NOW Gen consumers want more than lip service from brands when it comes to DEI and anti-racism efforts.
DEI stands for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and lots of people are talking about DEI. People talk about DEI in boardrooms, in schools, on TV, in movies, on the radio, in science, in sports, in journalism, in literature, and, of course, in marketing. DEI talk is literally everywhere, which is a good thing, but talk is not enough.
What is DEI?
In breaking down DEI into its parts it’s useful to start with a metaphor. Imagine the world as a big dance, like prom or homecoming. Diversity means that everyone is invited to the dance. Equity means that everybody has an equal opportunity to dance, and Inclusion means that everybody is able to contribute to the dance’s playlist. Pretty simple and if it was implemented as easily, the world would be a happier place.
Diversity in marketing means that different voices are heard and that each group is spoken to. In an age where personalization is increasingly more important, consumers really don’t like to be sent messages that aren’t applicable to them, and, on the flip side, consumers are more likely to respond positively to brands that portray the groups they’re a part of in a positive way. Diversity means that everyone can find themselves and people like them represented.
Equity means that within this wide group of diverse people each different identity and every perspective is treated equally. It means that not only is everyone represented but that within this framework each group has an equal opportunity to participate, and that each voice and each experience is valued equally.
Inclusion is pretty literal and Inclusion is where the real action happens. It means more than just that everyone is equally represented. It means that all voices and all perspectives are included. Inclusion means that different voices and different perspectives are actively sought out, listened to, and incorporated equitably. It means that the myriad identities and perspectives of all consumers play an active role in development and decision making and pushing conversations about the things that matter to people further.
Why DEI is important
There’s two simple reasons why DEI is important: it’s good for the bottom line and it’s the right thing to do.
Research is basically unanimous that consumers want more diversity. According to Facebook IQ 71% of NOW Gen consumers expect brands to promote DEI in their advertising. According to Microsoft 70% of Gen Z consumers are more trusting of brands that show diversity. A study conducted by The Female Quotient, Google, and IPSOS found that 64% of NOW Gen consumers took some action after seeing an ad that incorporated DEI. That same study found that 69% of Black consumers were more likely to purchase from a brand whose ads positively represented their race, and that 71% of LGBTQ consumers were more likely to click ads that authentically represent their sexual orientation. Furthermore, 75% of Gen Z consumers will end relationships with companies that run ad campaigns perceived as macho, racist, or homophobic. These statistics pretty much speak for themselves, and the trend is that DEI is only becoming more important to consumers.
DEI goes beyond consumerism. DEI is about social justice and building a society in which all people are treated equally, where everyone feels safe and where everyone feels they have the opportunity to achieve the things they want. DEI is also about curing the very real harms of systemic racism. Still, in the United States of America in the year 2022, more than half of black and brown consumers report that they have felt discriminated against in a store. There is simply no reason to justify this and brands should be doing everything in their power to change it. When you add the statistics about how consumers are demanding that brands use their power to support DEI, there is simply no reason for brands not to be leading the way in helping create a more equitable and inclusive society. As James Baldwin once said: “And once you realize that you can do something, it would be difficult to live with yourself if you didn’t do it.”
Why Talk is not Enough
While it is undoubtedly important that brands send the right message to their consumers and their communities by speaking out in favor of DEI and against racism, talk is not enough. In the wake of the protests following the brutal killing of George Floyd, many brands made promises about their commitments to DEI. People are not going to forget these promises. Consumers want brands to make measurable DEI commitments. They want brands to ensure that their teams and suppliers reflect the community that they serve and that diverse voices are made a part of the conversation. They don’t just want culturally sensitive and culturally informed messaging, they want customer intimacy, they want concrete action, and they want to see change. Soon DEI is going to be part of every conversation, and if brands are talking the talk without walking the walk, people are going to notice.