Inclusive Marketing Special

A special episode to coincide with this month’s Bigeye Book Club selection, Inclusive Marketing: Why representation matters to your customers and your brand. This week, previous podcast guests discuss the benefits and potential pitfalls of including all of a brand’s prospects and customers in the design process – from product development to marketing, advertising, and in-store experiences. Hear perspectives from white, Black, Hispanic, male, female, and non-binary identities.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS:

Jerry Daykin: It’s our job as marketers to understand all the different consumers that we try and talk to. And so, true inclusive marketing is just when we get outside of our own bubbles and we truly talk to all the consumers out there.

Sonia Thompson: Representation matters. But representation isn’t only about the photography or the talent that you’re using. It permeates through every part of your organization and that includes where your brand spends money.

Michael Solomon: There are a lot of very, very fundamental assumptions we make about the way we categorize people that no longer work in terms of how we think about customers and more importantly, how they think about us as marketers.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced weekly by Bigeye: a strategy-led, full-service creative agency, growing brands for clients globally. Hello. I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, Chief Strategy Officer. Thank you for joining us. As we look forward to joining family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving this week, we’re going to reflect on the people that make up the United States. Immigration and shifts in societal attitudes over the past several decades mean that today’s America is more diverse than ever. This month’s featured Bigeye Book Club selection is Inclusive Marketing: Why Representation Matters to Your Customers and Your Brand by Jerry Daykin. As Jerry’s book and previous guests of this podcast have pointed out, it makes good business sense to take an inclusive approach to marketing. But what is inclusive marketing? Here’s Jerry’s answer:

Jerry Daykin: Oh, it’s a big one. I think sometimes it’s just better marketing. Like it’s our job as marketers to understand all the different consumers that we try and talk to. And so, true inclusive marketing is just when we get outside of our own bubbles and we get outside of our own kind of narrow view of the world and we truly talk to all the consumers out there. But yeah, definitely can manifest itself in terms of, kind of better representation, inclusion, et cetera, on the screen. But it starts definitely with the kind of thinking and the strategy and the people behind the screen as well. The whole process needs to change to just better do our jobs.

Adrian Tennant: Sonia Thompson is a customer experience strategist and consultant with international experience. Here’s her definition:

Sonia Thompson: So inclusive marketing is all about acknowledging all the many ways in which people are different. And then intentionally choosing which of those differences you are going to serve as a brand, and then incorporating the ones that you’ve selected throughout all parts of your marketing mix.

Adrian Tennant: Today, you’re a recognized expert in inclusive marketing. So Sonia, what led you to focus on this particular area?

Sonia Thompson: I would say it came a lot from frustration. I’m somebody with a lot of differences. So I’m a marketer, that’s been my background, my experience for my entire career. I focus a lot on customer experience, but as I started talking more about my frustrations, and maybe if you’re a marketer, I feel like you’re always viewing the world through the lens of a marketer. I just kept running into challenges where I felt like brands struggled whenever trying to figure out how to engage people who had quote, unquote differences that made them not so cleanly fit into what was considered mainstream. So I’m a Black woman. I follow a gluten-free diet. I saw things, especially change whenever I started gluten-free, because I just realized how many brands struggled to cater to that. I lived outside the US for a little while. I’m left-handed, so that, you know, my adjustments started early on with scissors back in school. So the more I started talking about that and just exploring it within my columns – and, I went to a bootcamp that was all about public speaking to help prepare me and give me assets to get on the stage. And I did a talk on inclusive marketing and I started to see the responses that people were having to it. I started to receive the responses that people were having to my articles because people talk about diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. Very few people talk about it from a marketing standpoint. So thinking about things from an inclusivity standpoint, because even whatever people are talking about, diversity and marketing or multicultural marketing, they’re focusing it more so on ethnicity and race rather than all the different types of dimensions of diversity that exist. So if we think about that, that’s where we get the definition of inclusive marketing, because it’s not just multicultural or ethnic marketing, it’s thinking more broadly about all the ways that we’re different. So I got started in it because there was hunger in the market. People were latching onto the information because there wasn’t a ton out there. There’s a little bit more now than there was previously. But, yeah, I just started leaning in heavily where people were clamoring for information.

Adrian Tennant: Sonia, what are some of the most common misconceptions you find marketers and brand managers have about the Black community?

Sonia Thompson: This is a pet peeve of mine: whenever people assume that the Black community doesn’t have any money – so whenever they feel like they want to reach out and engage the community, sometimes the default is what types of programs do we need to do to offer some type of financial assistance or scholarships or other types of things that have an economic solution to them. There are groups of the population that may struggle economically, but that exists with all groups, all racial and cultural, ethnic groups, across the US. And I think that while there are systemic challenges that have impacted the Black community in particular, that hasn’t allowed us consistently, collectively to advance in as many areas, the assumption shouldn’t be that we’re all poor and economically starved. I remember I was having a conversation with some girlfriends and there was something that came out that had kind of had that air of it. And she was, “Am I poor?” Right? Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but we just don’t think of ourselves in that way. That’s not our lived experience. And it feels insulting that’s what people immediately equate with people who are from this community.

Adrian Tennant: In October of last year, Bigeye published the results of a national survey of shoppers aged 18 to 55 called Retail Disrupted: What Shoppers Want From Brands Today. Reflecting their experiences in physical stores, we asked respondents if they typically pay attention to visual signage and photographs of people modeling clothes or using products. Among respondents identifying as white or Caucasian, 79% said they sometimes, often, or always pay attention. But among Black consumers, 92% said they do so. We also asked about the models featured in-store displays and photography. Among respondents identifying as white or Caucasian, 48% said they are noticing greater racial diversity more or a lot more often compared to before 2020. But among Black consumers, it’s a bit higher at 55%. So I’m curious, are you seeing more beauty and skincare brands representing a wider range of skin tones and ethnicities and their marketing?

Sonia Thompson: A little bit, right? So there’s a Fenty effect that’s happening from a beauty standpoint, from makeup. Rihanna’s brand Fenty Beauty launched with 40 shades of foundation, they kind of rocked the industry because they were super inclusive and took into account people who had a broad variety of skin complexions all over the world. As a result, 40 shades of foundation became the gold standard. It became the barrier to entry for other makeup brands. So other makeup brands have started to showcase that they’ve got all these different shades and that has then translated into a broader degree of representation and showcasing models of those different shades. Outside of that, there are more high fashion brands and brands that tend to have more well-known models that have in the past had a range of colors. Victoria’s Secret is one that generally tended to have a good range of skin tones and complexions with their models. There is still work to be done for more brands that aren’t high fashion, that aren’t specifically connected to makeup to do a better job with that representation, particularly of darker-skinned people. This happens because I think that people feel like when it comes to representation, if they’re putting a person of color that seems to be racially ambiguous, they feel like they’re, for lack of a better term, killing two birds with one stone, right? They’re feeling like they’re checking a couple of boxes or covering a broader base of people by having racially ambiguous people. However, because in many cases they don’t have the cultural intelligence to know that skin color and skin complexion has long been a topic of conversation, and one that causes a lot of dispute and communities, particularly communities of color, whereas Black and darker-skinned has often been viewed as less than those who have lighter skin. So the idea is that people think, and people feel that only showing racially ambiguous people of color is harmful. So more brands can lean more heavily into this of both men and women and showcase a broader range. But knowing that it’s not just about putting a Black person or a Brown person or a Person of Color, you definitely have to think about the layers and the dimensions of the skin colors and that representation isn’t just about an ethnic group. There are a number of other factors that are important to consider like skin color and complexion. When Amazon Alexa did a commercial last year for the Super Bowl and they had that dark-skinned woman with natural hair, I still love it. I still have a visceral reaction thinking about it and how much that meant for people, including me, to see someone like that featured in an ad.

Adrian Tennant: Michael Solomon is a consumer behavior psychologist, a marketing professor, and an international speaker. He’s also the author of the book, The New Chameleons: Consumers Who Defy Categorization. I asked him about the book’s title.

Michael Solomon: Well, as, you know, a chameleon is a reptile that changes color to adapt to its environment. And so it’s very malleable. It adapts to what’s going on around it. It also apparently adapts to its own moods. So it’s kind of like those old mood rings we used to have – remember those? That changes color according to your mood. And so I thought that was a very good metaphor because today we really are like an animal that changes its colors very, very frequently. By color, I refer to our identities, our social identities, how we think about ourselves, the aspects of ourselves that we want people to know about. And so sociologists have long talked about this notion of having multiple selves. You know, when you’re in a business environment, that’s one part. When you’re playing the role of devoted parent or child, that’s another. And on and on. And much of consumer behavior is oriented around that. In other words, in every one of these identities, we have certain goals that we want to reach. One of the main functions of a good advertisement is to show people how your product or service will get them closer to that goal. So the chameleon metaphor reminds us that, unlike the old days, you know, back in the forties, fifties, sixties, where we talked about these very large, relatively unchanging blocks of people who could be counted upon to behave in pretty similar ways. Today, you can just throw that out the window because consumers are much more proactive. They’re looking for new identities, they’re looking to experiment and as they do that, So to speak, they change their colors because they alter the constellation of products and services that they choose to express that identity.

Adrian Tennant: In the book, you identify and discuss seven fundamental oppositions or dichotomies that are either headed toward obsolescence or already obsolete. The first of these focuses on a long-established foundation of market research, as well as media planning and audience segmentation, namely consumer demographics. Michael, why are they obsolete? And in what way should we rethink how we define consumer groups?

Michael Solomon: Yeah. So market segmentation, especially demographic segmentation as you know, is the bedrock of modern marketing strategy. And, it was actually invented back in the early part of last century by the good folks at general motors. And they were actually responding to, I think, in some way to Henry Ford’s assertion, that his customers could have a car in any color they wanted, as long as it was black. And I love to tell that story because that was the impetus for them to start to think about divisions, you know, Chevrolet versus Cadillac and so on, and largely based on income segmentation, but it reflected a – really, for the time – pioneering realization that not everybody in the market is the same. We’re not all identical. So let’s identify these large, homogeneous groups where we can message a group, say men in their fifties or women in their twenties who live in urban areas, what have you. And that approach worked very well for a long time when we lived in a broadcast kind of environment. You know, at one point we had in the US three and then later four television stations that basically reached everybody. And anyone listening to this knows that that is totally outmoded. Today, we have thousands of stations and thousands of interest groups. We have basically a fragmentation in our culture, as people are picking and choosing much more proactively, you know, “I like this.” “I’m going to sample that”, and so on. And what that means is that sure, it’s great to start with demographics. For a long time, we’ve advocated, layering over that psychographic kinds of data, psychological differences and so on. But I think even that doesn’t capture the nuances that we often pick up today. And so I think in many cases, it makes more sense to talk about so-called, “markets of one”, where, especially in the online world, we are able to customize and personalize the messages and the products to some degree that every individual gets. That’s a very, very powerful tool. And not only that, you can get trapped by thinking that just because you’ve assigned someone to a demographic category, you understand them. And so for example, one of the dichotomies is the old one of male versus female. And so, if you do that and you say, “well, I’m going to pick the male or I’m going to pick the female market.” Well, by definition, you are already leaving half of the population off the table because you’re not going to consider them. And so there are many, many examples of that when we relax those old dichotomies, that’s where we see the real market opportunities are hidden.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after these messages.

Sandra Marshall: I’m Sandra Marshall, VP of Client Services at Bigeye. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as advertising professionals. At Bigeye, we always put audiences first. For every engagement, we’re committed not just to understanding our clients’ business challenges but also to learning about their prospects’ and customers’ attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. These insights inform our strategy and collectively inspire the account, creative, media, and analytics teams working on our clients’ projects. If you’d like to put Bigeye’s audience-focused consumer insights to work for your brand, please contact us. Email Bigeye. Reaching the Right People, in the Right Place, at the Right Time.

Adrian Tennant: Each month, in partnership with our friends at Kogan Page, The Bigeye Book Club features interviews with authors who are experts in marketing, consumer research, and customer experience. Our featured book for November is Inclusive Marketing: Why Representation Matters to Your Customers and Your Brand by Jerry Daykin. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can save 20 percent on a print or electronic version of the book with exclusive promo code BIGEYE20. This code is valid for all products and pre-orders and applies to Kogan Page’s free e-book offer. To order your copy of Inclusive Marketing, go to – that’s K O G A N, P A G E dot com.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS conversations about Inclusive Marketing. The Hispanic population is the second-largest minority consumer group in the US and one of the fastest-growing, accounting for 57% of the population growth over the past two decades. Over 64 million Hispanic consumers have a combined buying power of 2 trillion dollars and will contribute disproportionately to growth in consumer spending over the coming years. Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, Bigeye’s Research Specialist Camila Swanson chatted with friends and family about Hispanic representation in the media and their lived experiences.

Camila Swanson: Do you primarily watch English-language TV shows, Spanish-language TV shows, or a mixture?

Haroldo Montero: I will say about 70% of the entertainment that I watch is in English, I would say, because growing up as a teen here and going to college here, that’s kind of what you’re starting to develop the things that you like and being here. I was a little bit more familiar with entertainment in English, but I still watch a lot of media in Spanish as well. Like mostly sports though, because I liked the sportscasters in Spanish a lot better than in English. 

Nidia Swanson: It’s a mix of both because when I watch the Spanish one, it’s the news. That’s the way I can get in touch with my country because sometimes they have news from my country on Spanish TV and English, I watch most of my shows, they’re American shows. So I watch both, but in different – news for the Spanish one, and then my shows and some news from the American one.

Jorge Sedano: And when you watch Spanish language programs, how do the ads you see on those channels influence the type of brands or products that you buy?

Haroldo Montero: That a lot of times it has some influence on the things that I pick. For example, like if, if I know there’s like a business or a brand that’s, it was started by somebody who is from Venezuela and they’re trying to get it kicked off. Sometimes that resonates with me and like, yeah, I’ll pick that particular brand. But sometimes they’re also like more focused on like the demographic, like myself as Hispanic, let’s say as a skin product. Right. So may not have the same skin tone with somebody else who’s born in the United States. So maybe those kinds of things are aimed more towards kind of what I want. So yeah, that does affect sometimes the products that I buy or services.

Camila Swanson: While watching Spanish television programs do products you see advertised stand out more than those shown in English language shows?

Jorge Sedano: I believe they do. And I think it’s really based on the fact that I do watch mainly English television. So like when my mom is watching Spanish television, it’ll be a different type of situation. The commercials will be in Spanish. So I retain them like more, more than an English commercial because it’ll be like, it’ll be something different in my day. So I definitely, yeah, I think I’ll remember a Spanish commercial more than I would an English one.

Camila Swanson: Is there anything about the portrayal of our cultures on TV or in movies that really annoy you or you feel is consistently inaccurate?

Nidia Swanson: I feel annoyed because they advertised the Latin country like a third world country instead of advertise us as a beautiful country with nice people. Spanish people, most of us, we are really welcoming people. So I think it’s annoying when they think about us like a third-world country.

Camila Swanson: A stereotype about Hispanics that I think is overplayed in the media would be when they show any foreign place and they put this yellowing filter over it to show that they’re an equivalent to a third world country, because I know I’ve seen pictures of the Dominican Republic from when my mom lived there or when our family goes on vacation and it’s the most beautiful, clear skies, clear waters, but in movies, they’ll portray it as some war-torn area. There’s no culture, there’s no vibrancy to it, which I don’t believe is true.

Jorge Sedano: Yeah. And I definitely agree with that as well. I think there’s that movie, Sicario where they transfer from the U.S. to Mexico. And you can tell just the difference in like the way they portray it and the filter that they use. Like she said, and yeah, I think there’s a lot of things in the movie scene where they may not get it like we would want them to get it. So maybe one day it will be a little more accurate.

Haroldo Montero: What sometimes tends to happen is that they try to like put us all into one group of people. I don’t think they do a good job at separating where they’re from. Let’s say there’s a Hispanic kid on the soccer team and everybody just kinda assumes they’re all from the same country. I feel like there could be a little bit more and like, say, “Hey, no, he’s actually from Venezuela. Oh, this guy’s actually from Columbia. He’s actually from Argentina.” Like sometimes I feel like there are just put us all into one bucket rather than like, explaining how we’re all different. Like, yes, we’re all coming from like the same continent, but it’s like putting, I guess Americans and Canadians in the same bucket, but no, you’d never see that you always see like the separation. “Oh, he’s Canadian.” “Oh, he’s American.” So I feel like for Hispanics, we tend to get put in the same bucket.

Adrian Tennant: In retail too, we’re seeing a greater focus on inclusivity. World Global Style Network is a trend-forecasting company that analyzes consumer shopping behavior focusing on fashion. They reported that products labeled as genderless, gender-neutral, and unisex have surged by 109 percent year on year since October 2020. So will the future of fashion be androgynous? Michael Solomon offered his opinion.

Michael Solomon: Androgeny, which means a blending of the two genders, is certainly nothing new. You know, if you look just throughout our own immediate history, you see a lot of clothing of certain periods of time when clothing styles were relatively androgynous. And other times when they’re really sex-typed, in other words, clearly quote, male or female. And so, as with many other things in fashion, the pendulum swings back and forth. So the biggest mistake we can make is to assume that just because the pendulum is here, it’s not going to swing back to here. But having said that we’re seeing a resurgence right now in androgynous fashions. Before it was more like just a, maybe a cute fashion statement, but today it’s more fundamental where, for example, if you look at the fashion industry, You’ve got some of the leading design houses who are literally merging their men’s wear and women’s wear businesses. And literally having fashion shows when we’re able to attend them again, but who even before the pandemic started to have runway shows where both male and female models are coming down the runway

Adrian Tennant: A significant number of fashion designers and brands are following suit. Marc Jacobs launched a capsule collection called Heaven, which is described as a line “For girls who are boys and boys who are girls and those who are neither.” Tommy Hilfiger, in partnership with activist and actress Indya Moore, designed a capsule collection called Tommy X Indya, clothing free from gender binaries. And Target debuted the gender-free clothing brand Phluid in all of its US stores to coincide with Pride Month in 2021. But inclusivity in fashion and clothing extends beyond gender. I asked Sonia Thompson which brands she thinks are truly inclusive.

Sonia Thompson: You know, I spent a lot of time studying Savage X Fenty, and they are very clear that their lingerie line is for everyone to the point where they have lingerie for men. They have, if you look at their fashion shows, they’ve got women of all shapes and sizes. They’ve got people with disabilities. They’ve had pregnant women. They’ve had people who are transgender.  They’ve had men, they’ve had the gamut in terms of people who are different for a variety of reasons. And even supermodels that people are normally used to seeing model lingerie. And they lean very heavily and are very serious into their mission of wanting everybody to feel sexy. And they’re very clear about saying that’s EVERY. BODY. Right? And so that means that there’s a great diversity in our bodies and what we need to feel sexy. Another brand that does a good job with inclusive marketing is David’s bridal. If you think about wedding dresses and wedding accessories there are a ton of people who need that. And if you were to go to David’s Bridals’ website, or if you were to go to their social media, you will see white women, black women, mixed-race couples, same-sex couples, people in wheelchairs, people who are tall, who are short, all over the world, all in different types of wedding dresses and accessories and telling their stories. So it’s not just about the advertising in the visual imagery. These are actual customers telling their story, their experiences, that people are able to see themselves reflected not just in some stock photography, but in the actual imagery and the people behind the stories. And I also think that Nike does a good job as well. In particular because, if you go back to their mission, it’s to inspire every athlete and they define an athlete as anybody with a body. So they have done a very good job as of late, in particular, if you go to their social media, you’ll see all different kinds of people, reflected in the imagery that they put forth. But even with the products that they have been releasing over the past couple of years. It is really starting to think about inclusivity more so, so an example of that is whenever they launched the Pro Hijab line of sportswear that would be accessible that women,  who were Muslim and who wear a hijab could still participate in sports. And a hijab that is designed for sports, not these makeshift ones that they were having to make out of necessity. So just starting to think about who are all the people who are athletes. And what are the types of challenges that some of them might have, and then they’re actually building products by co-creating them with those communities to give them products that meet their needs.

Adrian Tennant: I asked Jerry Daykin which brands he feels do a good job of being inclusive of consumers who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Jerry Daykin: Yeah. I like brands that kind of have been in it for the long term. In the UK, and I think to an extent globally, the Skittles brand is one that I’ve seen do that, part of the Mars company’s portfolio. I know they’ve had sort of a multi-year partnership with Gay Times. So they’ve been working with and talking to a publication that represents that community and helps them have an authentic voice. This past year or so, they did a great activation, which was sponsoring the digging out of old black and white photos from historic Prides, recoloring them, and sharing them in their editorial. And I think they’d been doing that for four or five years. Having special packaging where they remove the rainbow from their packaging because their message is that there are other rainbows that matter. So I love that they’ve stuck with it for a few years and that it’s not just a brand manager somewhere who decided, “Oh, this year let’s do Pride.” They’ve really built a platform and worked with the community on it. They’re a big organization, but I think Procter and Gamble, P&G, do a really good job. They actually have a dedicated person, I think, whose job is LGBT inclusion and how their business can work with those communities and things. And you see that comes to life in a whole load of different ways. I know in the US they’ve done a partnership with GLAAD, and I think they’ve even created resources that other advertisers can get for free and can tap into, to help them do that. That’s a really deliberate approach, you know? This is a community that matters. These are some of our own colleagues that matter. This is an audience that we want to do the right thing with and by. And so you find other examples of brands that done kind of one-off campaigns and really nice things. But those two stand out as brands that have said, “We’re really going to do this. And we’re going to still be doing it in four or five years’ time. And we’re going to invest in the people and the resources and the partnerships to get there.” Rather than just, you know, “Oh, we’ve got a bit of money left over this year. So let’s throw it at a Pride float,” which isn’t a bad thing to do, but it’s not a thorough thing to do.

Adrian Tennant: So, how can brand marketing teams developing campaigns or crafting in-store experiences ensure that they’re taking an inclusive approach? Sonia Thompson has this advice:

Sonia Thompson: Bake inclusivity into the process from the very beginning. I think a lot of brands do what they’re going to do. They build their plans, they build their materials, they build their campaigns. And then the last 10% they start thinking about how they can make sure that it’s inclusive. It’s like they’re doing a check at the end and figuring out, “Okay, we might need to make some tweaks!” versus starting from the beginning of the process and baking inclusivity into it from the very beginning. For instance, my husband is from Argentina and he’s a new immigrant here to the US, and he still very much operates in Spanish. So whenever we moved, we had to get a new car. We had to get two new cars, of course. And so I have mine. He has his. His car operates – like, everything is in Spanish, right? The dashboard where you’ve got the radio, all the other controls and different things. The control panel, it’s all set up in Spanish. His cell phone whenever we got here, we had to get his cell phone. It’s all configured and set up in Spanish. Whenever we watch TV – if we’re watching Netflix, for instance, we watch it in English, but there are Spanish subtitles. These are all brands that didn’t think about inclusivity at the end, they baked it into their product development process. Each of them has done it in different degrees, but they thought about who are all the different types of people who have the problem that our brands solve. How might they be different? So how can we deliver products, services, and experiences that allows them to participate, that allows them to be successful, that allows them to solve the problem that we help them with, even with the differences that they have? And you have more leeway to figure out what are the right solutions to bring more people along when you plan for it at the beginning versus doing it at the end and figuring out how can you retrofit or even if you can retrofit it at the end.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks to all the guests who contributed to this special episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS: Jerry Daykin, Sonia Thompson, Michael Solomon, Haroldo Montero, Jorge Sedano, Nidia Swanson, and Bigeye’s own Camila Swanson. As always, you’ll find a full transcript of this episode on our website at – just select ‘Podcast’ from the menu. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Wishing you a very Happy Thanksgiving, until next week, goodbye.

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