If Your Marketing Isn’t Inclusive, It Isn’t Good — Why Diversity in Advertising Matters

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If Your Marketing Isn’t Inclusive, It Isn’t Good — Why Diversity in Advertising Matters

If Your Marketing Isn’t Inclusive, It Isn’t Good — Why Diversity in Advertising Matters


Diversity and inclusion — as a society, we talk a lot about these terms. So much so that in the rapidly changing digital world (paired with today’s politically charged climate), it’s easy for these terms to just turn into buzzwords. Brands shouldn’t throw around diversity and inclusion as a half-baked way of getting more consumers. Instead, they need to strive to create marketing material that avoids stereotypes and the perpetuation of racism, sexism, homophobia, and tokenism.

So, why is diversity in advertising important? Well, of course, the obvious: not everyone looks, thinks, and acts the same. By the same logic, not everyone who consumes advertising (and eventually — hopefully — converts/purchases) looks, thinks, or acts the same, either. It seems simple enough, but it’s often overlooked, so let’s dive deeper into why inclusive advertising matters and how it can positively affect your bottom line.

Say it again for the people in the back: representation matters

According to Statistics Canada, more than one-fifth of Canadians are visible minorities, and by 2036, visible minorities are projected to represent a third of the population. With minority populations representing such a large percentage of the total population, it’s surprising that only 25% of consumers who identify as minorities feel like advertisements speak to them directly. To capture more consumer attention, we need to better speak to all populations.

Representation of diverse families is now an expectation. A study found that brands who portray diverse families — whether that’s a family with LGBTQ+ parents, stay-at-home-dads, or interracial couples — are perceived better by consumers than brands who don’t. Similarly, a Shutterstock study reported in Adweek found that 80% of marketers agree that using images that reflect modern society improves a brand’s reputation. It’s all about advertising reflecting the reality of how the world works. Portraying same-sex couples, people with disabilities, and mixed-race families make brands more relatable than the same cookie-cutter ads. 

When Google asked black millennial YouTube creators what brands can do to make truly inclusive advertising, it confirmed the importance of representation when making purchasing decisions. “If I don’t see someone who looks like me in your ad—if I can’t see myself wearing your product—I can’t see myself buying it,” said Jodi LaMont of The Brilliant Beauty. Visible minority populations are young — the median age of visible minorities in 2016 was 33, while the overall population was 41. Appealing to younger audiences is now essential to keeping your brand relevant.

Gen Z & Millennials care about diversity

Ah, Gen Z-ers and Millennials — the elusive, coveted group of tween- to 30-something-year-olds who are quickly becoming one of the biggest groups of consumers. In fact, Gen Z alone (those born after 1996), represents up to $143 billion in buying power globally, makes up about 25% of the U.S. population, and influences as much as 93% of family spend. They are expected to become the largest generation of consumers by 2020. Seeing the buying power these two massive generations hold at their fingertips, it’s more important than ever for brands to create content that resonates with Gen Z-ers and Millennials. 

In four different surveys by Barkley and Futurecast, The Harris Poll, and eMarketer, it was obvious that Gen Z-ers and Millenials favour brands, ads, and product lines that highlight diversity. Here were just a few of the findings:

  • Younger consumers are generally the most receptive to ads showcasing diverse families.
  • Gen Z-ers and Millennials tend to be more accepting of nontraditional gender roles compared to baby boomers.
  • Nearly 70% of those surveyed said they prefer to consume movies and television that feature a multicultural cast.
  • 65% of Gen Z-ers and Millennials said they were more likely to shop at retailers that offer a more robust selection of multicultural products.

Gen Z-ers and Millennials are becoming more demanding of nontraditional representation in ads, feeling less uneasy about the intersection of identity, politics, and advertising. With the purchasing capacity and influence these young consumers have, the risk of brands taking a strong political stance could be worth it to reach this core market.

Nike and Colin Kaepernick: the campaign heard ‘round the world

Speaking of risk in advertising, it’s safe to say that the Nike campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick was one for the books. In case you were living under a rock in 2018 (and honestly, I don’t blame you), here’s the short and sweet of it:

During the 2016–2017 NFL season, Kaepernick, the (now former) quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, used his platform to publicly protest against racial injustice and police brutality by kneeling as the national anthem played before each game. In September 2018, Nike sent shock, delight, and (for some sneaker-burning Twitter users) outrage around the globe with its 30th-anniversary ad campaign centring Kaepernick.

Like Andre Redelinghuys says in The Prize for Nike’s Calculated Fall from Grace, “by taking a side in today’s toxic political climate, [Nike has] done what mega brands don’t do — they have said “we’re not for you” to a large portion of society.” The Nike-Kaepernick campaign marked a turning point for advertisers, one where companies are now taking stances on formerly avoided territories like social justice and politics. In the case of Nike, the reward far outweighed the risk.

Let’s just take a quick peek at their popularity over time on Google, shall we?

Nike interest over time on Google Trends

Taking a stance and creating an inclusive brand can have a positive impact on a business’ bottom line, as consumers are quickly changing their shopping behaviour to align with their personal values. According to the 2019 Facebook Summit, 83% of millennials believe brands should be involved in societal issues. They are quick to judge whether or not a brand is authentic based on the causes and issues they care about.

So, how can you improve your advertising to make it more inclusive of your entire customer base? Partnering with an agency who shares the same commitment to diversity and inclusion could be the first step.


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Ahmed Ismail