The Fresh Market's CMO Kevin Miller on Diversity

December 20, 2021

By Kevin Miller

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I have spent 35 years in marketing and advertising working for the largest, most powerful corporations and advertising agencies in the world including McDonald's, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Disney, Pizza Hut, Leo Burnett, and Subway in senior executive positions including CMO for three different companies. Additionally, I've worked closely with the ANA contributing to its multicultural endeavors in numerous capacities over the past 20 years.

I have watched the "marketingverse" struggle with the dystopian view of what would happen to it if diversity was completely absent from its work and its ranks.

Afterall, diversity has always existed in every aspect of life in the U.S. Marketing is no different. There were African American and Hispanic American target markets and Black and Hispanic agencies that had worked on McDonald's for years before I showed up in 1986.

It's just that, with each year, diversity in the U.S. became more and more visible with every new census report and political, business, military, sports, music, movie, or dance icon influencing popular culture — and shattering long-held stereotypes of who should be doing what and how they should be doing it.

For 34 of my 35 years in this business, the answer was simple for the marketingverse, do just enough to not be singled out as doing nothing. Put some numbers in business and DEI reports that show you have more "diversity" than you did the year before to show progress: a few more vendors, a few more dollars, and a few more diverse execs sprinkled throughout the organization at various levels.

To actually create change, however, create separate diversity initiatives from core business initiatives, set separate goals and accountabilities for them — and measure them separately. In other words, "talk the talk."

The business case that draws a direct line from diversity to bottom line business results that make payroll, increase revenue, or drive shareholder value was never quite made, nor was universally accepted, by board rooms or taught in the curriculum of leading business schools — despite Herculean efforts by untold numbers of very smart, accomplished, and respected individuals and institutions.

Over the past 35 years, not many have been comfortable enough with anchoring their business or individual successes closely to diversity initiatives, until recently. Over the past year, since the tragic loss of George Floyd, I have seen many things change in the attitudes and actions of the marketingverse. This time it seems different.

George Floyd's death was a wakeup call that caused many corporations to look inwardly at themselves — and to accept and appreciate the value in diversity for perhaps the first time (thanks to efforts by groups like #SeeHer).

Marketers saw that their workforce, their customers, their values, and their purpose emanated from a very diverse group of people — that these people and these values and these communities are who and what they are and were, in fact, responsible for how and why they got where they are.

Ignoring, not leveraging, diversity as a business driver is becoming harder — not easier — to do with more and more corporations believing that diversity isn't something that separates us, but it is us winning together.

For the first time ever, I believe that the marketingverse is comfortable with the concept of diversity. There appears to be more tailwinds than headwinds (they're still there) in the force.

This will open new avenues, new opportunities, partnerships, perspectives, leadership, agency models, and faces behind the camera and in board rooms, fostering new ways of solving problems and creating value than ever before. The results will show a straight-line connection to large and small business bottom lines that pay employees and grow shareholder value.

I think ANA got the Marketing Word of the Year right and I'm more excited than ever about what a "Diverse Marketingverse" has in store for all of us who make our living there. I personally am looking forward to continuing to champion DEI with all of you in 2022 and the journey beyond.

Check out ANA/AIMM's recent report "A Diversity Report for the Advertising/Marketing Industry." 


Kevin Miller is the CMO of The Fresh Market.


The views and opinions expressed in Marketing Maestros are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.


This article was originally published at MediaVillage.


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