How to Craft an Authentic DEI Campaign

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) mean something different to everyone. To some, diversity is merely a metric to be met, or a mandatory part of the hiring process. However, DEI is far more than that; it’s about hiring people from dynamic backgrounds in order to create a more inclusive, creative and well-rounded community, one that enriches both businesses and the consumers they serve.  

Recently Specialists and newer full-time Optimists attended the Diversity Done Right: Strategies for Building Inclusive Brands webinar, hosted by the American Marketing Association. In the webinar they touched on diversity in marketing, failed advertising campaigns, and future DEI growth areas in marketing and beyond. This blog is in honor of what our Optimists learned while attending and what we here at Online Optimism are doing in order to further our journey as a diverse and inclusive company.

Why DEI Matters

You may have noticed that more ad campaigns are highlighting couples and families that are interracial or same sex. Consumers are tired of seeing the same cookie-cutter families on TV and brands are losing business because of gaps in representation. As time moves forward, more companies are trying to honor the voices of broader demographics, who have previously been underrepresented in the marketing sector. The death of George Floyd caused the Black Lives Matter (BLM) Movement’s voice to become louder; many brands began speaking out against the many racial inequalities that all people of color (POC) face in America.

When protests were at their highest, several large companies like Nike and McDonald’s had campaigns that honored the BLM Movement. While these campaigns were successful, there were other popular companies that completely missed the mark. These companies came under fire from consumers because it was obvious they didn’t put any thought or care into their ad, likely capitalizing on social inequalities for the sake of visibility instead of true allyship. Here are some strategies that will help you create an inclusive and well-rounded advertising campaign.

How To Have a DEI Friendly Advertising Campaign

When implementing DEI strategies, it’s helpful to note what pitfalls to avoid, and learn from past mistakes made by other brands, you can tell if the team working on it is not diverse or neglects to test their ad before sending it to consumers. The 2017 Pepsi ad campaign is famous for how badly it missed the mark in projecting a global message of unity, peace and understanding. That campaign is a prime example of why it is important to have a team of people who come from different backgrounds. 

MDRG, a market research firm, found that 41 percent of black people felt that brands don’t understand their experience. When attempting to create a campaign that is diverse and inclusive or one that speaks out on a political matter, you want to ask yourself, how might people of color experience your brand? How your brand is perceived by consumers plays a monumental role in how they will engage with your DEI-centered content.

When creating inclusive content, it is important remember these things:

  • Be authentic
  • Communicate changes
  • Take action
  • Be open to feedback

Be Authentic

Stay true to your company’s core values. Don’t launch a campaign just to launch one. At the height of the BLM protests last summer, several brands posted empty content about BLM then continued with the same practices they had before. This upset consumers because brands weren’t showing that they actually wanted to make a change. 

Communicate Changes

If your company or organization has biased policies, it’s time to take them under review and let consumers know that your business is actively working to make a change. A study completed by MDRG found that 20 percent of Americans said that they would stop purchasing from a brand they felt behaved hypocritically. While this number may not be large it could severely impact a small business or start-up company with smaller margins of error.

Take Action

This is arguably the most essential part of your DEI campaign process. Once you’ve committed to your changes, implement them! Hire more diverse employees and ensure that everyone has the same opportunities for growth and development. Consumers are likely to take note of new practices, and are likely to praise businesses that put out authentic and diverse brand campaigns. A survey conducted by MDRG showed that 50 percent of people agreed that brands should speak out in favor of the BLM Movement. Speaking out, paired with positive actions is a great way to elevate your brand. If you think consumers won’t notice your efforts, there is sufficient research that shows they will.

Be Open to Feedback

As with any marketing strategy, be open to constructive criticism. Mistakes are bound to be made along the path to true diversity and inclusion, but trying matters far more than staying silent. To help mitigate this, it is essential that you stress test your new strategies on employees and focus groups. With a diverse team you’ll get feedback from different backgrounds and you’re more likely to get optimal results for your campaign. 

The Future of DEI 

According to Pew Research Center, 48% of Generation Z is nonwhite, making them the most ethnically diverse generation in U.S. history. Sondra Brown, President and Founder of MDRG commented on this metric during the webinar and stated that Generation Z would be the last generation to be majoritively white. What does this mean for DEI? Companies will be held to a higher standard when creating advertising campaigns. Businesses will no longer be able to get away with campaigns that don’t feature people from diverse backgrounds. MDRG found that 69 percent of Generation Z is more likely to buy from a company that contributes to social causes. Soon, it will be virtually impossible to build a brand that is not inclusive. 

DEI Matters at Online Optimism

Here at Online Optimism, we take the utmost care to honor all our employees’ backgrounds and opinions. We often ask for feedback from our employees to make sure that we are keeping them happy and accounted for. We are always learning and striving to create campaigns for ourselves as well as our clients, that are diverse and inclusive. We have our Optimists attend webinars such as these so that we can all feel more empowered to craft a DEI friendly campaign.

Want to create a DEI friendly advertising campaign?  We are happy to help you begin the process and learn new skills alongside you. Contact us to help you get started!