Marketing Diversity: How to Make a Positive Change

Marketing Diversity - group of people of diverse ethnicity looking at tablets, computers, etc.

Written by Karen Carps

June 18, 2020

The world is reeling from the past few weeks. In addition to the pandemic, which already had folks on edge, racial tensions haven’t been this high for many years. Our country is in the midst of a huge wake-up call about systemic racism and its effects on the daily lives of so many in our society. White privilege dominates conversations, with many realizing the benefits they’ve had all along, simply because of their skin color. But what can we do? Even if you can’t go out and protest or call for social change in big ways, you can still make a difference. For business owners, and for all of us, that starts by looking within. Maybe we should examine our marketing, who consumes our content, and how it comes across. Let’s take a look at our marketing diversity and how we can start there for change.

Diversity in Images

First, we must look at the obvious. It shouldn’t surprise me anymore, but SO many websites and marketing materials lack diversity in their images. SO MANY!!!! I’ve learned to point this out to clients in a gentle way. Take a look at your website. If you see only a sea of white skin, make a change. Now.

Why would a person of color want to do business with you if you haven’t even considered them in your web presence? Additionally, you send the message that only white people can use your product. Many non-profit organizations nail this aspect of marketing diversity, while too many businesses miss the mark.

Avoid having only one person of color in your sea of white faces, too. People see right through that. In fact, having only one can be worse than having none. It almost looks like it was an afterthought and that you remembered at the last minute that you needed a “token” black or brown person.

If you do have images depicting people of varied races, what does it show them doing? A friend said, “I notice when black or brown people are not placed as the person in the low income job position.” Have you thought about that? Marketing diversity can only happen when we open our eyes not only to who we depict, but HOW we depict them.

In some cases, such as with housing developments, you may actually be in violation of the law by not having people of varying races, ages, and economic status represented in your marketing.

How to make changes to help marketing diversity.

Listen to Diverse Voices

Who do you know of a different race? Do you have a diverse staff? As a solopreneur with no staff, I understand that this is not always possible. For that reason, I reached out to black, brown, and white friends, along with white friends who raise black children, for input on this post. Listen, we will never learn or grow unless we ask questions and then shut up and really hear the answers. As I told a friend during one of these conversations, “People need to stop tiptoeing and dive in.”

When I brought this topic up on Facebook to my own network to prepare for this post, one friend said that leaders need to be questioned. She then referenced a controversial Dove ad where a black female removes her “skin” and becomes white. Here’s her comment: “Someone in the room knew that was a bad idea. Either they were afraid to speak up or no one listened. Or there were a lot of dumb white people in the room.” Another friend said that we must listen to different voices with different experiences from our own.

Marketing Diversity in Your Product Itself

Anyone who calls him or herself a marketer (or really any profession, but that’s another story for another day) must never stop learning. What issues face people of color? Will my product or service help or hinder someone with those issues? The best way to find this out? Test, test, test, and ask questions. If you haven’t tested your product or sought feedback about your product from people of all races, you miss out on a key component of your marketing strategy.

One of the best/worst mistakes… er… learning experiences with this would have to be the original Apple Watch. When it first came out, its sensors had a hard time interacting with black skin. If they had tested the product on a variety of skin colors and sought feedback, they could have avoided a ridiculous amount of embarrassment. Learn from their mistake!! Don’t market something that hasn’t been fully tested across the board.

I could seriously go on and on about this topic, and I’ve enjoyed writing this post. My favorite part? The talks I’ve had as a result. So find someone different from you, learn something from them, and keep swimming along!

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