Customers Are, Now More Than Ever, Choosing Brands They Feel Represented By

Representation is (more than ever) impacting purchasing decisions and reshaping industry structures.

We are pretty used to how Marketing is made in the Digital Era. What was once limited to local magazines and TV ads can now be spread worldwide in a matter of a few clicks. Advertising is reaching more and more people, and that’s a good thing for marketers.

But… yeah. We are reaching more people. People with all kinds of tastes, interests, ethnicities, locations, classes, opinions, and backgrounds. And, more importantly, people that are more demanding. With so many purchase options, people have simply stopped looking just for a product or solution and have started seeking brands in which they can see themselves and their values.

And this is not purely a personal opinion. It’s all based on data. According to Global Consumer Pulse Research, a study done for Accenture in 2019, Generations Y and Z can be called Generation P(urpose) — and they represent nearly 5 billion people.

And this, of course, might have become a growing challenge for some marketers and companies that still do not see diversity, equity, and inclusion as a fundamental matter to the brand.

In another survey by Adobe, 38% of respondents said they are more likely to consume products and services from brands that show diversity in their ads, and 34% have boycotted a company or brand at least once because they don’t feel their identities were represented in the companies’ advertisements or actions. 

So, I guess we can say it’s undeniable: to really connect to your audience, it’s necessary for brands and companies to represent their views and opinions.

However, this must be presented not only in advertising and Marketing campaigns — it’s not enough just to raise a flag or talk about it.  Real actions have also become a fundamental piece for the growth and recognition of brands that want to stand out in the market.

Representation is a lot more than a Marketing tool

Here’s the key mindset: although diversity is a very present theme in business lectures, films, news, and advertising itself, it should not be treated as a good Marketing strategy, but as a necessary form of inclusion and respect.  

Many times, brands might have misunderstood the message. It’s the case of the beauty products company Love Beauty and Planet (owned by Unilever group). Even carrying a clear reference to sustainability in its name, the brand was involved in controversies related to the ingredients of its cosmetics not being as “organic, vegan and clean” as their consumers thought they were, and the brand not being completely free from animal cruelty. The consumer can see if your message is really meaningful.

No fingers pointed here. What I really want you to reflect on is Love Beauty and Planet consumers do not consume their products just because they like them. They consume them for what the brand stands for — or, at least, what it should stand for. And they look for that in all touch points with the brand.

Companies need to truly pay attention to the demands of consumers — not only related to whatever products or services it sells, but to their clients’ values, fears, hopes, flags and beliefs. This has to be the central and internal concern of the company itself (in all its areas).

Customers prefer engaged brands

As we said before, today’s consumers seek to connect with brands that support diversity and inclusion. That, of course, relates to advertising, but it goes beyond that.

According to the Global Marketing Trends Executive Survey, it also matters to consumers how a company applies diversity in its workplace, encouraging and opening space for women, black people, LGBTQIAP+ and other minorities. 

This is particularly important for the younger folks: the survey showed a growing behavior in relation to diversity, especially to Generation Z (the new consumer force). They are, along with GenY, the Generation P(urpose), but they seem to go a step further.

They are known to be concerned with issues related to our planet — it is not difficult to find references from young activists such as Greta Thunberg — and with the sustainability necessary for conscious production and sustainable business growth. 

The Global Marketing Trends Executive Survey also shows that 57% of consumers are more loyal to brands committed to addressing social inequalities in their actions. Companies with better growth results are establishing key performance metrics for Diversity. Equity and Inclusion business objectives, unlike their lower-growth competitors. 

The same survey also points out that 94% of Gen Z expect companies to take a stand on important social issues, and 90% said they are more willing to buy products they consider beneficial to society. In other words, companies that are following consumer evolution can find a favorable path to increase revenue.
These data make the importance of promoting diversity in all spheres of influence of the company clear: in advertising, employee hiring programs, talent retention, the use of suppliers aligned with the purpose of diversity and with investments in social initiatives that seek to reduce inequality. 

At Ben & Jerry’s, for example, there are initiatives that directly support US citizens registering to vote, and marriage equality.

The right representation leads consumers to pay more

Before you start thinking that representation is an exclusive concern of young consumers, let me stop you right there.

People all over the world have been reflecting on their consumption. Not just about how some product is made, but also whether the company that produces it shares the same values. An example of this is a recent study by McKinsey & Company that found that black consumers are willing to pay up to 20% more for the right products and services that meet their needs.

One company that learned its lesson after a big controversy was Target. In 2020, after being accused of promoting racist advertisements that aroused exclusionary ideals, the company began to invest in becoming more inclusive and creating an environment where everyone feels that they belong. This opened opportunities for people who have historically been marginalized and ignored by investing and embracing black-owned brands in its portfolio. 

What’s the lesson here? The same company can do an excellent inclusive campaign, and at the same time exclude minorities in their hiring processes. Or it may manage to foster an extremely diverse and inclusive environment in its workspace, but run an unfortunate and controversial campaign.

Yes, brands need to pay attention to how to actually promote diversity, equity and inclusion in all of their areas. But this is not simple, and it will be a constant evolution. The best way to do it? Deeply know your consumers and have strong values ​​rooted in the core of your brand.

Customers will consume from companies in which they can see themselves represented. And, many times, that means companies that publicly express their support for social causes (and act in their favor), or causes that the customer also supports. 

It’s not enough for beauty brands to produce makeup for all skin tones. Clients also might want to know if the company has ethnic and racial diversity in its staff, for example. 

Fenty Beauty, a brand created by popstar Rihanna, has offered 40 makeup shades. In its first month, Fenty reportedly earned $72m and was consistently sold out in stores, showing there is certainly a market waiting for its demands to be met by companies. When we look at the presentation of products made by Fenty at its collections show, the concern to represent all types of people was noticeably present.

Diversity in all your touch points

To achieve this new consumer, the most favorable path is to invest in not only making advertisements that encourage the diversity of consumers, but also having this represented within the company itself. 

A diverse workforce, which includes professionals of different ages, genders, gender identities, affective-sexual orientations, races, and ethnicities and that share different life experiences, areas of study and culture, increases the wealth and knowledge base of a team. This benefits the work and productivity of the entire company, in addition to promoting more creativity and, consequently, innovation. 

According to data from a study conducted by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), companies that invest in diversity, particularly in leadership roles, also reported 19% higher innovation revenue than companies with below-average leadership diversity — demonstrating the value of representativeness and cascading diversity from management positions. 

This scenario can create crucial business and innovation opportunities for growth, as a team with at least one member who shares a customer’s ethnicity is 152% more likely to understand that customer’s real needs than another team, according to HBR.

Growing results are a consequence of a greater purpose

Having a social purpose is also a strategic agenda for the growth of your business. By proposing to be a company that promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion, it is necessary for that company to extend its actions to society, care about reducing environmental impacts and actively support important social causes. 

At Rock Content, the concern for those around us is evident: we treat the uniqueness of each person with due fairness and respect, we listen carefully to all voices, and we act to transform realities beyond our employees and consumers. 

For us, social impact means creating employability opportunities for people who, by gender, race, or socioeconomic status, are in vulnerable positions. This happens through the promotion of education, enabling inclusion in the market, and ensuring equity in the business.

There are several ways to contribute socially to building a brand that is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion. It is possible to issue less paper, encourage the use of public transport or even implement recycling in the company. 

However, it is interesting to associate your product or service with this contribution, if possible. Product donations, offering social discounts to certain groups, or even sharing the knowledge of your workforce can bring results not only in the development of a more sustainable society but also directly in the company’s revenue.

When a company’s commitment is clear and shows its contribution to society, it is possible to generate value, whether for shareholders, employees or customers, and then create authentic and trusting relationships with all these audiences — and also achieve new consumers. 

Having a purpose is a path to competitive advantage and sustainability within the company itself, which is fundamental to long-term financial success. 

Knowing all this information and having clear criteria for your target audience, you need to analyze how much your business is committed to this new consumption scenario — and start investing, more and more, in building a diverse and inclusive approach.

It’s good for society. It’s good for your business.

This article is also in the new issue of Rock Content Magazine, released this August. In this issue we bring incredible content about diversity, inclusion and accessibility, an extremely important topic for brands and society today. You can download the magazine here, it’s completely free! Good reading!

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