Diageo: We want to give a voice to the non-binary community

05 Oct 2017  |  Ellen Hammett 
Diageo: We want to give a voice to the non-binary community

After setting out to make all of its advertising gender-neutral eight years ago, and cutting ties with an image once centered around "male bravado", Diageo is now using its Smirnoff brand as a force for good in advertising.

Speaking at the Festival of Marketing on Thursday (5 October), Diageo's global brand director, Anita Robinson, said it is time to take the drinks manufacturer's role in shaping society "a step further" in an industry that still struggles with the way it represents men and woman.

"Advertising is slowly moving to a more equitable place...but the fact that we’re only just catching up in terms of how females are portrayed shows the journey we still have to go on," Robinson said.

"The next stage in our campaign with Smirnoff is to give a voice to the non-binary community. We’re going to try and spark conversations and really move the gender conversation on to the next level."

For Diageo, this means working much closer with the LGBTQ+ community, alongside communities which encourage self-expression, to try and "use the power of good times to make the world more inclusive".

One of the most recent initiatives, launched earlier this year, is to double the number of female-identified DJs and producers in the electronic music scene.

Meanwhile, in celebration of this year's Pride, the drinks brand released limited edition bottles celebrating LBGQT couples.

"We think this is a really exciting place for the brand to be," Robinson added. "It’s good for society, it’s good for our brand - and actually it’s really good for our business as well. Our brand health is in good shape and we have a growing share in a very competitive vodka market."

Despite receiving letters threatening to never buy their products again, Robinson said the response has mostly been positive - and that Smirnoff's brand purpose, naturally, won't appeal to everybody.

"You have to decide where you want to be," she said.

Stonewall - the charity representing lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people across Britain - estimates that the LBGTQ community has an estimated spending power of more than £70 billion.

However, new research from Simpson Carpenter, unveiled at the Festival of Marketing, suggests advertisers are falling short when it comes to representing different gender identities and sexual orientations.

40% of survey respondents said they do not think the advertising industry accurately portrays different gender identities, while 33% said the same for sexual orientation.

This compares to just 9% who feel women are not accurately portrayed.

Meanwhile, almost half (49%) of the LGBTQ+ community said they feel more positively about brands and products which portray minority groups in their advertising, while 41% said they are more likely to buy from inclusive brands.

Better representation in ads might be about to pick up speed, with a report conducted by the Advertising Standards Authority this summer concluding that stronger regulation is required to limit the negative impacts of ads that feature stereotypical gender roles.

The report, Depictions, Perceptions and Harm, was prompted by a number of gender issues that have gained public interest recently, and examines gender stereotyping across several spheres, including body image, objectification, sexualisation, gender characteristics and roles, and mocking people for not conforming to gender stereotypes.

The evidence suggests that harmful stereotypes can restrict the choices, aspirations and opportunities of children, young people and adults.

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18 Apr 2019 

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