Check your privilege. It’s a phrase you’ve probably heard over the past few years. According to the website Know Your Meme, it is most commonly used ‘by social justice bloggers to remind others that the body and life they are born into comes with specific privileges that do not apply to all arguments or situations’.
In other words, your opinion or view of the world might be coloured by your experience. So if you’re a white man, you go through life experiencing the world differently to a black man, for example.
Here’s a great real-life example of how ‘privilege’ works in practice:
Diversity in marketing and workforce
Now, you probably already have a diverse workplace. You’re probably (and rightly) quite proud of that. We live in a society comprising people of all colours, creeds, genders, sexualities, religions, abilities and so on — and that’s bound to be reflected in your workforce.
But how is it reflected in your marketing activity? Are ethnically diverse people represented in the photographs on your website? Did black or Asian members of staff feature in your last corporate video? Was it presented by a woman? Or an ethnically diverse member of staff? Does your advertising feature someone in a niqab or hijab? Or a kippah? Do you advertise in publications targeting people with disabilities? Or the elderly? Or the LGBT community?
Late last year Marketing Week polled 2000 consumers and found 65 per cent thought ‘marketing and advertising fails to recognise the full range of lives and experiences of people across the country’. The respondents happened to be in Britain, but you can bet the experience translates to other developed multicultural countries, including Australia. A separate poll of 754 marketing professionals found that 42 per cent of marketers believed the brands they worked for were ‘failing to reflect contemporary society in their marketing and advertising’.
Diversity is not about tokenism
Why does it matter?
Often quoted on the subject is Michael P. Krone, author of a 2007 paper called ‘Diversity Marketing & Cultural Awareness’. Businesses, Krone says, need to resemble the communities and customers they serve.
‘If your customers are different than you and they feel unrecognised, you will begin to lose them’, he writes.
Krone argues businesses need to ask themselves who their customers are (chances are they’re not all white men) and then market in an inclusive, representative and targeted way. This isn’t about tokenism or ‘ticking a box’. This is about diversity and reflecting the society around you — the very people who make up your customer base. It can’t be tacked on. It still needs to be as authentic as any other marketing activity you undertake.
Reflecting diversity makes good business sense
But apart from a ‘feel-good’ factor, what’s the pay-off?
As Krone says, businesses must adapt their offering to meet the demands of the market. Reaching out to more groups other than just ‘white people’ gives your business a competitive advantage.
‘Different racial, ethnic, and social communities have their own unique sources of information’, he says. ‘Identify them and then build a marketing plan that utilizes these resources to get your message out. Look for resources such as ethnic and social community newspapers, Yellow Pages, newsletters and the like, which are tailored to these individual communities.”
You can add digital to that mix, too.
Applying a ‘privilege check’ to your marketing activity shouldn’t be viewed as a challenge. It is, at the very least, an opportunity for your business. But more than that, it’s also the right thing to do. After all, it’s 2016.
If you’d like to talk to someone about your marketing strategy, contact the team at Lush – The Content Agency.