Demonstrating inclusion and diversity in advertising and promotion is not just socially and morally right, it is also good for business, Kantar has found.
The UK-based data analytics and brand consulting company said progressive and inclusive marketing is no longer just an option, but an imperative that can improve return on investment (ROI).
Kantar data shows that consumer groups that were previously seen as “minorities” are growing in size, buying power, and influence, but are still not reflected representatively in advertising today.
The consultancy said that while people worldwide are living longer, only 6% of ads show people aged 65 years and above. And although 15% of the world’s population has some form of disability, persons with disabilities feature in only 1% of ads.
About 5% of the world’s population identifies as LGBTQIA+, but only 1% of ads overtly show gay/lesbian characters.
Further, 25% of ads now feature people with diverse skin color and 19% have different ethnicities represented, but these ads differ significantly by regions around the world.
Women are also well represented in ads now, but “we see age-old stereotypes, with boys who want to be firefighters and girls who want to be princesses. We often continue to see women as cooks and cleaners, and we still see sexualised portrayals of women in 2% of ads,” said Kantar.
It is, however, not enough to just include underrepresented groups in ads. “This alone has no impact on an ad’s ability to build brand equity or increase short-term sales. The key to success is showing underrepresented groups in a positive way,” the company said.
Kantar data indicates that ads showing underrepresented groups positively are likely to see an increase in short-term sales of 23% as compared to a 1% increase from just showing underrepresented groups.
In the long term, underrepresented ads have a negative 1% impact on brand equity, which refers to the social value of a brand name. On the other hand, similar ads but showing underrepresented groups in a positive way improve the power of a brand by as much as 45% in the long run.
Kantar has identified three effective approaches to inclusive advertising. These are “through casting, the stories you tell, or what you choose to stand for as a brand. Within each route, there are many approaches to activation. The best approach for a brand depends on what is authentic to its heritage and strategy.”
An inclusive casting approach shows underrepresented groups in a central role in a story that doesn’t focus on inclusion and diversity as a topic. These ads often show people in “slice of life” situations where they previously haven’t been shown, thus recognizing their everyday experiences.
The inclusive storytelling approach tells a story that revolves around an underrepresented group in order to communicate brand messages. These stories are only possible because of who is in them. “It might feel like more of a risk for some brands, but it can produce emotionally powerful stories that enhance a brand’s positioning,” Kantar said.
A purposely inclusive approach to advertising seeks to inspire change by tackling stereotypes, making people’s lives easier with a product or service, or taking their side in the face of injustice. To deliver “inclusion as purpose” authentically, a brand must show full commitment to the purpose in its business activities and not just through its advertising.
“In the past, one of the reasons for lack of inclusion may have come from fear of alienating audiences that aren’t like the people represented in ads. Our data clearly shows that including people who are different from the audience doesn’t harm the ad and, if done well, can improve ROI,” concluded Kantar.