Why Diversity Is Important In Influencer Marketing
Thursday Feb 27th, 2020
Reading Time: 7 minutes
When brands embrace diversity and inclusion, they also build trust and boost their bottom line. Yet, many companies continue to invest in influencer campaigns that lack representation. In hopes of inspiring brands to branch out from the western standard of beauty, we’re digging into the importance of diversity and inclusion.
Demystifying the Buzzword
In the context of influencer campaigns, diversity is about including people from different races, genders, body types, sexual orientations, generations, religious backgrounds, and educational levels. Moreover, it’s about working with content creators with different perspectives.
When you have a campaign with a diverse group of people, you’re able to tell a better, more insightful story about your brand. Chief relationship officer at EGAMI Group, Micke Warner, spelled out his concept of diversity in an interview with Google:
When I was a kid, I used to like to color, and there would be a box of crayons that had eight in them. But then, there was one that [had] 16, and, oh boy, there was [one with] 32. And don’t let me get to that 128. I was like, ‘Oh, I’m going to be a master artist.’ Why wouldn’t you want the 128? It gives you more opportunity to make a greater tapestry, a greater picture, a greater story.
Social media gives brands and consumers an opportunity to connect with diverse groups around the world. When people take that opportunity, they can foster new friendships, more empathy, and deeper connections. Remember, diversity isn’t just about race; it’s about celebrating and encouraging what makes us individuals.
Redefining Beauty and Increasing Representation
Every industry is guilty of exclusion in their selection process. However, fashion and beauty brands have a habit of subscribing to stereotypical beauty standards (i.e., a white, thin, blonde female). Sometimes this kind of exclusion is unintentional. But that's all the more reason for brands to be conscientious of their selection process.
Because here's the truth: It's not just influencers who are frustrated with the pattern of exclusion, it's consumers. There is a demand for brands to improve their representation.
According to a study by Barkley and Futurecast titled, there are three critical social issues that rise above the rest:
Sexual orientation equality
Younger generations are also quicker to eliminate brands that do not foster an inclusive community. But, just as importantly, consumers want ads that are “real.” In fact, about 80 percent of GenZs and Millennials said they like ads that show real people in real situations. But authenticity is important to any age. About 70 percent of people:
Agree that they want to see ads that show real people, not just gender stereotypes from the past
Said they don’t like ads that make life look perfect
For example, many women are not a size zero. In fact, most women are not a size zero. That’s why brands like Universal Standard are so important, as they represent a neglected yet essential demographic of women.
If your brand message involves excluding people, it's time you rebrand.
Consumers want to buy from brands that share similar values to their own. In their landmark 2017 report, Cone Communications notes that "Communicating strong corporate social responsibility consistently reaps reputational and bottom-line benefits year-over-year."
Researchers also found that, given the same price and quality, 89 percent of people are willing to switch to a brand that’s associated with a good cause. Moreover:
64% think companies should stand up for LGBTQ rights.
76% are willing to withhold spending if they learn a brand supports an issue contrary to their beliefs.
87% of Americans expect companies to support racial equality
Considerations Before Starting a Campaign
Influencer marketing is about spreading brand awareness to everyone through high-quality content. By aligning with a diverse network of influencers, brands can inform a wider variety of individuals about their products. Before starting your influencer campaign, take a look at these four tips to help you foster diversity:
1. Make Merit A Guiding Metric
Influencers are professional content creators. Therefore, you should choose influencers based on:
the quality of their content
social key performance indicators (KPIs)
If their posts are strong, their followers are real, and their engagement rates are high, then demographics shouldn’t matter. Additionally, go beyond micro-influencers’ physical appearance and focus on their content. People want content creators with a wide range of looks and styles.
2. Don’t Let Your Team Use “Context” As An Excuse
When it comes to influencer marketing, context is critical. For example, if you’re a toy company, it makes sense to align with influencers with children. If you make men’s jeans, it makes sense to partner with male influencers.
However, it’s important to consider if your brand is discriminating, even inadvertently. Also, ensure that your team isn’t using “contextual relevance” as an excuse. On the flipside, “tokenism” is equally offensive. For instance, inviting a person of color just to “cover your bases” does not constitute diversity.
Similarly, it’s not enough for brands to simply state that they welcome diversity. Consumers want to see action. For instance, Think with Google found that 70% of black millennials would be more likely to buy from a brand that takes a stand on race issues. Considering African Americans harness the power of $1.2 trillion in annual spending, brands have a lot to lose.
That said, in instances where influencers have to “opt-in” to work with a brand, it’s impossible to “guarantee” an equal distribution of people. However, it is possible to be equitable in your outreach or ask an influencer agency to help you cast a wider net. Both of these initiatives are easy to do and can help you foster a more diverse brand community.
In terms of context, there is another notion of being "on-brand," that can minimize diversity. However, if your brand message involves excluding people, it's time you rebrand. By doing so, you'll not only be doing the right thing, but people will reward your brand for its inclusivity.
3. Fight Your Unconscious Bias
Everyone has innate biases, many of which are subconscious. But when we recognize that, we’re in a better position to make good choices. As a former Marketing Executive at Gap Inc. Airbnb, and Nike, Eri Toda told Forbes:
“You tend to see marketers let their unconscious biases make decisions. It's not a secret that marketing is a predominantly white industry, so naturally, there are marketers who choose influencers who look like them; it's safe, it's relatable, but unfortunately, it's not real life.
As marketers, we continue to be one of the only industries in the world that can influence large masses of people; we can do that in the effort of good, or we can choose the other route. We need to put values-driven messages out there, show real-life versus a sterilized mirage, and instill purpose. You can achieve this by partnering with influencers that represent different stories, races, socioeconomic backgrounds, etc.”
If you’ve inadvertently excluded people from campaigns, it’s not too late to right the ship. It’s important to remember that your brand doesn’t have to be perfect to make an impactful change. In a Cone Communications survey, 91% of Americans say it’s okay if a company is not perfect, as long as it is honest about its efforts. Case in point: consumers are looking for transparency and progress.
4. Partner with an Agency with a Diverse Network
Finding real influencers who produce high-quality content is already a difficult challenge. Add to that a social responsibility to promote diversity, and it is easy to see how brands could get overwhelmed. But, it doesn’t have to be complicated.
Partner with an agency that has made diversity a cornerstone of their vetted network. By doing so, you can build an inclusive brand community that welcomes new customers.
How to Work with a Diverse Group of Influencers
Diversity is a complex issue, and really, this piece just scratches the surface. However, brands can only benefit from being more conscientious of their selection process.
To get started, we recommend working with an agency that has a diverse, vetted network where content creators opt in to work with brands. This process helps eliminate brand bias in creator selection. If you’re interested in ApexDrop’s campaigns and how we aim to foster diversity, please schedule a call.