Marketing’s covid recovery will be stronger if we are more diverse and inclusive

Marketing’s covid recovery will be stronger if we are more diverse and inclusive

Covid-19 has upended life as we know it but not all consumer groups are experiencing it the same way – from a physical wellness perspective to a financial one. ‘Universal’ messages of safety and recovery might not apply to every citizen, yet marketing campaigns from the UK government and brands alike often speak to the public as one. Being cognizant of cultural and experiential differences is crucial as we imagine inclusive campaigns in light of this pandemic. Now is the time to double down on diversity within advertising – or lose out on the opportunity to authentically connect with key audiences as they increasingly turn to the media for insight.

I recently hosted Shutterstock’s virtual panel, “The Evolution of Diversity in Advertising,” where I spoke with leading communicators who are making strides towards increased diversity in marketing – be it within marketing teams or in actual campaigns. They shared insightful advice on building customer loyalty and trust by speaking to and partnering with minority communities – now, during the pandemic, and for years to come.

Images consumers can relate to

Desire for authentic content is not new. Consumers are increasingly looking for imagery they can relate to, and advertisers have found that audiences respond best to visuals that resonate with them. In fact, Stackla’s 2020 Consumer Content Report found that 86 percent of consumers value authenticity when deciding which brands they like and support.

This expectation has only grown amid widespread uncertainty regarding lockdowns and the UK economy. Over these last few months, Shutterstock has seen an increase in demand from clients needing visual content that’s relatable and connected to real-life events. But what may be viewed as authentic to one consumer group, such as those working on the frontline, might be completely off-target for another. Brands looking to effectively engage their audience must first develop a highly diverse marketing team, as true representation starts by having diverse voices at the table. They must then abide by the three next steps for success.

Prioritise diversity and inclusion

Organisations today are understandably focused on the ‘here and now’, looking to navigate the immediate crisis as it relates to advertising, sales, and company-wide performance. They must not do this at the risk of losing out on long-term growth, however.

Those who aren’t thinking about diversity and inclusion in their marketing teams and their marketing efforts are overlooking the significant business opportunity of establishing strong relationships with differing consumer groups.

These consumers could play a significant role in helping to revitalise business activity as lockdowns ease if they were to see themselves represented within marketing communications.

Dig into your consumer audience

Work priorities and budgets are shifting, potentially freeing up marketers to dig into their consumer audience. Take this opportunity to research and really explore how key consumer groups expect to be spoken to. While messages of unity and togetherness can be powerful, they’re not always the most effective.

Marketing leaders should capitalise on this time to delve into these groups to understand how a brand can become a true partner to unique communities that are experiencing and dealing with this crisis differently.

Remain thoughtful

It’s not enough to understand the consumer base. Marketing leaders need to leverage those insights to remain thoughtful in their marketing communications. This means accepting that planning and strategy might take longer as different groups are presented with tailored visuals and copy. This means being intentional about media outreach and placement, as well as community initiatives and programmes, speaking to each group individually. It also means remembering that painting the public with a broad brush stroke can feel artificial or forced, and eventually work against brands that are not customising their campaigns accordingly.

The meaningful bonds that brands forge with diverse communities now will remain valuable for years to come. When all has passed and we are able to reflect on the pandemic, brands will be judged on how they navigated the crisis and treated others. Being remembered for authenticity and sincerity is far more valuable than any great piece of advertising that will someday be forgotten.