As marketers, we are uniquely positioned to shape the way people think, see themselves, and see the world. Marketing has the power to influence culture; it is a power that we should not take lightly. Our storytelling exposes people to perspectives. We decide which stories are told. We decide which stories are not told. We decide which voices to amplify.
In the weeks following the murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks, brands recognized that silence was no longer an option when it came to social justice and the lack of diversity in the industry. People’s expectations of brands have evolved as consumers align their values with their wallets. With a convergence of growing challenges, we expect brands to respond with more than a hashtag or empty platitudes; we are waiting for action. As we have seen with brand messages in the wake of the pandemic, making a statement is not enough. Expectation is a clear position on social justice issues and a real commitment to act.
The data indicates that expectations brands to play a bigger role in our lives will continue to grow. This puts marketers in an environment that can have a big impact on brand value. Even if your brand isn’t under scrutiny, the urgency to step up your efforts on social justice and diversity, inclusion and equity is growing.
This movement represents an opportunity for proactive leadership: to be accountable for our influence before it’s too late – before your stakeholders, employees, customers, leaders and investors start to question your organization’s commitment. In fact, 85% of consumers say they will only consider a brand if they trust the brand. Consumers know that brands have the power to make change and they trust brands that use that power on their behalf. Brands must be ethical and invest in diverse teams while demonstrating a commitment to solving the issues that impact their stakeholders.
Here are three things marketing leaders should keep in mind at a time when the nation has a long overdue dialogue on social justice.
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In this environment, everyone must be committed to continually learning about diversity, inclusion and equity as a job responsibility: Accept your missteps with a spirit of growth. Recognize that your brand hasn’t always done things right and share your commitment for the future. Invest in continued cultural mastery, fully recognizing that there may be mistakes along the way.
The ultimate goal is to embed DEI into your marketing DNA and to ensure that your actions reflect the communicated commitments of your brand. In a recent study, 63% of people say brands that represent diversity in advertisements are more authentic.
Request: How do you start including the voices and experiences of marginalized audiences in brand marketing?
There is currently a growing global conversation about social issues that is putting pressure on marketing executives to take action.
Public statements of commitment to diversity and inclusion are futile if your employees know they are not true. Make no mistake, your clients and other stakeholders can distinguish between performative activism and substantive activism.
The journey begins with an internal conversation about the uncomfortable topics we so often avoid. For example, Johnson & Johnson and Zoom posted messages from their CEOs to employees. Doing this has shown that although they don’t have all the answers, they are on the journey. While these conversations are often uncomfortable, flawed, and messy, they’re a good thing. There is no transformation without conversation.