Five things to keep in mind before launching a DEIB campaign
Diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging mean different things to different people. However, when it comes to taking those values and translating them into an inclusive campaign that highlights the experiences of BIPOC individuals, it’s important to take a moment and think to yourself: How might the people and voices you are representing feel about the message your brand is attempting to convey?
Well, you might just want to ask them first.
Your BIPOC consumers are more than just metrics that need to be met. We are real people that, as an audience, and throughout society, have been underrepresented in the media we see and consume every single day. And coming from someone who has cringed at my fair share of insensitive ads – I’m over it.
So, you want to create a campaign that highlights the importance of DEIB – great. Now let’s talk about how to do that in the most authentic (and least cringe) way possible.
What is your “why”
There are a collection of things you should think about before attempting to run a PR campaign with DEIB messaging at the forefront. In my last blog post, I talked about the importance of evaluating who is invited to the metaphorical – and sometimes, tangible – decision-making table. This is the most integral piece to the puzzle, because nine times out of 10, a person from the exact community you’re trying to market to was not present when important decisions about their perspective, culture and lived experiences were made. At other times they were present but overruled. The truth is, you don’t know what you don’t know, and it’s important to be acutely aware of where your experience ends, and another person’s experience begins.
DEI campaigns crash and burn every single day – and sometimes for the whole world to see. Yep, that’s right, even the OG brands have controversial missteps. Don’t believe me? Here are 10 of the biggest marketing mistakes from the world’s top brands.
Although there are a variety of examples we can learn from, there’s one that sticks out for me among the rest. Remember when Pepsi put on its white savior cape and sought to single-handedly end racism by depicting Kendall Jenner handing a police officer a Pepsi at a non-descript social justice rally? Don’t worry, I tried to forget it too. Pepsi is a great example of how the path to inclusive marketing, though paved with “good intentions,” can easily end in social outrage.
Not long after the ad launched, people took to social media and highlighted that although it wasn’t entirely clear what the protest was about, one thing was crystal – Pepsi was co-opting the Black Lives Matter movement to sell more sodas and people weren’t happy. Although Pepsi initially stood by the ad and its importance in highlighting the need to come together as a country, they later released a statement admitting that they did, in fact, miss the mark and halted the rollout of the rest of the campaign.
So, what can we learn from Pepsi about what TO do when it comes to a DEIB campaign? We have a few takeaways for you.
For some, the Pepsi ad could be seen as a sign of allyship and “wokeness,” to others, it was a slap in the face – a naive assumption that their struggles and pain could be ended by simply gifting a Pepsi. No matter how well-meaning you and your company may be, it’s important to seek counsel from the people you’re trying to reach and take time to truly listen to what they want to see and experience from your brand. Whether you’re gathering marketing research through focus groups or decide to hire outside counsel, it’s important to bring the right people into the room to have difficult, but important conversations.
Know when to speak…. And when not to
Although it can be compelling to take a stand on every social issue and injustice, sometimes refraining from making a statement can mean more than putting out a poorly thought out one. When it comes to diversity, walking the walk is just as important, if more, than talking the talk. Launching a successful DEIB campaign means nothing if your internal practices don’t prioritize the very values you are leveraging as a marketing tool. Similarly, if your internal DEIB initiatives are not integrated into your company’s culture, you stand no chance of creating something that translates to marginalized audiences in a meaningful way.
Be open to feedback
At the end of the day, we are all humans and one thing you can be sure of when it comes to our species is that we will, inevitably, make a colossal mess of things. But when it comes to marketing, those mistakes stick around and shape the kind of opinion key audiences have about your brand for years to come. That’s why it’s important to seek feedback before you launch your campaign – trust me, it’ll save you a whole lot of crisis communications brain power in the end.