group of people diverse by skin tone, gender and age

Diversity at all levels of a company is a major indicator of company success and productivity. The benefits of diversity and inclusion can be seen in stock and revenue performance, hiring and retention and customer acquisition and loyalty. A diverse marketing organization aids access to diverse markets.

It’s not a nice thing to have, it’s a necessity. Many studies have shown that more diverse organizations outperform less diverse ones. 

Creating a diverse and inclusive culture is the result of implementing policies and procedures that empower and support marginalized groups. It prioritizes results over intentions, emphasizing the need for action rather than just words. This approach ensures that individuals who have historically lacked support are now included and valued.

Marketing is all about trust. In fact, 46% of customers will pay more for products and services from brands they trust, according to a Salsify survey. Moreover, the Edelman Trust Barometer Survey (2023) found Gen Z is leading the charge in demanding more accountability from brands, with 79% saying it is more important to trust the brands they buy today than in the past. With such a focus on trust-building, you also must represent diversity in your ads and promotions. Why? Nearly 60% of customers will trust you more if you use inclusive ads, according to a Facebook advertising study.

However, it’s essential to note that just adding people who might appear to be of different ethnic backgrounds to your content will not accomplish this. The performative “faces and festivals” approach, where marketing includes different faces and makes a big deal of particular holidays (Juneteenth, Cinco de Mayo, Ramadan, Pride, etc.) is a recipe for disaster. It all but guarantees gaffes that will cause problems with the targeted audience. Avoiding that requires a diverse team.

Consumers want advertisements and promotions that represent them and their needs and interests. They don’t just take that at face value. They look for proof that representation is authentic and get angry if they believe it isn’t.

This is an introduction to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) for marketing organizations. It explains basic concepts and suggests steps you can take.

What is diversity, and inclusion in the workplace?

While marketing occurs “at work: there is a key difference in how marketers, who are communicating outside of an organization to an audience of potential customers, should approach and advocate diversity and inclusion in their work. Whereas organization leaders and culture drivers are responsible for communicating internally to an audience of employees about workplace diversity and inclusion. Simply put:

Diversity in marketing content and diversity in the workplace are directly related but take different forms. In content, it means portraying people of different ages, abilities, ethnicities, genders, sexual identities, religions and other demographic characteristics. The organization is actively seeking out and recruiting people from marginalized communities. It is creating a team that reflects society and the audiences you want to reach. 

Inclusion means policies and behaviors that ensure people from marginalized groups are heard and they and their contributions are given the consideration and respect they have usually been denied. Just having a diverse staff isn’t enough. Inclusive policies and behaviors foster a sense of belonging.

Underlying both diversity and inclusion is the principle of equity:

Equity means giving all people the support they need — training, mentorship, safe spaces and more — to advance in the organization. This support may look different according to the individual’s needs. It may be driven by how they identify in terms of race, culture, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality, differing ability or potentially undisclosed differences and what is required to achieve equity with peers.  It requires understanding why the organization has failed to do this in the past and making sure it doesn’t do it again.

Organizations that put equity at the core of internal and external decision-making and communications, will begin to intrinsically foster a culture of diversity and inclusion, with authenticity.

Benefits of diversity and inclusion in marketing

Increased audience engagement and trust

  • Nearly two-thirds (60%) of consumers find the topic of diversity and inclusion to be important, according to Quantilope. This is highest among parents with children 2-12 (78%), African-Americans (80%) and younger generations (76% of Gen Z and 72% of millennials compared to just 46% of boomers). 
  • Some 62% of people said that their perception of the brand’s service and products was influenced by their diversity, according to an Adobe survey. Lack of diversity will cost you sales: 53% of African-Americans, 40% of Hispanics and 58% of LGBTQ+ stopped using a brand because of representation issues. 
  • 59% of people say they are more loyal to brands that stand for diversity and inclusion in online advertising, according to Facebook Advertising

Better revenue

  • Ads that feature a diverse ensemble of models always outperformed ads with only one race represented, according to a study in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing and Science, by Henderson, Mazodier and Kenfer.
  • Companies with higher-than-average employee diversity have higher innovation revenues, according to a Harvard Business Review study
  • The top 100 Fortune 500 companies have more diverse boards than the other 400 companies on the list.
  • Gender-diverse boards of directors are 27 percent more likely to outperform financially than those in the bottom quartile in diversity terms, according to a McKinsey study. 
  • High-growth brands (annual revenue increase of at least 10%) are 1.9x more likely to have diversity-and-inclusion-related talent objectives than negative growth brands, according to Deloitte.

Attracting new customers

  • 64% of consumers are more likely to consider, or even purchase, a product after seeing an ad they consider to be diverse or inclusive, according to a Google study. This percentage is higher among specific consumer groups including Hispanic (85%), Black (79%), Asian/Pacific Islander (79%), LGBTQ (85%), millennial (77%) and teen (76%) consumers. 
  • In more than 90% of the simulations run by Facebook, diverse representation was the best strategy for ad recall lift, according to Facebook Advertising.
  • Some 70% of younger millennials are more likely to choose one brand over another if that brand demonstrates inclusion and diversity in terms of its promotions and offers, 66% in terms of their in-store experience. and 68% in their product range. According to the Accenture Holiday Shopping survey.

 Employee acquisition and retention

  • Some 57% of employees and 67% of job seekers consider diversity an important element of their workplace, according to Glassdoor.
  • When employees perceive their organization as committed to diversity and inclusion they feel included and are 80% more likely to rank their employer as high-performing, according to Deloitte.

Steps you can take 

Embracing diversity within an organization can be challenging, especially when it involves promoting diversity, inclusion, and equity. Many individuals may feel uneasy about these concepts and may even attempt to hinder progress in this area. Some may outwardly support diversity and inclusion while secretly working against it. Avoid getting caught up in debates about personal beliefs and values. Instead, focus on presenting a strong business case supported by evidence. Remember, advocating for diversity and inclusion benefits both your company and the community at large. Here are some actionable steps you can follow.

Analyze the situation. Hire people/consultants from marginalized groups to help. They can see better than you can what you are doing right and wrong. You almost certainly do not see all the challenges and obstacles that people different from you face every day.

Listen more than you talk. Pay attention to who isn’t speaking much (or at all) at meetings. Encourage them by calling out their contributions and successes. Tell them one-on-one that you’d like to hear more from them. In meetings be aware of people interrupting or talking over them or doing other things that push them into the background. That is when you must speak up.

Educate yourself and your team. Education and training are vital to diversity and inclusion efforts, but it’s not a one-and-done situation. These efforts must be ongoing to educate new employees and reinforce these principles across the organization.

Develop policies and procedures. Embedding DEI principles within the organization will build trust with employees from groups that have heard a lot of promises and seen few actions.

Test and measure. One of the truths of business is we measure the things that matter. Develop metrics and pay attention to them. Test to see if you’re getting the outcomes you want. If not, then try new policies and metrics. Things that can be measured to improve, that can positively foster workplace diversity and inclusion include:

  • Compensation and pay parity. Our 2024 MarTech Salary and Career Survey unfortunately found that “the median salary of women below the C-suite level is 35% less than what men earn.” How does your organization compare and what steps can you take to foster pay parity?
  • Demographics. In leadership, management and all other levels. Are workplace demographics in your marketing function diverse? Is the level of diversity reflective of your physical location? Do the demographics become less diverse the more senior the position?
  • Retention. Are your employee retention rates good overall compared to your industry standards? Are there differences in retention rate that need attention, within demographic groups?
  • Customers. Do your customers reflect diversity? 

Keep in mind that supporting diversity and inclusion is advantageous for both your business and society as a whole and it is exciting that as marketers who drive communication, we have a chance to help drive change within our organizations for both commercial and moral good. 

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily of MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.


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