Diversity in Advertising: A Guide to Inclusion

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Statistics show that America is becoming more ethnically diverse than ever. People of color now make up approximately 42% of the nation’s population, data from the 2020 census shows, which is a marked increase from 36% in 2010. The percentage of non-Hispanic white Americans in the population fell by 6%, to 58%, during that period.

Modern marketers must evolve to understand their changing audience — and should also remember that diversity extends beyond race or ethnicity alone. Today, growing revenue and promoting a brand image require defining and communicating with audiences as individuals, including people of all ages, socioeconomic classes, races, and genders. Ultimately, the key to staying competitive lies in providing diversified content for diversified audiences in a way that represents present-day society.

A diverse group of smiling people.

The State of Diversity in Advertising

Sixty-one percent of U.S.-based consumers believe that diversity in advertising is important, a 2019 Adobe study found, and 38% are more likely to trust brands that show diversity in their ads. Other key results from the survey include the following:

  • Respondents who reported that a brand’s diversity, or lack thereof, impacts how they view that brand’s products or services: 62%
  • Individuals who stopped supporting a brand whose marketing doesn’t represent their identity: 34%
  • LGBTQIA+ and Black respondents who are more likely to purchase brands that show diversity in marketing: more than 50%
  • LGBTQIA+ individuals who stopped supporting brands that don’t reflect their identity: 58%
  • Hispanic and African American respondents who said they stopped supporting brands that don’t represent them in their marketing: 40% and 53%, respectively

Perhaps not surprisingly, “diversity” was chosen as the 2021 Marketing Word of the Year in a December 2021 poll of more than 200 members of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA).

The Importance of Diversity in Advertising

When consumers recognize themselves in brands’ messaging, they’re more likely to respond, data from the Adobe study suggests. Consequently, brands must understand that embracing diversity in advertising is about more than including individuals of various ages, ethnicities, and sexual orientations in their marketing campaigns. Brands that fail to make these changes may inadvertently alienate large swaths of their current and potential consumer base:

Print, television, and digital media campaigns seeking to add greater diversity might also include:

  • Individuals with disabilities, such as physical, learning, and speech disabilities
  • Individuals with various religious affiliations, such as Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, and Christian, among others
  • People of various heights and weights, as opposed to only models of a certain body type
  • People of various socioeconomic classes, representing all consumers, not just those from a certain income bracket
  • Individuals from various geographic locations, targeting a global customer base, as opposed to only those who live in the desert, in the Midwest, or along the coast

Strong Examples of Diversity in Advertising

Brands have begun to realize that diversity in advertising is no longer optional, it’s imperative. Consider these examples of major brands embracing diversity in their national advertising campaigns:

  1. Oreo, Proud Parent
  2. Dove, Reverse Selfie
  3. Subaru, Girl’s Trip
  4. Apple, Inclusion & Diversity
  5. Sephora, The Unlimited Power of Beauty

Tips on Embracing Diversity

Embracing diversity in advertising means redefining it within the organization and perceiving it as an essential element of the organization’s innovation strategy. Diverse thoughts are contagious, and they add significant value to the ideation process. Below are industry tips on just a few of the steps that brands can take to make a positive impact on their marketing campaigns:

Resources for Driving Diversity and Inclusion in Ad Agencies

Growing numbers of consumers want to see diversity and inclusion in brands’ marketing campaigns, the Adobe study shows. Here are some resources for creating a more inclusive company culture that can help promote diversity in advertising:

There’s Never Been a More Exciting Time to Work in Marketing and Advertising

Students interested in helping drive diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives in advertising campaigns can find that an education such as an online bachelor’s degree in marketing can help prepare them for marketing careers in the public, private, or nonprofit sectors. Discover how Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Science in Marketing program can provide you with the tools you’ll need to develop targeted, inclusive marketing campaigns.

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