Global organizations face significant challenges in developing marketing and communication campaigns that are globally consistent and yet also able to resonate locally. Failing to consider diverse audiences in developing campaigns has resulted in some spectacular fails over the years. But further to the potential embarrassment of running an insensitive or inaccurate advertisement, are businesses missing out by failing to reflect the needs and views of their increasingly global and diverse customers in their marketing and communication activities?
We’re surrounded by customer marketing all day, every day
From the moment we open our eyes and turn off the alarm, we consume information. We check our phones and social media and invariably come across a plethora of advertising, sponsored content and advertorials. We head to work and encounter a new set: billboards, pamphlets handed out in the street—even advertising on the cup of the coffee we purchased. And when we return home to collapse in front of the TV, we engage in a whole lot more.
Media, housing, transport, food, household goods, healthcare, clothes, banking, insurance—there are literally billions of customer interactions occurring around the world each day. And almost all of these represent a customer’s choice, with organizations vying for a share of the customer wallet.
The response? “Customer-centricity” has become the new mantra. More than a fresh look at branding and product design, chief marketing officers are homing in on the “customer experience.” Raising important questions for organizations like: Is it clear what the brand stands for? Do the services and products match the brand’s promise for customers? And, is the customer experience creating advocates or detractors?
Lastly, there’s a bigger question: Are we saturated with a colorful marketing kaleidoscope, or are the messages drawn from a narrow color palette. To what extent does marketing have a blind-spot about customer diversity?
How to cut through in the media-laden landscape
Chief among the concerns of today’s marketing and communication professionals is how to develop and implement global campaigns that resonate with audiences that are not homogenous—audiences that come with varying (and sometimes opposing) motivations, desires and cultural symbols/rituals.
Having seen growth in knowledge about attracting and retaining diverse employees, Deloitte’s recent research on customer diversity posed this question: Could insights about diverse employees apply to the world of customers? The findings are particularly pertinent to marketing and communication professionals working for global organizations.
The old adage of marketing used to be that “sex sells,” but what Deloitte’s research uncovered was a shift to a new mantra: “equality sells.” In today’s era of social media, where supporters and detractors can make or break any marketing campaign, it is perhaps more true now than ever that customers are using their individual purchasing power to endorse organizations that fit with their personal moral codes and who actively support causes that are important to them.
Further, in an age of political division, messages of equality reflect who we aspire to be. Smart marketers know this. It’s why Airbnb aired an advertisement at the U.S. Super Bowl with beautifully morphing culturally diverse faces, and Audi ran an ad about gender equality, featuring a young girl determined to win her go-cart race.
These messages speak even more loudly to diverse customers who currently sit at the margins of how businesses define their customers.
Missing Out report findings at-a-glance
The Missing Out report unearthed that the ambit and impact of the “equality sells” movement has been gaining momentum.
- Negative customer stories reveal a combination of overt stereotypes and unconscious biases, combined with a lack of awareness and/or focus, which create subtle (and, in some cases, not so subtle) acts of exclusion.
- There is extra selling power in communicating an organization’s commitment to equality. One in two “diverse customers” surveyed said that their buying choices were positively influenced by an organization’s reputation on gender equality, marriage equality, and diversity and inclusion of different ages, abilities and cultures.
- These individuals were about twice as likely to recommend an organization to another person based on its equality reputation. Conversely, they are also three times more likely to avoid an organization and twice as likely to dissuade others because of an organization’s negative diversity reputation.
With these findings in mind, there are a number of day-to-day challenges that marketing and communication professionals will need to face and overcome, in order to avoid causing offense and instead create and activate successful communication campaigns that will resonate.
Navigating the challenges of global communication and marketing campaigns
Communication 101 operates on an almost universally known, tried and tested methodology: “know your audience” and target their “hot buttons” in your key messaging.
However, global audiences are not homogenous. Further, businesses stand to gain by going out of their way to meet the needs of their diverse customers—as they are likely to be rewarded with stalwart supporters who not only return for repeat business but will actively campaign within their communities on behalf of that organization. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true: Where organizations have missed the mark, they can pay dearly, with advertisements gaining notoriety for all the wrong reasons.
Inclusive tip 1: Global marketing and communication team should collaborate early on with their local market counterparts and make an effort to break down barriers and build bridges to facilitate communication and coordination. Local teams will have a plethora of knowledge regarding their audiences and be better equipped to tailor global assets to suit their market.
Hold a mirror up to your customer: Ensure diverse representation
For any global organization, ensuring diverse representation in marketing or communication material is a challenge. Many companies today rely on stock photography resources, and a lot of these images rely on stereotypical dress or other cultural signifiers to portray the desired look. However, when many organizations use the same photography platforms, it is not uncommon to find the same pictures used by any number of global firms in differing campaigns. It is up to businesses to craft authentic representations for local audiences that will resonate.
Further, in written communications such as press releases, a common pitfall is failing to include local spokespeople and instead rely on global executives whose language and messaging may miss the mark locally.
Inclusive tip 2: Conduct an audit of your image library and Run the Ruler from a diversity perspective. Ask yourself: Are the images you are using speaking to your diverse audiences or alienating them? Do they rely on inaccurate stereotypes? No image library will ever be able to capture every culture and race, so it can be useful to identify priority markets and ensure sufficient diversity. In key markets, it is worth seeking exclusivity on images or commissioning a photographer for unique imagery. For written communication, ensure that local spokespeople are included to help. Even smaller things like switching from U.K. to U.S. English or vice-versa to suit the market can make a big difference.
Know where your campaign fits: Be culturally curious
It is imperative to have an understanding of local market conditions and dates of significance when rolling out a global campaign in local markets. Certain dates may conflict and cause unintended consequences. For example, Pringles ran a promotion on their crisps in the U.K. in 2015 that included a new smoky bacon flavor for Ramadan, including in one of London’s largest Islamic communities.
Inclusive tip 3: Be culturally curious and take the “When in Rome” approach. Find the local stories and contacts to bring your communication to life. With global marketing and communication campaigns, it’s all about “think global, act local.” To an Italian living in Italy, the local soft drink campaign should seem like it was developed and created just for Italy, rather than being a rehash of an American campaign.
We believe that great things happen when all our voices are heard. Here’s an example of Deloitte’s own equality marketing campaign.