Instagram members posted scathing criticism about the campaign only featuring skinny white girls. According to CNBC, one follower responded to the campaign by posting “…what the flying hell!” The problem isn’t limited to Altar’d State. Indeed, the digital marketing industry has a long history of failing to include diversity in campaigns. Worse yet, the industry has had many examples of insensitivity to racial or cultural matters. The issue has prompted a variety of consultants to rally behind the need for marketing firms and in-house teams to be more inclusive in hiring minorities to help improve diversity when crafting content.
Gucci is just one of many firms that have shown a lack of cultural sensitivity. It previously launched a promotion of a $790 turban, sparking criticism that company’s portrayal of a religious symbol was insensitive to Sikhs, while a campaign by Dolce & Gabbana depicting a Chinese model trying to eat Italian food with chopsticks was viewed as insensitive to Asians, reports CNN and WSLS. In another blunder, Burberry was accused of glamorizing suicide when it promoted a hoodie with a drawstring that resembled a noose.
In a Marketing Land column, Ronald Dod, CMO and co-founder of e-commerce marketing agency Visiture, argues that having diversity among employees can help marketing teams avoid blunders, such as racial or cultural insensitivity. Dod further contends that having diversity among influencers can enhance results. For example, Millennials and Generation Z consumers say they prefer media with diverse casts, view ads with diverse representation more favorably and are more comfortable with brands taking social stances. Black Millennial audiences, furthermore, have asked for more diversity in campaigns, according to surveys.
Dod adds that firms should embrace diversity-centered hiring practices because without diversity among employees, representation in campaigns is likely to suffer. Businesses that already have diverse teams, however, need to ensure that minority team members aren’t there to provide rubber-stamp approvals of marketing content. Marketers should also conduct research to find demographic groups that they are underserving and then assess what concerns motivate people from different cultures. To improve marketing to specific demographics, marketers can use social media listening services to assess how their brands are viewed.
Some marketing firms maintain that their success has been driven, in large part, by having diverse employees. In The Drum, Steven Hyde, co-ceo at The Push Group, says having employees from every walk of life negates the risk of complacency at the firm. The Push Group won the EMEA Award for 'Growing Business Online in 2018' and the 'EMEA Innovation Award in 2017.' Hyde maintains that a spirit of inclusiveness fosters a spirit of innovation at the firm.
Employees from different backgrounds tend to have different perspectives, so diversity can result in developing a variety of solutions to problems. Having a variety of perspectives when planning projects, furthermore, can result in completing the projects with less time required. Hyde also writes that having a reputation for being inclusive can make it easier for firms to recruit new employees from among a diverse pool of candidates.
Other firms are even providing resources that help marketers be sensitive to cultural concerns. Marketing Partners of Burlington, Vermont, for example, has a guide to using inclusive language. The guide seeks to help marketers navigate potentially tricky topics, such as the best way to refer to minorities. By some accounts, the marketing industry is fairly inclusive, at least when it comes to women. During the first half of this year, 48% of open chief marketing officer positions have been filled by women, reports HRDive. According to a Russell Reynolds Associates report called “Marketing Moves: Q1-Q2 2019,” the 48% rate is an all-time high.