DE&I Marketing Insights

The Role of Diversity in Marketing Strategy and Success

Diversity in Advertising

By MHP/Team SI’s DE&I Messaging Committee

Diversity should be considered an everyday part of all marketing efforts. Increasing the diversity of your marketing efforts means taking a more user-centric approach to your creative work, including advertising. This is not the same as trying to please every potential customer in a single ad. That’s a common misconception!

Our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee gathered as a group to answer questions about how brands can and should include diversity in their marketing in authentic ways.

When should diversity be included in marketing and what are some first steps to increasing diversity in marketing?

The United States is a diverse and ever-evolving marketplace, catering to consumers from many cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. As the world and the people in it continue to tailor themselves to unique identities and lifestyles, marketers must keep up and continue to make each target audience feel relevant, understood and sought after. Marketers must continue to strive to target demographics using tactics and styles that are sensitive to individual attitudes and practices, which will result in more successful advertising and marketing.

Some key aspects to evaluate are: environmental, economic and social factors within target audiences. This information will shape and refine your strategy. Recognizing consumers have unique qualities that extend beyond elements such as race and valuing these differences in your communications will help make a marketing campaign succeed.

Diverse messaging is key as well. Tailor your message to create authentic, diverse content that accurately reflects cultural norms, language and traditions. This requires careful research. Different demographics have different wants and needs. When building consumer profiles, marketers often work with incomplete data. Never assume AI marketing tools know best. Before designing a campaign, think about the personal, institutional, systemic and technological opportunities for bias along the chain.

Challenge assumptions on the front end to avoid brand blunders down the line. Do your homework on the different types of consumers who use a product or service. Use the findings to inform casting choices, product positioning and more. There is no such thing as one size fits all. Show audiences that you understand their unique context and you will earn their business.

How might a company know if its audience is diverse?

It’s easy for a company to make assumptions about who their customers are and “go with their gut.” However, this creates the potential to miss out on sales to new customers and could leave an entire segment of the population underserved. But where to start?

To determine the diversity of your current customer base, start by looking at your social media following. There’s a wealth of information available at no cost. Ensuring you’re reaching the whole audience of potential customers is more complicated.

Start by removing the idea of what your customer “looks like” and replace it with a consideration of which people may benefit from your product or service. Who could make use of your offerings? For example, one may assume that people that drive under 50 hp tractors are white males who own 50 acres of land. That may be a true statement, but consider who else may make use of such a product. This would expand to any person who has a need for such equipment, such as a single woman who lives on a .75 acre lot, or a Black couple with three children who own 1.2 acres outside of their city for a hobby farm. The diversity of the person has no bearing on whether or not they could be a potential customer, but our biases betray us and we often go with our “gut” of “who our customer is.” A business may limit itself by advertising to one audience when there are so many other opportunities. Consider factors of behavior, purchase decisions and lifestyle choices, among others.

Develop a profile of a potential customer and use audience-based marketing tools to help reach your entire customer base, including those that may not fit the initial “mold.” Knowing the market that your business serves is equally important. Using census and research data can help determine what diverse audiences need to be considered in the tone of your messaging. If the messaging doesn’t speak to your whole audience, then you run the risk of alienating your customers and limiting your impact.

How is a diverse marketing and advertising strategy developed?

First and foremost, the key to developing the correct marketing and advertising strategy is identifying your key target market. In a lot of cases, this market is going to include a number of different groups of consumers that represent different races, genders, religious beliefs and more. This requires a bit more thought and research when it comes to developing a marketing strategy, because it’s necessary to make each potential market feel compelled to purchase our product or service.

Be relatable. Potential customers want to see themselves represented in your advertising. Including a diverse group of people in your advertising materials can help fulfill that desire. Brands often fail to reach a larger target audience because they aren’t making a real effort to reach diverse populations. Figure out how your customers want to be represented by surveying or researching your current base to understand how they prefer to be reached by your advertising.

Using data is also incredibly important to your marketing strategy and approach. Make sure that you’re evaluating your campaigns from as many perspectives as possible to optimize performance and your connection with your audiences. And evaluate often!

When it’s all said and done, the goal is to connect your brand to your potential consumer by being relatable. Conducting market research and diversifying the perspectives on your marketing team (hiring quality talent with diverse backgrounds is an important element) are key ways to get started developing a diverse marketing strategy.

Stay tuned to the MHP/Team SI blog for more posts from the DE&I Committee.