How can CMOs help brands embrace diversity?

In our latest food for thought series, we ask marketing experts from a range of industries to tell us about the role of marketing in embracing diversity

Diversity: We all know it is important, but just what does diversity mean to an organisation? What does it actually take as a leader to prepare the ground for diverse employees, thinking and approaches? And how can this set-up modern marketing campaigns for success?

Three CMOs from very different industries share their thoughts on the importance of diversity in business in general and marketing in particular, and how marketing can help brand embrace diversity and create an authentic and purposeful approach.

Michelle Zamora

Global chief marketing officer, Willow

Marketing is essential to empowering diversity by removing unconscious bias from research through to execution; representing diversity in brand campaigns, creating inclusive messaging in recruitment campaigns; and asking questions, observing and understanding human behaviour and what makes us different.

There are some amazing examples of brand campaigns embracing diversity, including Microsoft’s 'Reindeer Games' advertisement with inclusive product design; Nike 'Dream Crazier', which celebrates dreams, without expectation; and Madonna Badger’s brand campaign created in memory of her beautiful daughters. This raised awareness of the unconscious bias which exists today in how women are portrayed in advertising.

At Willow, we have implemented diversity in our brand marketing through the representation of diversity in our campaigns, in our recruitment advertising and through our own team recruitment. Diversity brings together different ideas, points of view and backgrounds, accelerating creativity and ideation. And it drives results. 

In the last 12 months, we have seen a double-digit increase to diverse staffing hires and triple-digit increase to our digital marketing engagement and responses. Put simply, it just makes sense. Diverse teams drive better customer outcomes and drive improved business results overall. 

Marketing must lead the quest to understand their customers in a number of ways. Recruit diverse marketing teams. Meet with customers and partners. Listen, observe and seek to understand. Spend time with the users of the product, understanding how they use, and don’t use, your solutions. Understand how messages are being received and listen for unintended bias. Finally, stay curious – always ask, listen and clarify. 

The key challenges in diverse marketing, which are difficult but not impossible to address, include unconscious bias in research, product design, and customer feedback; finding hidden diverse talent to profile in your campaigns; lack of data points showcasing the clear connection between diversity and the bottom line. Seeing is believing. When you bring diversity to the forefront of your brand, you create stronger brand connection, and engagement. It is essential to the success of modern brands and marketers. 

 
Melissa Hopkins
Head of consumer marketing - CMO, Optus

The question itself makes me feel a little uncomfortable. The definition of diversity in the Cambridge Dictionary is ‘a range of different things or people’ or ‘the fact there are many different ideas or options’. Indeed, the strongest brands in the world have been built on the premise of different ideas and approaches.

I think the question needs to be: Are our brands reflective and respectful of their customers? Do they represent the same values and are perhaps more importantly are they consistent. Pepsi and the Kendall Jenner incident was a major miss – not just because the company got the tone absolutely wrong, but also because it was not consistent with the brand and what Pepsi stands for in market.

Perhaps the best example came from the 1980’s with Benetton’s 'United Colours of Benetton' campaign. It was authentic and consistent. What I want brands to avoid is a tick box exercise of 'does this advertisement embrace diversity?'. It absolutely should be ‘is this advertisement and brand reflective of our customers?’.

I am very proud that at Optus my team developed the concept of giving away for free the Women’s World Cup to all Aussie school kids. We want to change the future young females see in sport. That for me is a brand demonstrating diversity. You must walk the walk always.

I love the quote ‘Diversity isn’t about headcount it’s about the heads that count’. This for me is the perfect summary around how brands should support diversity. The minute we feel we have to enforce it is the moment it lose credibility.


Up next: Celebrity Ink Tattoo CMO, Joe O'Keefe Jr, talks marketing diversity using customer data.

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