Addressing the lack of diversity in research and advertising.
In any facet of business – or life, for that matter – diversity is an essential part of research. However, representing diverse populations specifically within advertising and marketing has been a challenge historically, and it continues today. In order to properly generalize results and represent all people, research needs to include consumers who accurately reflect the rich diversity of our society. But what can be done when research participation remains low among underrepresented groups, like racial and ethnic minorities, women, older adults, people of certain religious affiliations, and those of lower socioeconomic status? The current absence of diversity in research is a persistent problem, which makes improvement essential.
First, let’s address two important questions:
What exactly do we mean by “diversity”? Today, we need to recognize that it’s more than a buzzword. Diversity is a point of contemplation, where marketers work toward approaches that avoid stereotypes and the unintentional continuation of classism, racism, sexism, ageism, and ignorance. Because people come from all sorts of backgrounds, cultures, and ethnicities, employing diversity in research ensures brands represent the unique aspects of their entire audience.
Why do we need diversity in market research? Diversity in market research ensures that all consumers can experience the benefits of research innovations. When market research participants reflect the full diversity of our population, the results produce information about causes of differences and tactics to address them. We may even be able to use data to eventually eliminate certain inequalities.
In addition to ensuring inclusion of all groups in a brand’s reputation, diversity in research also provides brand managers with a better understanding of how to make adjustments that can keep a company’s strategy on target. This can go a long way toward increasing brand awareness, engagement, and ROI, as well as avoiding marketing mistakes, public relations disasters, and losses in brand likeability and sales. With the proper diversity in research, brands can create narratives that provide a real connection with consumers.
So how can the advertising and marketing industry do more to ensure diversity in research?
- First and foremost, awareness is key. It is imperative that those working on the projects be culturally sensitive and mindful of diversity. Employees should be trained to recognize differences between groups, and they should also feel comfortable asking difficult questions about diversity and inclusion. When inviting new, underrepresented consumers to participate in research, it’s helpful to find trusted community partners to engage in the recruitment process.
- Brands should invest in developing long-term relationships with underserved communities by learning more about them. Uncover what issues are important to these consumers and explore how to address those issues by working together. Companies can start developing these relationships by working with groups already invested in communities, such as churches or community centers. And these relationships should be reciprocal, adding value to the lives of consumers as well as providing insights for brands. Brands can continue to build trust by volunteering time and services.
- Another important part of ensuring research speaks to diverse consumers is using appropriate language and imagery in advertisements, messaging, and media channels that vary by consumer group. The language used should meet the specific needs of each group. When in doubt, ask the trusted community partners for guidance and feedback. Consulting with these community members allows companies to arrive at effective ways of communicating. Another way is to have diverse advisory boards with whom brand managers can share ideas, gain inspiration to think differently about underrepresented groups, and get reactions to plans and strategies. When people are able to use their own voice, it helps avoid confusion and unintended insults.
Diversity in research is about respecting and appreciating differences. It ensures everyone’s voice is heard and views are considered, giving brands the power to reach all their consumers. Furthermore, research shows that when companies prioritize diversity and inclusion, they are twice as likely to meet or exceed financial targets – and eight times more likely to achieve better business outcomes. When diversity in market research is done right, brands can have impactful campaigns that yield positive results, for both sales and public relations.
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