Why we need diversity in marketing

Jodie Sangster

Jodie Sangster has been the CEO of the Association for Data-driven Marketing and Advertising (ADMA) since 2011 and is also chairperson for the International Federation of Direct Marketing Associations (IFDMA). She has worked across the US, Europe and Asia-Pacific for 14 years with a focus on data-driven marketing and privacy, and began her career as a lawyer in London specialising in data protection. Her resume includes senior positions at Acxiom Asia-Pacific and the Direct Marketing Association in New York.


When we read articles about the need for increased diversity in marketing land, it is often through the lens of gender.

Most of the recent narrative is around the lack of women represented on industry panels, within the senior echelons of creative agencies and around the board room table. Entirely valid. But that’s only part of the story.

When I think about diversity within marketing, I am casting a much wider net. Race, gender, age, colour, religion, sexual orientation, disability, social background, geographic environment; likely not an exhaustive list but you get the idea.

These are all points of difference within our wider society and they should be effortlessly included in both marketing organisations and marketing executions. Crucially, this shouldn’t be merely as a tick in the corporate social responsibility box, or an exercise in tokenism. Rather, as a basis tenet of what we as marketers do every day.

Why is this important? In short, because it is good business sense.

Here is why:

Your consumers are diverse

Australia in 2017 is very different to Australia 40 years ago. We know from the latest Australia Bureau of Statistics figures that one-third of Australians were born overseas. In 1976, more than 80 per cent of this group came from Europe. In 2015, 40 per cent of those born overseas came from Asia, with only 35 per cent as migrants from Europe.

Similarly, the average Australian is now a 37-year-old woman, married, with a son and daughter aged nine and six. A far cry from the typical Aussie bloke and a different life stage from 40 years ago when a woman of 37 would have children who were significantly older.

As the raison d'être of the marketing industry is to communicate with all target consumers, then it follows our industry stands to benefit by encouraging a diverse workforce that reflects the shifting demographic of Australia today.

We need diversity of insight, experience and thought to properly connect with consumers from all walks of life.

The power of affinity

And how do we begin to covet, Clarice? Do we seek out things to covet?....No. We begin by coveting what we see every day.”

To bastardise a line from Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs, consumers are beginning to covet goods and services that are viewed through the lens of what they see every day. That is, they are more likely to identify with someone that resembles themselves and with whom they most identify.

It isn’t rocket science. Big global brands have been doing it for decades with global products. McDonalds, Coca Cola and countless others have localised ads across the world to better reflect their core demographic.

Today, marketers are no longer bound by basic demographics and can target on a more granular level to reflect all their target audiences on a more individual basis; beyond simplistic race and gender lines.

If consumers feel an affinity to the marketing directed at them, deeper engagement is achieved.

The bottom line

Having a diverse workforce is lucrative. A 2014 global study by McKinsey found ethnically diverse companies are 35 per cent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians, and those with gender diversity 15 per cent more likely.

Companies in the bottom quartile for gender, ethnicity and race were found to be more likely to achieve below average returns. This is significant as it suggests a non-diverse workforce is a hindrance to the financial performance of a company.

A possible reason for this lift in performance metrics is that working with a disparate versus a homogenous team apparently makes us smarter. Researchers at Stanford University in the US conducted small group research that concluded when it comes to decision making, a lack of racial diversity hinders creativity and innovation. You can read the detail of this study in the Scientific American journal here, along with the findings of similar research initiatives.

The bottom line is diversity drives performance.

As ADMA is Australia’s largest media and marketing industry association, we are most certainly walking the talk. We have built a diverse and eclectic team, not for the purposes of ‘setting an example’ or being a poster child, but because we know it makes us stronger.

Our small team of 30 employees comprises of 22 nationalities, a mix of languages, religions, sexual orientation and physical abilities. And we have never been a more cohesive, functional or high-performing team.

Our industry needs to reflect the Australia of today and it is incumbent upon all of us to play our part in ensuring our marketing activities and organisations reflect the reality of all Australian consumers.        

 

Tags: leadership, marketing careers, marketing strategy

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