Breaking the Blueprint is a blog that explores the unique challenges and opportunities faced by entrepreneurs and business owners who are underrepresented. Discover how these entrepreneurs have grown their businesses, created side hustles, or explored entrepreneurial ventures in their companies. Their stories will inspire you and help guide your success.
It is important to understand that not all representations are created equal. This is especially true if you want to make sure your efforts to include more people in marketing will be met with positive feedback and not frustration or skepticism.
It is a must for marketers as the number of brands that are embracing inclusive marketing and prioritizing images that accurately represent their target audiences grows.
If done correctly, it shows consumers who are underrepresented that you care about them and their community. Representation in marketing can make people feel supported, seen, and as if they are a part of your company.
What consumers told me about their expectations of representation in the past years is below.
Let’s first make sure that we are all on the same page and discuss why it is important to have representation in marketing.
Why Representation Matters in Marketing
In the visual imagery of your brand, people need to be able to identify themselves or who they want to become.
It is an invitation to continue your journey with them. If they don’t see themselves, they will receive the message that “this isn’t for me,” and they’ll look elsewhere to find something else that makes them feel more at home.
The 2021 Study of Representation of Marketing that I conducted revealed that 74% of consumers chose to engage and buy from a brand because they saw themselves represented by the visual imagery of a brand.
Representation can also have a positive impact on how consumers view themselves. In that study, one consumer said they wish brands knew “The damage they do by underrepresentation.” Another consumer said they wanted brands to know “How much it can affect someone and their feelings about themselves when they never see themselves represented [in marketing]. They are treated as if they’re not important.
In 2018, Cosmopolitan UK published a cover featuring plus-size model Tess Holiday. One woman said, “It wouldn’t have been 25 years for me to love my body if I had seen plus-size women like myself on magazines when I was growing up.”
Brands have the power to influence how consumers feel, not just about themselves but also about others. In one study, exposure to highlight reels about women’s sports changed attitudes toward female athletes.
The French telecom company Orange took this insight to heart and created a campaign in anticipation of the FIFA Women’s World Cup this year. It highlighted that a good representation can really influence perceptions about underrepresented groups. In this case, it was the skill, competition, and emotions of women’s sport.
While you strive to create an inclusive brand that makes people feel more like they belong to you, you will also have a positive impact on your customers and yourself. Adopt these principles and engage in representation as your customers want.
Marketing representation includes more than photos.
Making their visuals more representative is the first step for many brands to start inclusive marketing. However, changing your visuals does not prove that your brand has inclusive marketing.
When you use representative across your entire brand, consumers will think that you are inclusive. Many consumers said that the brands they interact with and purchase from should be representative of their brand.
One respondent stated, “It is more than just putting someone in an advertisement. They must create products that appeal to different types of people. Hire diverse people.” Another said, “I wish that they included more types in their campaigns as well as in their actual company senior leaders.
One person who responded to the study explained, “When you represent different types of people, this inclusivity must be translated into other areas of your brand.” It is also important that the brand be politically outspoken, use fair hiring practices, etc., or else people will think their “representation’ is just a way to pander for sales.
It would be best if you focused on the following areas when it comes to your brand’s representation.
Make sure that the products your brand develops acknowledge and respect the different people it serves. Barbie, for example, has stated that one doll out of five is Black. This is part of their commitment to “ensure diversity is represented in all of our products.”
You can also find out more about the content on this page.
It is important to represent yourself in the content that you create. Build a plan for your content that will allow your audience to feel represented. This could be through the people you include in your videos, your guests on your podcast, or the influencers with whom you work.
This episode can be a good guide if you want to learn more about how to create content that is inclusive and representative.
To demonstrate that your brand embraces all, it is important to build representative teams. The people you choose to pay are a good indicator of the company’s and brand’s values. If you don’t have a diverse group, consumers may doubt your commitment to diversity and inclusivity.
A diverse team can help you to produce better work, but it also has many other benefits.
Jerry Daykin is a global media manager at Beam Suntory. Jerry Daykin told me during our conversation on the inclusion & marketing podcast that a recent study by the World Federation of Advertisers revealed the challenges the industry faces in reaching a proper representation. He said that “almost every minority you can think of is underrepresented and likely to have an adverse experience working in the marketing industry.” “If we had a more inclusive industry that represented all, I think we would produce better work.”
This better work is achieved by allowing the individuals in these communities to use their cultural intelligence and lived experiences as they inform the development of exceptional products, services, and experiences.
Building an inclusive and diverse team doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. Hiring consultants and contractors as support to help you grow and develop your business is a great way to have a team that represents the people you are serving in the interim.
It is important to include adequate representation in your marketing mix, particularly to ensure customers are able to connect with your brand throughout their entire customer journey.
To ensure that their products are a true reflection of the customers they serve, many brands include representative individuals, either from stock images or created content. Your customer testimonials are also important.
It is not uncommon for people who identify with underrepresented or underserved communities to experience success at a different level than those from dominant groups. These disparities often result from systemic and social barriers that are not directly related to the problems your brand solves. These issues can still hinder organizational success. This episode of Inclusion & Marketing covers this topic in greater depth: