Why Your Marketing Strategy Should Embrace Cultural Diversity

B2B marketing to millennials

On May 27, General Mills aired its latest commercial for Cheerios, featuring a mixed-race family – white mom, black dad, and biracial daughter. African-American audiences had an overwhelmingly positive response to the ad, which was popular among all viewers surveyed by television analytics firm Ace Metrix. Only a handful of vocal, backward-thinking Internet trolls were upset by the diversity-focused commercial, posting what General Mills characterized as “horrible, racist comments” on YouTube.

It’s not the first time General Mills has been the subject of inappropriate rage. Last year, activists criticized the company for failing to support a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in Minnesota, where the company is based.

General Mills is doing what a lot of other companies should be doing: Acknowledging that their customers aren’t just heterosexual or Caucasian. If you’re not thinking about diversity in your marketing campaigns, you’re missing out on opportunities to attract more brand advocates.

A realistic picture

Some of the nasty comments about the Cheerios commercial implied that the family wasn’t realistic. But the commercial’s star, Grace Colbert, has a black father and white mother in real life. Many people in the United States have parents of different ethnicities, and the concept of ethnic minorities and majorities is on the verge of extinction.

Last December, the U.S. Census Bureau projected that by 2060, the country will become a “plurality nation,” meaning no ethnic group will hold a true majority. Ethnic minorities – which the Census defines as single-race, non-Hispanic whites – account for 37 percent of the population today, and that number is expected to increase to 57 percent by 2060.

Even though we’re becoming more diverse as a nation every day, some businesses seem to be stuck in the 20th century, choosing images of svelte white people for their websites, catalogs, and marketing materials. And that sends a subtle message to everyone else: “This product or service that we offer is not for you.”

Reach out

Last year, the projected buying power of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender adults in the U.S. was $790 billion. One could assume that at least some of that money was spent on Cheerios because LGBT consumers respond favorably to companies that support their rights.

General Mills also values diversity within its own ranks, and in business, internal diversity is usually what drives a company’s external attention to diversity. About two years ago, author and marketing guru Jay Baer made a prescient observation regarding the use of social media marketing.

“If social media is going to be a public ‘face’ of organizations, and drive kinship with the populace, we have to do more than rely on a bunch of 30-year-old White people to do so,” Baer wrote on his blog. “As an industry, we cannot fall into the same trap that the advertising business did, whereby they continue to struggle with attracting and retaining a diverse workforce 30+ years after it was first identified as a shortcoming.”

Because the faces of our audiences are changing, we must change with them. It’s not enough to create commercials with multiracial families or feature same-sex couples in print ads; social media must devote time and resources in identifying the personas that make up their customer base and give them exactly what they need, when they need it, with content that speaks directly to them. At its heart, American culture is a mosaic of subcultures—and it’s our business to treat each one equally and respectfully.

How have you worked toward diversity in your branding efforts? Tell us in the comments.

Image credit: ButterflyNannies