What are some of the barriers businesses face when it comes to implementing effective DEI marketing strategies? And how can they overcome them?
Posted: February 28, 2022
As brand storytellers, marketers play a pivotal role in the business diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. Not only does advertising that features diversity invite higher recall rates and a better return on investment, but this message has a considerable impact on society.
“Stereotypes shape our split-second emotional responses and our judgments of others in ways we may not be aware of, so media reinforcing negative stereotypes of people of color produces discrimination in the real world,” said Madeline Di Nonno, President and CEO of Geena Davis. Gender in Media Institute.
Given these consequences, brands are investing in DEI initiatives. Marketers spent 8.9% more on such initiatives in 2021 than the year before, according to The CMO survey. But this is not an easy task, acknowledged the authors of the investigation into CMS Wire.
So what are the hurdles companies face when it comes to implementing effective DEI marketing strategies?
No one is responsible
In the wake of the 2020 murder of George Floyd, many companies were quick to craft statements and social media posts aligning themselves with the racial justice movement. Such public proclamations are important, but they have very little meaning if they are not backed by action.
“Socially responsible shoppers don’t just want to see diversity in your marketing, they want to know you share their commitment to inclusion on a deeper level,” Samantha Bonanno wrote for Capterra.
Even writing an action plan to create change within your organization is not enough. Without accountability measures that hold individuals accountable for action on a DEI plan, even the most well-intentioned initiative can falter and get lost in the middle of corporate priorities.
A comprehensive plan should include all of these elements: a public commitment, a strategy for action, and clear accountability goals and measures that ensure progress is being made.
The team does not understand
Doing the internal work to ensure employees understand and are committed to DEI initiatives takes time and investment. But if that doesn’t happen, then any plan made by marketers will miss the most important stakeholders. It’s hard for companies to reflect their values if their employees don’t understand or connect to those values.
Employees should be involved from the start and given the opportunity to understand why such work is valuable and important. It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it.
“It means undoing the redundant practices of the past and introducing ideas that step out of their comfort zone,” noted Suzette Cotto, CEO of Innovate Social Media, on LinkedIn. “Get used to being uncomfortable.
Lack of diversity internally
Lack of diverse representation within your marketing team is bound to lead to gaps. As marketers increasingly strive to reach diverse audiences and be representative of a broader section of society, they can easily make mistakes and undermine their own efforts by perpetuating stereotypes or committing another blunder. Having a diverse team is key to creating respectful, inclusive, and nuanced content and ideas.
The CMO survey found that while marketers invest in improving diversity branding and communications, internal efforts such as employee training and recruitment still lag behind.
Companies should also consider partnerships with community groups and influencers when focusing on specific subsets of people. Such collaborations create better campaigns and are more likely to resonate with the target audience, while ensuring that advertising does not cause more harm.
Focus is too narrow
While it’s important for marketers to review their ads and the messages they share through them, DEI’s work doesn’t stop there. It must permeate all efforts and include an internal review of hiring and promotion practices to ensure a brand is truly living its values.
“Put simply: we need to create stories that are inclusive and representative of your entire customer base, produce authentic content that incorporates nuance (across all diversity points), and ensure that what you ‘say’, ” write’ and ‘post’ reflects your organization’s mission,” the CMO survey authors wrote.