July 25, 2022
Over the last few years, we have seen more and more brands leverage the use of inclusive marketing as a means to connect with their globalised consumers. By interweaving a variety of narratives, brands are finding that they are getting to connect more meaningfully with a broader audience. As inclusive marketing is a relatively new demand, there is still one large gap that has not been addressed with it.
Inclusive marketing is the type of marketing that authentically represents diversity - accounting for an audience’s intersectional layers whilst also dissipating negative stereotypes. What this type of marketing does is that it celebrates a brand’s localised demographic, inclusive of those that may sit on the margins, rather than just featuring those that make up the majority. Forbes states that “building an inclusive brand will soon transform from a ‘nice to do’ to a ‘must do.’”
Additionally, this form of marketing provides the added reward of resonating more effectively with consumers. Hubspot found that “64% of people said they are more trusting of brands that represent diversity in ads, and 85% of consumers said they will only consider a brand they trust”. The enduring influence marketing has had on consumers offers an important opportunity to amplify the vast narratives that exist within our globalised world.
“Inclusive marketing for consumers starts with genuine openness within marketing teams that brings diversity of thought and cultural awareness.” - Accenture.
The answer lies within a question - who is at the table coming up with creative ideas? Whether it be internal teams or the use of creative agencies, one must know who is at the table when marketing decisions are being made.
Consumers are holding brands to account for authenticity - requiring transparency to see if their marketing is not just cosmetic but truly reflective of their internal makeup. However, there is a gap that is often overlooked. Should creative teams also be held to the same account? Can homogenous creative teams truly build diverse narratives that are both authentic and free from bias?
Creative agencies, who are often the ones building marketing campaigns for brands have been overlooked and not held to the same standard as brands (despite frequently being the ones pitching the inclusive campaigns). Business Insider summarised that “The industry, which influences global purchasing decisions and is vital for companies trying to reach diverse audiences, remains white and male dominated.” Which has further been echoed by [The Drum] stating that “UK advertising agencies are falling short when it comes to diversity”.
In the most recent IPA 2021 Agency Census the numbers remain concerning. Their figures have shown that:
The percentage of employees from a non-white background is estimated at a staggering 18.3%.
In seniority, that percentage is even lower, where individuals from a non-white background account for 7.1% of C-suite roles in agencies.
Individuals from a non-white background, however, occupy 27.1% of entry and junior-level roles.
Whilst females are also only occupying 33.5% of C-suite roles - a marginal increase from the 32.4% recorded in 2020.
Although numbers are slowly improving, this diversity gap plays a major role in agencies’ abilities to provide strong inclusive marketing ideas. The gap is also at risk of perpetuating an echo chamber of thinking dripped in bias rather than establishing a round table that includes the voices of the audiences theare creating for.
The diversity gap within creative agencies also fails to leverage the added benefits diversity brings to creativity. HBR’s findings highlight that “new research provides compelling evidence that diversity unlocks innovation and drives market growth—a finding that should intensify efforts to ensure that executive ranks both embody and embrace the power of differences.”
This emphasises the urgency of not only looking for diverse talent to fill the lower ranks of agencies but specifically seniority positions. If the gap continues to be addressed only at the bottom we will never truly tap into the innovation that comes with having a range of perspectives at the decision-making level. HBR emphasises that “Without diverse leadership, women are 20% less likely than straight white men to win endorsement for their ideas; people of colour are 24% less likely, and LGBTs are 21% less likely. This costs their companies crucial market opportunities, because inherently diverse contributors understand the unmet needs in under-leveraged markets.”
To avoid falling into a paradox where inclusive campaigns are being built by homogenous teams, marketers and other decision-makers looking to work with agencies need to start asking ‘who will be in the room when ideas are being made?’. If we start to hold agencies to the same account as brands, we are likely to reap the benefits that diversity brings to marketing - a more honest, authentic and unbiased storytelling. The industry should aim to not just create inclusive campaigns, but to also make sure that those building them are also representing the audiences they are trying to speak to.
Oddigy is a culture-aware creative studio designing brands, strategies and campaigns. To hear more about what we do please email email@example.com