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Marketing has a Diversity Problem – Maybe it is Time for a Different Approach

Marketers tend to take a “check the box” approach when focusing on the topic of diversity. When incorporating it into a company’s story, diversity has long been portrayed in the same traditional way: an equal number of people from various races and genders cast in a variety of traditional scenes or vignettes.

It’s easy to understand why. In a highly polarized social media and political environment, this safe approach helps marketers feel they can reply “yes” when asked by management or a client if their diverse workforce or population is being effectively depicted.

While their intentions are likely good, this approach tends to lack authenticity. Maybe that’s why, according to a September 2016 survey by Barkley and Futurecast, more than two-thirds of U.S. internet users like ads that show “real people,” not just gender stereotypes. The same survey reported that 60% of Gen Zers believe progressive gender representation makes it easier for people to be themselves while less than one-half of all boomers like seeing ads that show diverse types of families at all.

And then we have millennials. Study after study has found that they think about diversity in a totally different way. Millennials are more likely to define diversity as a mix of experiences, identities, ideas, and opinions rather than defining it by traditional demographics such as race, ethnicity or gender. Maybe everyone is tired of the same old thing?

What does this mean for marketers? Maybe it means it’s time for a different approach to incorporating diversity into the story.

Perhaps it is time to focus on marketing the results of diversity, like collaboration. Instead of just thinking about if you have “checked the box,” what if you focused on the point that diversity drives collaboration? Or what if you stressed the positive impact collaboration has on an organization’s employees, products and culture?

When people have divergent points of views, they view life through a differing lens and their act of working together to create — collaboration — is all the better because of their diversity. If people were all the same, the outcome of their collaboration would be far less colorful, inclusive and successful.

This is why companies want a diverse workforce, schools want a diverse student body, and cities and counties want a diverse population. Focusing on the benefits of diversity may better resonate with and attract the target audience, especially if that target demographic is millennials.

The next time marketers are challenged with ensuring diversity is incorporated into the story, consider taking a different approach. Instead of just “checking the box,” start conversations with your team about the benefits that diversity has on an organization.

If you want to learn more about how your company can develop an authentic brand story, and if you’d like to see examples of how industry leaders are approaching aligning their story with their marketing strategy, check out this exclusive preview of Dave Sutton’s new book “Marketing, Interrupted.”  You can order using the button below.

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