There's No Downside to Diversity: Inclusion Brings Big Brand Benefits. But Do Businesses Really Back The Cause?
This year saw another successful Pride Month in the UK. Over 1,000,000 people took to the streets of London on 7th July for the annual march, with most of the local retailers’ windows awash with rainbows to demonstrate their support for the movement. But do businesses really support a message of diversity all the year round, and is this message accurately reflected in their advertising campaigns and marketing material?
Pride AM and Simpson Carpenter teamed up to conduct a research project - among both the general population and the LGBT+ community - in order to understand how well minority groups are represented in advertising and marketing and how accurately they are portrayed.
What we learnt was that proper representation of minority groups brings big brand benefits. Diversity really does matter to consumers; close to 3 in 4 of the general population feel it is important for campaigns to portray minority groups accurately. And more than 1 in 3 think more positively about and are more likely to buy from brands that accurately portray minority groups in their ads and marketing.
Younger consumers, women and the LGBT+ community are particularly supportive of the importance of diversity in advertising. However, older generations also see the benefits of diversity; among all demographics advocates of diversity far outnumber its detractors, so there really is no risk to brands that act positively.
It’s also clear from the study that all minorities matter. Over 60% of respondents felt that all genders, gender identities, ages, ethnicities, sexual orientations, religions and family units needed to be represented in advertising and marketing. And LGBT+ respondents in particular feel that the accurate representation of all minorities is a very important issue.
The study highlighted the difficult tightrope that advertisers have to walk, as there was criticism both of adverts that simply pay lip service to diversity, and of those that seem to be trying too hard to be inclusive. Authenticity is key; minorities simply want to be portrayed as an integral part of society.
Industries such as automotive and Home & DIY are most likely to be getting it wrong on diversity. Automotive companies are seen as the worst of all in their portrayal of every single minority group, followed by Home and DIY.
Failure on this issue brings big risks, with nearly a quarter of young people prepared to boycott a brand that does not represent a diverse range of society in its marketing. And where advertisers are most likely to be failing is in their portrayal of gender identity and sexual orientation. Crucially, that’s a view shared equally not just by the LGBT+ community, but the general population too
So what’s abundantly clear is that brands have nothing to lose, and everything to gain from accurately portraying people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities in their advertising and marketing.
In short, there is no downside to diversity.
Joanna Grankin is Business Development Lead at Simpson Carpenter