Being (Truly) Diverseby Sean Aaron
As a man of color working in marketing, my ears always perk up when someone mentions diversity. Often when I hear the concept of diversity discussed in meetings, it is almost always discussed in terms of the final creative product or activation.
Given the increase in the total number of people of color in the US and the overall shift towards a more socially liberal nation, it makes sense that US advertising and marketing efforts reflect that reality. But as we, as an industry, get deeper into the world of native/content marketing we need to take representation a step further.
When we're trying to accurately communicate with specific cultural groups, surface level diversity isn't enough — we need to continue to shift the notion of diversity in marketing from optic to haptic. Plainly put, the people creating your campaigns should be as diverse, in terms of gender, race, and sexual orientation, as the people being targeted by your campaigns.
Creating a more inclusive workplace isn't an automatic fix for cultural representation. So, no, having a black woman on payroll will not automatically ingratiate you to Black Twitter. Though, having several employees sensitive to the representation of people of color or gender or sexual orientation in media, in large part because they are forced to confront their own representation in media on a daily basis, is a vital part of creating culturally respectful campaigns. But as the topic of diversity and inclusion in campaigns comes up again and again it's important to look around and acknowledge the absence of diverse voices at the planning table.
What happens when the people crafting your campaigns aren’t an accurate representation of today's diverse consumer base? In the short term, a campaign targeting specific cultural groups can miss out on vital cultural nuances and insights. Without these same cultural insights, creating an effective content marketing campaign that targets a relevant, specific social group is a shot in the dark. Content marketing is at it’s best when it speaks to a deeper, relatable cultural truth. In cases where that specific cultural group doesn’t have a voice at the planning table, you’ll see agency teams grabbing low-hanging fruit, hamfisted disengenuious attempts at slang, or worse, culturally insensitive jokes.
Let's face it, at best, our industry is one, giant echo-chamber. We need diversity of opinion, culture, and background in order to keep us honest AND to help keep us innovating. After all, we're here to create work that resonates with real people. Work that stays with our audiences long after the moment of first impression. We can't do that, in a meaningful way, if every voice isn't represented at the table. Beyond Twitter gaffes and poorly planned hashtags, in the long term, the absence of a truly diverse industry places a limit on our industry’s ability to grow.