evolved to represent this rich diversity. However, that’s not entirely the case. Many cultures still lack representation, especially online, but that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been any progress. These past few years, we’ve seen the industry act to meet the expectations of inclusivity – a message that has been growing steadily from their consumers in both power and volume.
Successful brands such as Fenty and Adcolor have demonstrated that inclusive marketing should come first in every campaign, as it makes the audience feel your brand reach and drastically expands your customer base.
During day two of Google Marketing Live this year, we got to see a panel of C-Suite executives from both of these brands (and others) that have been exemplifying the power and importance of inclusivity in their marketing strategy. Hosted by Valeisha Butterfield Jones, head of Community Inclusion at Google, the panel was an eye-opening dive into the world of modern, inclusive marketing and its powerful effects on the world at large.
So, here they are – the stories from Google’s Inclusivity Panel, and what businesses around the world can learn from them.
Let’s begin with the thoughts of Sandy Saputo, the Chief Marketing Officer of Fenty.Part Lebanese and part Egyptian, she immigrated to America at the age of seven with her family.
Now, we first have to address what a phenomenon Fenty is. Conceptualised by Rihanna, it is the most culturally inclusive makeup line in the world with products catering to over fifty different skin tones. It is one of the world’s most successful premier beauty brands, and a flagship for cultural inclusion as a beauty industry standard. The first Fenty line was released only in September of 2017, sparking what many have called “the Fenty effect”, where brands hastened to increase their repertoires and cater to customers who were now able to find what they needed elsewhere.
Saputo spoke of this effect while on the panel, saying that “we had to break all of the marketing rules and codes and carve our own path”. The first release was based on Rihanna’s very strong dedication to her original concept, and the collaboration of equally passionate people who worked to create a message of inclusion.
As said by Saputo, “Our approach to inclusion was showing, not telling. In fact, we never once used the word “inclusion” in any of our campaigns.” This brings to light the concept of creating products that are, in and of themselves, indisputably representative of your entire diverse customer base.
After driving 500 million US dollars of revenue in its first year of business alone, the Fenty brand has proven that, more than anything, inclusive marketing starts with simply understanding and catering to your existing customer base.
We also heard from panellist Danielle Tiedt, Chief Marketing Officer of household brand YouTube. Over the past few years, we have seen the brand embrace the communities that have crystallised within it, and support them as an industry with a lot of power and influence.
The main message we took from Tiedt was that businesses wield a lot of power, especially when they are platforms for expression and communication (like YouTube), and that they should use this power to lift up people who might otherwise not have a voice. Communities form of their own volition within these social spheres, and it is the responsibility of the business itself to “make sure there is a platform for those stories to be told”, as Tiedt put it. Having grown up in a very small town in the United States, Tiedt is no stranger to the effects a narrow stream of exposure can have on people. As she said, “if you don’t have positive narratives around you, that has a really serious downstream effect”.
In recent years, YouTube has taken an empowering stance towards diversity on their platform, championing campaigns such as YouTubeBlack, which focuses on connecting black creators with wider communities and brands, and the #ProudToBe campaign, which they began in response to the Orlando nightclub shooting in 2016. While there were some setbacks during these campaigns, which Tiedt attributed to errors in the demonetisation algorithms, the brand is overall a believer that “when you really and truly believe that people, images, and stories matter… it’s incredibly empowering what we can do to move society forward”.
Moving on to Tiffany R. Warren, President and Founder of Adcolor and the very first Chief Diversity Officer at Omnicom. As a black woman on the executive board of two different companies, she spoke to the importance of creating a workplace that fosters cultural fluency, and how that will translate into your brand identity. To Warren, the definition of diversity is an inclusive environment, “one where you’re fully seen and you’re fully recognised for who you are”. And as a marketing executive, one of the things she has noticed is that the deliberate creation of diverse teams in the workplace is an essential ingredient in creating an authentically inclusive brand.
“A lot of times, creative gets through because someone is not in the room to say, ‘Hey, that’s inappropriate’, and if they are then a lot of the time, they are not empowered in saying it”.Tiffany R. Warren, CDO Omnicom Group & President/Founder of Adcolor
As Chief Diversity Officer for one of the largest media marketing firms on the planet, Warren pointed out from her vast experience that a diverse team automatically expands the knowledge-base of the company. Campaigns that are insensitive do not make it past the conceptual stage, as there are people there that would be affected by said campaign, and can put a stop to it. Advertisers can utilise the varying perspectives of their employees to make creatives that perfectly target their demographics, and that’s what we are starting to observe across industries.
We are now seeing people “leading with ethnic insights”, as Warren put it. She mentioned that many of her clients are now coming to her with cultural inclusion and sensitivity as one of their main points, rather than just as an afterthought. This is due to increased variability in culture, size, gender and many other aspects that is making itself known in modern-day business environments.
So, that being said, as a business owner you must empower the employees in your workplace to speak up with their ideas, and shut down anything that does not cater to your clients’ individuality.
Finally, we heard from Chief Operational Officer at TechStyle Fashion Group, Anton von Rueden (left). Born in Germany, von Rueden has worked in many companies that he felt did not have the same diversity as his homeland. As he said on the panel, “inclusion to me is more a part of your everyday life; in Germany, you naturally grow up more cosmopolitan with a natural worldview”, speaking to the many cultures that permeate Germany as a country.
TechStyle Fashion group is the parent company to various other sub-corporations in the fashion industry, most notably in this panel he spoke about the company Fabletics – which is a size-inclusive athleisure brand – and the Fenty x Savage lingerie collaboration designed for all sizes.
He said of the 2018 Fenty x Savage runway show, “We think it was a pivotal moment for us to start overhauling the lingerie industry and overhauling the idea that lingerie is just for skinny women”.
From what he spoke about throughout the panel, we learnt about von Rueden’s perspective on how diversity and brand identity marry. He believes (along with the other panellists), that you cannot simply preach diversity in one aspect of your brand and then not show it in any of the others. True inclusion comes from an authentic want to cater to all of your customers, and to help them see themselves as strong and powerful people through the stories that you tell. Put your vision in your messaging, in your product creation, in the photography and the design of the campaign – weave the intent to include throughout your company, and success across demographics is far more likely to come to you.
Overall, this panel demonstrated to us that diversity in the workplace is essential moving forward, regardless of the industry or niche that you occupy. As a search engine optimisation company, it may not seem as obvious an asset, however, we believe that diversity is necessary within all areas and have been taking steps to evaluate how we stand in that dimension. Varied knowledge and perspectives are already so beneficial to us every day, and we encourage business owners across New Zealand and the world to look at their team and think:
“What can we change in the world today?”
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