Industry Change-Agents Lead the Way in Bold, Inclusive Marketing

By The Storytelling Revolution Archives
Cover image for  article: Industry Change-Agents Lead the Way in Bold, Inclusive Marketing

One of the key tenets of profound learning is best captured by Albert Einstein who once shared, "education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think." There is perhaps no better opportunity for global marketers to think, share and be inspired than by attending the annual ANA Masters of Marketing pilgrimage every October in Orlando, Florida.

This year was no exception, despite the disruptions of COVID. Representing a variety of industries ranging from beauty to beer, from government agencies to global tech, the Masters offered something for everyone.

Bob Liodice, President & CEO of the ANA, set the tone as he opened the conference, reminding the marketing community that their efforts can have a transcendental impact not only in terms of being a force for growth, but also very importantly being a force for social good.

One very visible example of this is the deployment of the #SeeHer platform which was launched in 2016, and spearheaded the development of the Gender Equality Measure, the first data-driven methodology for identifying gender bias in media.

Fast forward to today, and this methodology is used to increase effectiveness and boost ROI in 14 markets around the world -- and has become the global industry standard for measuring gender bias in ads and programming. SeeHer members represent more than 2,000 brands and $70 billion in ad spend, which represents over 80% of the total spending on ads.

Shelley Zalis, Co-Founder of SeeHer and CEO of The FQ, moderated an energetic panel featuring marketing leaders behind this spend and shared how they are activating Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in their businesses. According to Zalis, "media defines culture and culture creates change" and #SeeHer members are setting the gender equality agenda for the industry and driving growth for their brand and their businesses through "through deeper access to GEM, proprietary research, tools and toolkits, best practices guides, media partnership opportunities, customized workshops, and other benefits."

William White, Chief Marketing Officer, Walmart has been a long-time user of GEM, and emphasized during the panel, how as the world's largest retailer, they face both a "business imperative and moral imperative to represent the diversity of their customers in the way we market and the way we recruit and retain talent".

Creating an authentic connection with their customers goes beyond just rhetoric but must be "reflected in how we treat our customers at every touchpoint" per White. When it comes to the Walmart associates, White emphasizes that showing genuine care for their well-being and career growth goes beyond lip service but necessitates doing something very tangible. For example, Walmart launched a campaign to salute their diverse Associates and acknowledge their dedication as part of the "Dear Associate" program. Walmart also is a big supporter of minority-owned media and creative organizations and has conducted SeeHer workshops to educate internal teams on best practices in terms of inclusion and belonging.

From the world's largest retailer to one of the world's largest beauty brands, Shenan Reed of L'Oréal provided an inside look at the new rules of media planning in an inclusive and connected world. First and foremost, she highlighted the importance of testing and learning new KPIs more closely tied to the consumer journey -- capturing not only rational intent but emotional fandom or love. Reed also emphasized that "impressions should impress -- and that means they need to move from a superficial eyeball view to a deep engaging connection". For L'Oréal that has been achieved through technology that connects consumers to its brands using virtual try on and skin diagnostics platforms. In addition, she reminded audiences that user experience trumps everything and marketers need to be "strict on ad clutter and above all ensure content safety and relevance". Language matters -- and moving from talking about audiences as "targets", to the use of words like "guests or fans" reflects the "brands to humans" focus that is critical for differentiation, according to Reed. Finally, she reiterated the 3 Es of great media planning -- engage, educate and entertain.

If we think about one of the most coveted and elusive demographics to engage, educate and entertain – there is no group more challenging than Gen-Z.

This is a group that Danielle Tiedt, CMO of YouTube is extremely familiar with, given 77% of Gen Zers, ages 15 to 25, are on the platform.

In fact, Gen-Z is the largest and most diverse generation in history and these digital natives are growing up in a world of selfies, emojis, influencers and hashtags. They are experts in navigating the online world better than any other demographic group, and their video consumption habits reflect this. Their most popular platform is YouTube, closely followed by Instagram -- what they watch and why the watch is important for marketers to understand. According to Tiedt, this highly engaged group "cares about racial justice, the climate, diversity and mental health and above all, inclusivity, which is a business imperative for brands to survive and thrive".

The YouTube marketing chief also shared three main lessons that brands need to be aware of as they embark in inclusive marketing. First, a timely reminder that inclusivity is more than just visibility -- it is much more. This lesson was learnt the hard way when a YouTube LGBTQ+ video on a personal transformation only superficially addressed the emotional journey and erroneously relied instead on images to tell the story. For Tiedt and her team it was a stark reminder that when "celebrating diversity, ensure you don't perpetuate stereotypes". One way to achieve that is to follow lesson two which is ensuring brands "listen more and listen harder". The YouTube team did just that when representing stories of #BlackLivesMatter which inspired the "Being Black in" series where creators captured voices from around the world, including Japan, Hungary and the Netherlands to demonstrate the universality of experiences and how a unified global voice can change perceptions. In 2020, Tiedt and team launched the #YouTubeBlack Voices Fund, a multi-year commitment dedicated to spotlighting and growing Black creators and music on our platform, by giving them access to resources to help them thrive on YouTube.

A final lesson that applies across advertising platforms is simply that "change takes more than a marketing campaign", Tiedt explains. With the YouTube #ProudtoCreate platform supporting LGBTQ+ creators, the team have recognized the community's "extraordinary legacy of turning adversity into creativity and self-expression". On YouTube, LGBTQ+ creators have used their voices to share their stories, their art, their music, and their passions to help shift culture, increase visibility, and create change. This is an ongoing commitment not an adhoc, one-off campaign and is empowering the LGBTQ+ community to imagine, believe and express themselves on topics ranging from vogue to ballet, home videos to fine art, electropop to piano, Olympic ice skating to skateboarding.

This urgent call to action could be heard across the various engaging conversations during the ANA Masters. From the compelling lessons on how self-expression has the power to change the world, to the role media plays in driving new bold stories to the emotive connection that can transform the lives of employees, senior marketers left Orlando with optimism and grit that road ahead is more transformational than ever as they go forth to drive towards profitable growth and meaningful social good.

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