For consumers, seeing someone like themselves in advertisements is huge – they are more likely to buy the product, since it's easy to envision themselves using it. But what happens when the people featured in advertisements are consistently white, straight, thin and young? Brands fail to reach a larger audience because their target markets are too narrow. That's where diversity marketing comes in.
What is diversity marketing?
Diversity marketing is a marketing strategy that appeals to and includes diverse groups of consumers, including groups based on race or ethnicity, ability, gender, sexual identity, religious beliefs, age and more.
Diversity marketing is an umbrella term that encompasses the intent and motivation behind the content of a marketing message or campaign, not a specific term for a single advertisement or message.
"Diversity is not only inclusiveness, but a certain understanding of what the target culture encompasses," said Larissa Castelluber, owner of digital marketing agency Design Moves.
Examples of diversity marketing
Many companies have been implementing diversity marketing for several of their campaigns in recent years. To help you get a better idea of what a successful diversity marketing campaign looks like, here are several examples of how well-known brands have used it to broaden their reach.
Perhaps one of the best examples of non-contrived diversity marketing, Rihanna's makeup line – Fenty Beauty – launched with 40 foundation shades, which at that point was an almost unheard-of range in the makeup industry. The launch became the biggest beauty brand launch in YouTube's history, sold $100 million in product in its first 40 days and induced the "Fenty effect," which inspired other brands to do more to challenge the status quo of beauty by "showing, not telling" inclusivity and diversity in its product offerings and advertising.
In 2018, Google produced an ad titled "The Picture Perfect Life" that features a group of real individuals' photos taken using Google Pixel phones, along with narration of tidbits from their lives. As the ad wraps up, we learn that each individual had called the suicide prevention line at some point in their lives, and the narrator asks the viewer to "question your lens."
Google managed to both include mental health awareness and create an appropriate advertisement for its phone, without it feeling forced or exploitative.
Market research and strategy consultant Matt Seltzer noticed McDonald's efforts in diversity marketing in his hometown of Las Vegas, and noted that it wasn't anything flashy or contrived.
"The local McDonald's franchise organization produces a large variety of creative materials that reflect the diverse needs of different audiences," he said. "It has outdoor creative and bus signage in Spanish, usually combined with morning breakfast promotions, in areas where a larger share of the audience starts work early and speaks Spanish. Meanwhile, in more family-focused parts of the city, advertising focuses on family-friendly combos and meals."
Microsoft is a great example of how diversity marketing can permeate other aspects of your business. It was brought to Microsoft's attention that people with physical disabilities were having difficulty playing video games with traditional controllers.
In response, Microsoft created a line of adapted controllers and systems that featured touchpads instead of buttons, or brighter colors for those with visual impairments. It also created a dedicated line of communication for the disabled community to request continued modifications, and then put the story into an ad for the world to see.
In 2016, Secret Deodorant put out an advertisement as part of its "stress test" campaign that featured a trans woman working up the courage to leave a bathroom stall and join the conversation of three other women at the sink, ending with the tagline "There's no wrong way to be a woman."
The ad is a successful example of diversity marketing because it is creates an inclusive story that features its product and the experiences of a minority individual.
Why is diversity important in marketing?
It has been proven that diversity offers many benefits to businesses, and marketing is no exception. Having a diverse marketing strategy gives your business several advantages, including helping you delve deeper into the minds of your customers.
"In the long term, diversity marketing is important because it forces marketers to communicate in the language of their customers," said Seltzer.
Diversity marketing is accepting the reality that consumer bases are no longer as homogenous as they once seemed. As more consumers look for brands that resonate with them, brands that are slow to adapt their marketing to this reality can seem out of touch and dated.
"Diverse marketing ensures your strategy reaches and moves your audiences the right way," said Seltzer. "If your audience is diverse – and nearly every audience is diverse, especially now – then your marketing must reflect that reality."
Additionally, by committing to incorporating diversity into your marketing campaigns, you are envisioning ways in which your products or services can be used by more groups of people, which broadens your customer base, boosts your bottom line, and can in turn expand your thinking and provide new perspectives on your entire business.
How to develop a diverse marketing strategy
Good diversity marketing comes from having a deep understanding of different cultures so you can put out a sensitive and effective message to your target audience, said Castelluber.
Follow these five strategies to implement a diversity marketing strategy for your business.
1. Recognize that diversity marketing is an ongoing process.
As a business, it can be extremely challenging to jump into diversity marketing and inclusion if you have not been actively practicing it all along. Recognize and accept that diversifying your marketing and making your company more inclusive is a process and a practice that will continue to grow and develop over time.
2. Put in the work of understanding inclusivity.
One of your first steps in implementing a diverse marketing strategy should be researching and educating yourself and your employees. Offer trainings, seminars or resources to your workers, and include inclusivity training as part of your onboarding process.
3. Listen to your customers.
Ensure authenticity in your marketing message by including the voices of the very people you are marketing to in the campaign. This could mean collecting and listening to customer feedback, having diverse representation in your advertising campaigns or bringing in consumers to consult on projects.
4. Have a diverse marketing team.
Hiring a diverse group of employees for your marketing team makes it easier to create natural, appropriate messages for different demographics. Your creative team should reflect the market you are trying to reach, or at least consult with representatives from that group. [Read related article: Why Having a Diverse Board Is Good For Business]
5. Prioritize data.
One of the best ways you can get yourself on good footing is to collect and understand as much data as you can get about your target market. Be sure to use a variety of data analytics to extract as many perspectives as you can.
Ultimately, a diverse marketing strategy can open your business up to entire new markets and target a diverse audience through the simple process of learning about and reaching out to them. Diversity marketing is simply an expansion of traditional marketing, which seeks to connect consumers to a product through a sense of shared experience and culture – the definition of culture has just become wider. [Read related: How to Change the Diversity and Inclusion Status Quo At Your Company]
"As marketers, it's our job to connect brands to people through culture," said Sam Haskin, senior vice president of client services at Firewood Marketing. "For a very long time, our industry's definition of culture was limited, and we didn't do a great job of including everyone contained in it. What we call this special thing ‒ diversity or inclusive marketing ‒ is really just a concerted effort to learn so we can correct our understanding of culture, then build the tools we need to take action."