*sigh* I cannot believe that in this day and age I am having to write a blog post about how to do a diverse marketing campaign – yet, here I am, typing away and rolling my eyes so furiously, they might actually roll out of my skull, down the road and appear on your lap. If that happens, I am sorry for freaking you out. Feel free to show my eyes some interesting things whilst they are in your company.
Plenty of “well meaning” brands frequently toot their diversity horns and display their obscene level of privilege in stunning displays of getting it just off the mark (sometimes waaaaaay off the mark!). I recently wrote a blog post on how I wasn’t ready to give up on Boohoo yet. Mostly because there is so much they can learn from plus size babes!
So what are the common problems we see? And how the hell can you tackle them? The answer truly is bloody easy, so if you’re a brand TAKE NOTE. I’m about to drop some knowledge bombs.
Side note – I ain’t a marketing exec, but I work in fashion, I’ve been taught about diversity by some of the best in the business (Caryn Franklin is an absolute diversity wizard and she just *gets it*) and as a fat, gay woman with a hidden life long illness who has consistently been left out, made fun of and just poorly represented, I think I’m pretty well versed in this subject.
1 – Your ‘diverse’ advert is whitewashed
This is the number one twatty thing that ALL brands are guilty of – using only white or white-passing models in your campaign is just pure laziness, ignorance and lowkey (ok, highkey) racism. Use Black women in your campaigns. Black women with dark skin, with natural 4c hair, with pigmentation, with stretchmarks. Use women of Asian descent. Women wearing hijab, Asian women with dark skin, women with dark hair on their skin. Basically, stop being fucking ignorant and pull your finger out. The world is full of different ethnicities and by choosing to use only one skin type, one hair type, you’re perpetuating a notion that beauty is only single faceted. If you think you can’t find models with darker skin tones or different ethnic backgrounds, you’re just being lazy. Try harder to be diverse.
As a white woman, I won’t speak over the words of Black women and women of colour. Instead I will signpost you to this blog post by Grace Victory about how we need to get better at representation, and how its EVERYONE’s responsibility to push for it – but especially those of us with privilege.
2 – You think only thin bodies are aspirational
We all know that in order to sell a product, it needs to be seen to be aspirational. You need to feel like you MUST have it – it’s all about creating desire. Whether it’s being “beach body ready” or a celebration of “all girls”, thinner bodies are pushed to the forefront. Brands need to do a lot more to be body diverse. It’s clear that when a brand does use plus models, the plus models they used are “industry plus“. Let’s explore that term of “industry plus“: to be a plus size model, you need to be a size 12 and over. To wear plus size clothing, you need to be a size 18 and over.
Often, when people say they include a plus size model in their campaign, they have hired someone at that lower end of the “industry plus” scale. So yeah, for example maybe Boohoo did use a plus model in their flop #AllGirls advert. But because they chose someone at the smaller end of the scale, the impact was completely lost and it flopped – HARD. The lesson here is simple. In order for your campaign to have impact on the plus size market, you’re going to have to use “industry plus” models who fit into the plus size market. I want to see size 24+ women, women with a round tummy, women with cellulite and stretchmarks. These bodies are aspirational to plus size women because we are seeing ourselves represented.
I won’t get into the need for brands to pay their creatives – that’s a whole different kettle of fish – but nevertheless PAY YOUR FUCKING CREATIVES.
3 – All of your models are enabled
Another notion perpetuated in society is that enabled bodies are aspirational. This excludes and ignores a huge section of society who are disabled. Bodies with impairments are rarely seen in advertising campaigns. And when they are, it’s usually as a gimmick or a marketing story. Brands use the same argument that there just aren’t enough disabled models available – but as I have said before, there is. Try harder to be diverse with the ability of bodies in your adverts.
In fact, just by spending 1 minute on Google, I found three agencies that deal solely with disabled models. Let’s be real – if you are a brand splashing cash out on getting thin, beautiful, enabled models then you can splash cash out on paying for the time of a disabled model too. It’s time to stop making fucking excuses.
I touched on this in the last paragraph, but I would love it if we got to the point where bodies with impairments were represented in all ad campaigns regularly. Someone’s body should not be a marketing gimmick, it shouldn’t be an afterthought. It should just be a given that you want to represent them. Have a read about the thoughts of a disabled blogger, Shona Louise, here. Diversity isn’t a trend, it’s a requirement.
4 – You’ve only used young models
I dunno about you, but you don’t stop being aspirational when you reach 30. Yeah, everyone wants to know the secrets to youth, I get it – but older bodies are also worthy of representation. Half of the world if not more than half is over the age of 30. Women over 30 have better paid jobs, they know what they want and how to get it. They are becoming wise to the tactics of advertising campaigns that exclude them.
Yes, I get it – your target demographic will probably be women in a certain age bracket depending on the type of product you are selling. That doesn’t mean that you can’t show your product being used by an older person without losing the youthful element that has engaged your younger customers. Age diversity is often overlooked, but just like other issues, it’s so easy to be age diverse.
Bloggers and influencers in the over 30 bracket are an excellent way to fill this gap. Influencers tend to already be aspirational, come with a following and they hit the age bracket bang on. But, as I have already said about a billion times, PAY YOUR CREATIVES. Just as you would pay a model, you need to pay your influencers. Their time is valuable. You are paying them to do a job and just because the outcome is mutual for both of you in terms of exposure, you are still using their time.
5 – You’ve not listened to feedback
Picture the scene – you’ve put out a well meaning ad campaign that has fallen short of the mark. People are losing their shit about it online and your brand is taking a bit of a beating. What’s the worst thing you could do? Delete comments, ignore whats happening and just keep pushing on with the campaign – that’s what. Just own up when something goes wrong and listen to the words of those that you have wronged. In their feedback, you will find the answers to the issues. All you need to do next, is implement them where you can.
Brands have a great chance to be diverse now more than ever, they just need to take that chance!