In this guest post, Garth Williamson (main photo), country manager ANZ at Shutterstock, says all the evidence is in for a more inclusive workplace, but asks why are so many still shunning the idea?
The evidence is clear; inclusive marketing increases brand reach, consumer engagement and drives customer brand advocacy. And yet, few brands are actually achieving this. Why is this the case? And what can Australian brands do about it?
Brands focused on building deeper connections with specific audiences through representation and inclusion encourage return business and drive customer brand advocacy, particularly among younger generations. Diverse policies also have tangible bottom-line impact, with gender-diverse leadership teams more likely to outperform on profitability (21 per cent) and value creation (27 per cent) than those who are not.
On top of this, the past year has changed how Australians interact with one another. As brands explore this new lockdown landscape, the opportunity to digitally connect and engage with potential consumers has never been greater.
Australia’s consumer market is diverse, however, by not implementing more inclusive practices brands are missing significant opportunities to engage new audiences and grow their bottom line.
Why aren’t big brands doing more?
Most brands report to shareholders and boards, and can be subjected to ‘group think’.
What this means is that ‘decisions by committee’ are highly unlikely to explore new ways of doing things and are more inclined to default to the ‘safe’ option of doing what has always previously worked (Psychologists for Social Responsibility).
In addition, there is a very real risk that businesses can offend groups if diversity and inclusion is not approached with care. Because of this, it can take time for companies to implement more inclusive practices. Shutterstock understands the importance of representing diversity in content.
In order to gain and maintain a competitive advantage in the current market, brands need to begin implementing inclusive marketing strategies to reach new audiences and maintain current stakeholder engagement.
While brands take time to catch up on this front, consumers are expecting change now. To help drive this change, Shutterstock is leading by example with its partnership with the It Gets Better Project. This project is working to educate businesses about the power diverse media can have, particularly within the media and advertising industries.
Walk the diversity walk
Beyond the societal benefits of better representation, diversity and inclusion drives loyalty and boots profitability.
This is being driven by a move to cynicism by consumers, particularly in younger generations. Millennials and Gen Z no longer believe the government can make a positive impact on society. However, these generations know their spending impact can, in fact, force change.
For them, inclusivity is becoming an increasingly important topic as consumers demand brands take action on social issues and lead by example. Diversity and inclusion relates to a broader audience: Millennials and Gen Z have grown up and these two groups hold significant spending power in the Australian market. However, how these groups perceive businesses has changed.
According to research from Deloitte, less than half of Millennials and Gen Z believe businesses have had a positive impact on society. Without a strong focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion across all facets of a business’s communication strategy, brands can risk appearing out of touch, distant, or even offensive to millennials and Gen Z, further alienating an increasingly valuable market.
How inclusive marketing helps tap new audiences
According to a recent 2021 survey by Shutterstock into LGBTQ+, representation in images, 40.1 per cent felt that they were not being represented correctly.
Additionally, while more than 50 per cent of Australia’s population are women, a report into gender bias in advertising found more than 70 per cent of women feel alienated by current advertising, because much of it, particularly in Australia, still shows women in stereotypical caregiver/domestic roles, with men depicted as the providers.
A study in 2019 found nearly a quarter of consumers are more likely to purchase products and services from brands with diverse advertisements, with 21 per cent of respondents saying they have boycotted brands that don’t showcase diversity. It also found 56 per cent of people state lack of diversity would impact their perception of a brand, and 29 per cent of Australians are more likely to trust brands that have more diverse ads.
Diverse audiences are a big part of the Australian consumer landscape, from people with disabilities to First Nations people, and brands unable to tap into these audiences are not only lacking an inclusive marketing strategy, but an effective growth strategy, too.
From profitability to productivity, diversity and inclusion has evolved from a social issue to providing businesses with tangible benefits that brands cannot afford to miss.