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Go Beyond the Trends: Why DEI in Marketing Should Be A Must-Have, Instead of A Good-to-Have

Diversity, equity, and inclusion, commonly referred to as DEI, is something few have heard of before 2020. However, with the increase in support for #BlackLivesMatter, and communities coming together to honor the memories of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, DEI has been tossed around, forcing brands and marketers to finally pay more attention.

Before I get into why DEI should always be a “must-have” instead of a “good-to-have,” I wanted to give a little more context to what DEI is. 

At its core, DEI in marketing represents, elevates, and welcomes different identities through content. Its purpose is to create a space where everyone feels invited and can contribute. These differences include gender, age, race, sexual orientation, social and economic status, and ability. DEI is also about acknowledging the systems that have caused division and oppression and creating new ones that allow equal participation by all. 

If this sounds like a bunch of jargon, I’ll use a prom planning committee as a metaphor:

  • Diversity is the presence of different people at your prom and diverse people in the decision-making room. 
  • Equity realizes that your prom may not be as welcoming or readily accessible to different types of people. For instance, how much will you charge for prom tickets? How are you promoting access to the prom? The people in the decision-making room matter, and they should consider these factors to have a diverse prom.
  • Inclusion is the outcome and impact of the proposed change. Are you making prom free to allow everyone from the school to attend? Will the music, entertainment, food, etc., reflect the diverse people you want to hear? When people representing a specific community contribute ideas and solutions, you create a welcoming, inclusive atmosphere.

Regarding marketing, DEI can amplify your brand’s message and help audiences connect better. Marketing exists at the unique intersection of reflecting real life and shaping it through storytelling. DEI in marketing allows for stories that often are either whitewashed or never get shared to finally have an audience. The audience can relate more to stories that reflect features and elements related to their lives.

According to a study that Vimeo published around DEI, a diverse and inclusive approach to marketing has bottom-line advantages, including: 

  • 83% of Millennials prefer to buy from companies that align with their beliefs and values
  • 71% will pay more for a product if they know some proceeds will go to charity
  • 61% of consumers think diversity in marketing is crucial
  • 38% are more inclined to trust brands that “effectively embrace diversity in their marketing.”
  •  71% of the LGBTQ+ community are more likely to interact with online content that authentically represents their sexuality.

Beyond the statistics on how DEI can help increase sales, for many people, like myself, representation in the media we consume matters. If not for more brands incorporating DEI into media, the general public would still have viewed people from the Black community as thugs or in gangs due to what was mostly portrayed in movies in the 80s and 90s. Asian masculinity would continue to dwindle even faster due to all the locker-room jokes. And people living on the spectrum would not have been allowed to show the world that they live lives just like everyone else.

It’s fantastic to have the community reflected in front of the camera. Still, it’s another level of authenticity when the same community is creating the scene. As marketers, what can we do to be better at DEI?

  • Hire a multicultural marketing agency or one where DEI is at the center of its core values. This goes for the actual team who works on your brand too! 
  • Test your diversity messaging with consumers.
  • Give back to the communities you target.
  • Research culture, not profit off of it!
  • Don’t stereotype and promote authentic diversity.

You can watch my presentation on inclusive tourism marketing when I spoke at eTourism Summit’s Connect Thrive Conference in 2021 to get more background on the topic.

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Wiley Koehler

Wiley Koehler

Data Analyst & Ads Specialist
Wiley Koehler

Wiley Koehler

Data Analyst & Ads Specialist

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