Diversity In Marketing – Should we hop on the bandwagon?


Diversity In Marketing – Should we hop on the bandwagon?


Unless you have been living under a rock recently, you will know that the Diversity agenda has been front and centre on the news. And rightly so. It has been on the business agenda for some time, especially when it comes to looking at recruiting and the make-up of company staff or seats at the board room table. Companies have started reporting on the number of female v male staff, cultural differences and the number of BAME or BIPOC staff (if you don’t know those terms, you should – look them up!)

We know Diversity and Inclusion is important but is it just for company owners and directors? 

What role does marketing have to play in this?

The short answer is a huge role. But there are dos and don’ts, things you should and shouldn’t do. One question we’ve come across increasingly in recent weeks is how to balance addressing diversity issues without looking like you’ve hopped on a bandwagon.

Should You Participate in Pride, Black Out Tuesday or other initiatives?

When the Black Lives Matter movement gained even more momentum, it became clear that the public was not going to be silenced. Many brands wanted to show their support, all of which culminated in Black Out Tuesday – a specific day when people posted nothing but a black square on their social feeds. Similarly, June is recognised as Pride Month to show support of the LGBTQ+ community; many brands add the synonymous rainbow flag to their profile pictures.

Several clients asked us whether they should participate.

If all you plan to do is one post, one small gesture, then no – don’t bother. There is nothing worse than tokenism. That one solitary sign that seems to say, ‘look how virtuous we are’. If your support for these movements extends as far as a Facebook post, it’s not enough. Your customers are beginning to see through these small gestures.

Our advice is if the issues affect you and your business, if it is something you feel passionately about or a cause that is buzzing in your local community or your client base, then yes it’s relevant. Post about it, make your statement and show your support.

If none of the above applies, then steer clear of virtue signalling. For you, it’s business as usual. That’s not to say you don’t care about these movements. There’s just no point in you jamming a post in your social media marketing amidst your day to day messages.

So, What Should I Be Doing?

There is a range of simple but essential steps marketers should be taking, not just to support these movements, but just because you are a decent, educated human. The change can and arguably should start with us in marketing.

Here are some simple but incredibly effective steps you can take.

–       Imagery

When you’re using stock photos, make sure you select a range of male/ female images and show people of different age groups and backgrounds. A quick check on the stock photo sites like Canva, Pexels and Pixabay shows that they have taken some good steps towards representation. But search for ‘nurse’ and the images are predominantly female. For ‘Police Officer’ the results are mostly male and white. Plus, we will naturally gravitate towards images that are like us or appeal to us to support our marketing posts. Make a conscious choice to be representative.

To quote this fantastic article in Search Engine Journal“if your website photography is all white people high-fiving, it’s time for a change.”

–       Use Image Alt-Tags

Alt Tags are the descriptions assigned to your images on your website, including blog images. You can assign these when you upload them or edit your site. Aside from the diversity point of view, giving Alt-Tags to your images gives you extra Google juice and gold stars from an SEO perspective. Make sure your Alt-Tags are descriptive and relevant. Use non-gender specific language here too.

–       Language

Think about the language you use, one of my pet peeves is people addressing groups and using ‘guys’. It’s the default, and it implies male. Similarly, please, please never refer to your female marketing team as ‘marketing girls’. It immediately shifts the power balance. If they identify as female, they are most likely not girls but women who are just as competent (if not more so!) than most of your colleagues.

–       Recruitment and Advertising

Tying into the above, the language and imagery you use in your advertising, particularly your recruitment advertising can steer whether you have more women, men or minority groups applying for roles. Words deemed as more masculine include go-getter, decisive, ambitious, independent. Feminine words include supportive, inclusive, trustworthy and so on.

Marketing as an industry is still predominately white, male-dominated, particularly at senior levels. To get better results with your marketing, you need diversity of opinions, and this stems from who you have in the team.

Use tools like Get OptimalPaiger or Total Jobs Gender Decoder to run your job adverts through. Trust me; you’ll get more and better applications.

Research from Marketing Week showed that 88% of marketers identify as white, with just 2% describing themselves as black.

–       Don’t share posts on social media without checking sources

We are spending more time than ever online and on social media. It’s too easy to like, comment and share posts. Check your sources, check that the post or source of the news story is recent. Facebook has introduced a remedy for this with a pop-up to alert you if the news story was shared 90 days ago or more.

There is clearly a long way to go, but the change could and should come from us as marketers.

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