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Kevin Sharpless 

All things being equal, the time is now

All things being equal, the time is now

Why should we address Diversity & Inclusion in marketing? Kevin Sharpless, head of marketing, EMEA, Bloomberg Media offers answers

What role do brands play in portraying an equal and inclusive narrative, and what difference does it really make when they do it, or not? Why should marketers concern themselves with better representation at all, and why do so many choose to ignore it?   

I suspect some brands fear a backlash, or that they will clumsily approach the topic with good intentions but poor execution. So, why bother? Why invite the scrutiny? It’s a feeling that many of us – both personally and professionally – can relate to.

I share that same anxiety as I sit here and pen this column. Who am I to challenge marketers, my team members, or even my own company to prioritise Diversity & Inclusion in their brand communication?

Here’s what I keep coming back to: We are all responsible for elevating the conversation on equality in marketing communications. We are all responsible for providing a platform for diverse voices that better reflect the world in which we live.

As leaders, as contributors to this industry, and as allies to all those who make up the rich tapestry of humanity, it’s time to double down.

Few doubt that creativity is most honest and effective when dynamic and unique voices contribute to the mix.

Aside from the reams of data that demonstrate uplift in brand perception when more voices are represented, there is now overwhelming evidence that diversity and inclusion shouldn’t be box ticking – it should be best practice.

Brands can shift attitudes and understanding in a fundamentally positive way.

Procter & Gamble’s “LGBTQ Inclusion in Advertising and Media” report reveals that non-LGBTQ+ people who are exposed to LGBTQ+ media images are more likely to experience increasing levels of acceptance and comfortability towards LGBTQ+ people.

It goes on to insist that companies benefit from including LGBTQ+ people in advertisements, with the vast majority of non-LGBTQ+ consumers looking favourably upon companies that do so.

The Unstereotype Alliance and Kantar recently published findings from a 2019-2020 study, which measured over 3,500 advertisements across 56 countries, 1,100 brands and 29 categories.

It found that progressive advertising is more powerful, distinctive, and resonant and is linked with a higher intention to purchase.

Diverse companies are more likely to financially outperform their peers too, and by at least 25%, according to WPP’s 2020 Capital Markets Day.

The events of this past year have clearly raised our collective global conscience. Equality and inclusion are no longer nice-to-haves. They are global imperatives, inextricably linked to the most significant forces shaping our world today — from how business gets done to addressing climate change, global health and education.

It is with this idea in mind that we will be expanding our Bloomberg Equality franchise this year, led by a dedicated Equality Task Force that is already working across our newsroom.

The Bloomberg Equality Summit this month convened leaders across business, government and non-profits who want to learn, grow and thrive as they build a more equitable world.

We know that this is a global story with interwoven narratives that touch every aspect of our lives, and we have the ability to capture this view as no one else can — with more journalists and analysts based in more countries than any other news organisation. And we apply the same facts-based, data-driven approach that is synonymous with the Bloomberg brand.

As consumers move to become increasingly more “belief-driven buyers”, last year’s Edelman Trust Barometer Global Report indicated 64% of consumers expect brands to act.

They believe brands can be a powerful voice for change. They expect brands to represent them and help to solve societal problems.

Subsequently, this belief-driven consumer votes with their wallet.

In Edelman’s 2021 Trust Barometer Report, an ever growing amount of trust is being put toward businesses and brands for being the highest trusted institutions versus government, media, and NGOs. With 61% trust approval, businesses are more trusted than government in 18 of the 27 countries surveyed. That’s a +2 point increase from 2020.

The late, great and wonderfully original Oscar Wilde wrote: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

I am increasingly of the view that it is this notion of uniqueness that makes our world interesting and fresh. Uniqueness inspires. If brought together, diverse groups of people can literally change the world. Let’s tell multicultural brand stories for a multicultural age.

With all things being equal, the time is now.

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