“If you’re going to talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk.” – Unknown
Just months after Beyoncé selected Tyler Mitchell to shoot her Vogue cover, the superstar reportedly walked out of a meeting with Reebok. To set the stage: working with Mitchell was an important moment for her. He was not only among the magazine’s youngest photographers to shoot the cover, he was the first African American to do so in its 125+ year history. Of her choice, Beyoncé tells, “Until there is a mosaic of perspective coming from different ethnicities behind the lens, we will continue to have a narrow approach and view of what the world actually looks like.” And, it was this perspective that led to her disappointment when walking into the aforementioned Reebok pitch meeting, which allegedly lacked diversity.
It’s said she explained before leaving: “Nobody in this room reflects my background, my skin color, and where I’m from and what I wanna do.” Instead, she inked a deal with Adidas, which has been willing "to let the people they sign instill their values and visions into their particular fashion ventures.” As for Reebok, this lost opportunity “could’ve been easily avoided.” That is with a diversity marketing strategy - not only fit for Queen Bey, but in what has come to be expected by consumers and talent alike.
Why Diversity Marketing Matters and What It Means
“…good diversity marketing is a result of corporate culture that is focused on diversity and inclusion.” – Edward Bourelly for Forbes
Diversity in the workplace continues to get more attention. This is not only because embracing diversity results in higher rewards. “Companies in the top quartile of diversity are 35% more likely to have above-average industry returns.” It’s also because of the people who make up the majority of the workforce. One in three are Millennials. And, almost 50% of them seek diversity in prospective employers before taking a job.
This may be in part because of the diversity within their generation. For example, almost half of Millennials, as well as Gen Z, are non-white. But the other reason is a different way of thinking. For Millennials, diversity in the workplace isn’t related to the numbers. It means fostering a “culture of connection” and “facilitating a sense of belonging.” After all, a poll finds that 70% of millennials are “happiest when they feel connected to their co-workers.” They want them to serve as a “second family.” At the same time, Millennials, and again, Gen Z, seek a work-life balance more so than other generations. So, it makes sense they also seek a professional life much like that of their personal one.
That’s why, when it comes to the products they buy, research shows Millennials have “high expectations” for inclusion and diversity. It’s “those values” that influence which brands they choose. But brands are making mistakes in diversity marketing. The biggest mistake, per a Forbes article, is declaring a diversity marketing strategy to be “imperative.” Instead, it says, their focus should be on diversity in internal marketing teams, and at all levels. Their environments should be “reflective of the brand messaging they want to portray.” When it’s not, they can’t appear authentic to consumers, which is a must to win their business. The bottom line is, don’t do diversity marketing “if you don’t have the right team in place.” Yet, when brands do, they should walk the walk to win those who align with their values.
To foster the “culture of connection” and facilitate “a sense of belonging,” Fast Company says “in-person interaction in real life” is the most likely way to achieve it. Yet, it advises being together is not enough. “Shared experiences” are the best means.
The Best Diversity Marketing Strategy and How to Achieve It
The Dove personal care brand has made mistakes in its diversity marketing strategy, namely in its advertising. But in experiential marketing, it seems to be hitting the mark. For one brand activation, it collaborated with Dunkin Donuts to host a pop-up ‘styling café’ in NYC. From here, it offered women two things they tend to gravitate to in the morning – coffee and dry shampoo. This means attendees got free coffee and mini-styling services using Dove Dry Shampoo, as well as branded swag. A look at the campaign’s hashtag on Instagram showed partnership with female influencers of all colors, shapes, and sizes – all juggling lives’ demands, from kids to work – to promote the event.
A few months later, its Dove Men+Care line hosted events nationwide in the U.S. to foster quality time between dads and their children. This was by offering free haircuts for all who came to participating Bishops locations, a minority-owned salon chain offering affordable haircuts. While they waited, families could play games together, and after, get their pictures taken.
The varied brand activations demonstrate the power of experiential marketing when targeting any audience regardless of gender, race, age, and other diverse characteristics. These examples from Dove go beyond the simple act of gathering people to foster real-life interactions and shared experiences, which are necessary for people to connect. More important, their people on site prove they not only talk diversity talk, they walk the walk, too. The brand ambassadors personified their messages of diversity, ensuring the right teams in place.
Showing Diversity Through Brand Activations
Experiential marketing activations allow brands to show authenticity by engaging face-to-face with consumers. Through messaging and activities, especially those that contain a cause-driven element, brands show consumers their commitment to diversity, rather than telling them via a traditional media outlet. And when it comes to those people who are onsite during the activation, brands must ensure that those representing them demonstrate diversity as well. Finding a diverse group of people who come from different cultures but share the brand’s values speaks volumes related to inclusion
Live brand events are one of the most authentic ways for brands to demonstrate a commitment to diversity and inclusion. In designing events that are relevant and honor our differences, brands ensure no consumer leaves feeling misunderstood. Instead, they walk away feeling connected to others – and to the brand, too.