Sometimes when you finish writing an article, you may struggle a bit to find a catchy headline. You look for something that could immediately break through the clutter, maybe something with a sense of humor, sometimes a breaking news approach. However, that’s not the case for this article. Sorry, but this time I went with a direct headline. Why? Because I believe it is crucial to address this topic in a very straightforward manner.
Over the past few months, we have witnessed an uptick on the debate around the importance of Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) for Corporate America, and this is excellent news. After all, we live in the most diverse and multicultural society America has ever seen. Furthermore, for the next two decades, we are on the path of becoming a “minority-majority” country. Any effort to enhance this debate and make our business environment more reflective of the societal changes we are witnessing should be welcomed and supported.
The not-so-good news is that for some corporations, D&I may be competing, or worse, replacing existing multicultural marketing programs, at least from a resource allocation perspective. Don’t get me wrong; I believe both concepts are equally important, and I understand they may be considered related. But the risk of treating them as the same thing is what may hurt a brand’s bottom line.
In my experience, a strong D&I program is necessary for corporations to build an organization that reflects the society and marketplace they operate in. Diversity helps in bringing the right representation, and inclusion is a must to having these voices heard at the decision-making level.
An effective D&I program can serve as a springboard for an inclusive approach across all stakeholders, including not only employees but also suppliers, retailers and consumers. And precisely because retailers, and consumers should be engaged in this effort, the multicultural marketing discipline and its expertise is required.
D&I efforts are not truly complete without a multicultural marketing strategy, and multicultural marketing strategies may be incomplete and ineffective if developed without people who understand the new demographic paradigm of America.
I spoke with Gonzalo del Fa, President of GroupM Multicultural, a leading multicultural media planning and buying agency, and Chairman of the Board of the Culture Marketing Council, the association that represents multicultural advertising experts. This is his opinion on the relationship between D&I and multicultural marketing:
“Some marketers believe that having a D&I corporate program can replace having a multicultural marketing strategy. Unfortunately, that is not true. D&I is an internal effort that a corporation commits to encouraging a work environment that inspires diversity of representation and thought, promotes and celebrates inclusivity, and provides equitable opportunities to all.
“Multicultural Marketing is an external effort for a corporation to promote and sell products or services, including market research and advertising to one or more audiences of a specific ethnic background.
“We have proof that D&I is a source of tremendous benefit for organizations because differences in background, experiences, and thinking lead to increased innovation and insight. However, those innovations and insights need to be communicated to multicultural consumers in a relevant and authentic way, and that is only possible by having a proper multicultural marketing strategy.
“A D&I program is always welcome for a corporation to create an inclusive working environment, but a multicultural strategy is imperative for a business to grow.”
I also talked about this topic with industry leaders, Monique Nelson, and Doug Freeman, from Uniworld Group, a leading multicultural ad agency. I asked them for their take on this topic:
“Establishing value-driven, inclusive leadership programs that are branded and recognized both by employees and leaders as value-creation activities allow for an inclusive journey that will truly yield results. It can shape our opinions of ourselves and the people around us for better or worse. To ensure that advertising is truly representative means that businesses, when engaging consumers, suppliers, distributors, and employees, must understand and share a common goal, that we all exist together in our communities, in our companies, and on this common planet.
“Above all, make sure your most valuable asset, your people, are taken care of and nurtured through this journey. Lots of things change, but humans are still the consumers, the employees, and the ultimate change agents.”
When thinking about this important topic, I like the simple and on-point definition given to me by one of my mentors and managers, Luis Miguel Messianu: “D&I is about values, and multicultural marketing is about driving value.” It’s time to bring these two together in a meaningful way. It’s time to connect internal and external efforts in an aligned and synchronized fashion.