Diverse Marketing, Inclusive Message | Insight Briefs | All MKC Content | ANA

Diverse Marketing, Inclusive Message

Diversity Moves to the Core

Against the backdrop of a global pandemic, economic turmoil, and calls to address racial inequality, brands need to take a meaningful stand.

Companies and organizations must get out of their comfort zone to promote diversity, inclusion, and equality both internally (supply chains, team hires, etc.) and externally (ad messaging and social media engagement).

Celebrating different perspectives takes patience — and a sincere approach to cultivating relationships throughout disparate communities.

Consumers deserve more than convenient taglines and bromides. People of all creeds need to feel seen and supported by brands. They want solutions and comforts from the products they buy or subscribe to, whether Dunkin' or Netflix.

To be more inclusive and LGBTQ+-friendly, companies must lead with legitimate actions, rather than words, starting with the brand culture. Indeed, hiring and retaining talent that identifies as LGBTQ+ is the first step to align a brand's mission, product, and audiences with a more inclusive message.

The move to embrace and encourage hiring within the LGBTQ+ community coincides with dramatic changes in the way people relate to brands (or not), especially among younger generations. These days, people prefer to support brands that are socially responsible and espouse diversity and inclusion.

A recent Adobe study, for instance, found that nearly one-third of all consumers were more likely to purchase from companies with more diversity in their ad campaigns and marketing materials. More than 50 percent of people among underrepresented groups, such as African-Americans and people in the LGBTQ+ community, only support brands that prioritize diversity, the study found.

Including the LGBTQ+ community in conversations (both online and offline), cultural moments, and ads invites members of the community to be part of everyday life through equal representation.

Companies that change internally — and not just how they message to their audiences — are by far the most successful at creating meaningful connections with consumers. For example, American Express's "I Am" campaign features a variety of people from different backgrounds and lifestyles within the LGBTQ+ community.

The financial services company prioritized internal change with its employees and created an inclusive culture within the company. It also created multiple toolkits and had numerous internal meetings and events to foster an inclusive environment for employees.

"Not every product should have to 'make money,' but because it's right. 'Solve for one, extend to many' is the solution," said Stacey Terrien, director of global advertising at Microsoft, during an ANA Multicultural Marketing and Diversity Committee meeting in 2020, "When it came to distribution, preorders helped solve a potential problem that distribution might have been delayed. We should never let barriers [like distribution] keep us from innovating in inclusive ways."

In 2019, roughly nine million Americans identified as LGBTQ+, per the Williams Institute. But many LGBTQ+ people still feel isolated and excluded or have been the victims of hate crimes. Nearly 45 percent of LGBTQ+ youth say their community is not accepting of LGBTQ+ people, and 73 percent say they are more honest about themselves online than offline for fear of abuse, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

"When marrying marketing and supplier diversity, the focus should be the customer and providing solutions," said Michael A. Byron, senior director of supplier inclusion at Walmart, adding that diversity needs to happen in all facets of business, even if they seem unrelated to diversity.

Byron added that inclusivity is about evolution and adapting to change. "It should be enterprise-wide and with any team that spends money," he said. "Being close to the customer is important. Eighty percent of spend comes from merchandising, so that's where it should be today. But that could change."

Meanwhile, a recent ANA survey of 105 ANA member companies showed that 75 percent of the respondents indicated a supplier diversity strategy for the organization as a whole, while 40 percent of respondents said they have a supplier diversity strategy specifically for marketing and advertising. Respondents also stated that "alignment with corporate culture and workplace inclusiveness" and "enhancing corporate image/brand" were the top two reasons for prioritizing an inclusive approach.

When it comes to younger generations, such as gen Z, these changes are necessary, considering that they are the next "consumer powerhouse," according to Adweek, and are expected to account for 40 percent of all consumers this year.

There are several gen Z traits that marketers should align with, per FutureCast:

  • Human rights are non-negotiable. Equality is very important to gen Z consumers.
  • Move to a "storyliving era," in which young consumers create meaning and purpose alongside brands.
  • A need for timely and relevant content.
  • Demonstrate constant innovation.

As virtual platforms encroach more and more into people's day-to-day lives, brands have an opportunity to create products and online experiences that cater to the home and connect consumers to one another through empathy and understanding.

Download the full report to read more.



“Diverse Marketing, Inclusive Messaging.” Insight brief compiled by Joanna Valente, Senior Manager, Marketing Knowledge Center, ANA. Designer: Amy Zeng, Marketing and Communications, ANA. Editor: Matthew Schwartz, Senior Manager, Marketing and Communications, ANA. © Copyright 2020 by the Association of National Advertisers, Inc. All rights reserved.