Controversial marketing campaigns in recent years have raised many questions about the marketing industry as well as the people signing-off on campaigns and decisions that have sparked outrage from consumers. (If you are not familiar with any such campaigns, I recommend you do your own online research into campaigns signed off by Dove or Nivea or even Uber for that matter and you will see why).
The fact is, both financially and morally, companies should be doing more to ensure diversity is represented within marketing and creative departments. Research conducted by Opinium Research (1). indicates that 55% of IT SMEs in the UK said they would be more likely to do business with another company known for its inclusive employment strategies, which further strengthens the business argument for promoting diversity within marketing structures of companies. And yet, despite these reasons, there is still a lack of diversity represented.
Having the presence of a diverse range of people in your creative department not only makes financial sense, but it would also help to ensure that sensitives are not overlooked during the development of campaigns and thus provide more trust and relatability towards your brand from consumers.
In addition, we live in a world that is more interconnected than ever, so surely it would be wise for businesses to consider the diversity concerns that exist as part of its marketing strategy, if it wishes to connect with a broad, multi-cultural demographic? The reality is however, that this is not happening as much as it should be. Working in Marketing Recruitment, I get to see organisational structures for all types of businesses and it is evident that companies need to do more to reflect diversity within its marketing operations – especially at management levels. By doing so, a business could easily increase its prospects of a return on investment (2). For example, by establishing a return on investment (ROI) based approach to diversifying a creative department, a business can increase its pool of ideas and creativity and improve the range of perspectives and experiences at its disposal to create campaigns that appeal to broader audiences.
The presence of ethnic minorities
As much as businesses may deny any negative bias in relation to recruitment, the fact of the matter is, I have seen first-hand how the cycle of reserving most of the senior marketing positions for people who are predominantly male, white, and middle-aged continues. When you combine this with the limited presence of women and ethnic minorities in senior marketing positions, it highlights that there must be both positive and negative bias (3) that exists within recruitment processes of marketing and creative departments. The prejudices around gender as well as the attitudes towards ethnic minorities (4) also serves as an explanation for the lukewarm pace in addressing diversity concerns within the senior ranks of marketing operations.
However, this should not be the case. On the contrary, it is likely hindering marketing success. For example, an independent review of race in the workplace carried out by Lady Ruby McGregor-Smith on behalf of the UK government, estimated that by ensuring full representation of ethnic minorities in the workplace, including senior roles, this could boost the British economy by £24 billion (5). Furthermore, research by McKinsey and Company revealed that businesses with the presence of ethnic minorities within the leadership structure were 33% more likely to outperform their peers on profitability (6).
The Gender Pay Gap Continues
A recent study conducted by Marketing Week (7) recently highlighted that there is still a long way to go to redress the gender pay gap too. The 2019 Marketing Week Career and Salary Survey showed that women are still earning less than men across every sector and at every level of seniority. This is unacceptable on all grounds – ethical, moral and financial. In fact, this gender pay gap is more than likely hindering business success rather than saving in employee salaries.
There are many studies that highlight the added value for companies that diversify the gender set up of their executive teams so it is important businesses start to do more to redress the balance and improve. In fact, when considering employment, 56% of women look at whether the organisation publicly shares its progress on diversity (8) – so perhaps this would be a good place for businesses to start? There is a battle for talent right now (I should know as I am tasked with locating it) so this is one step a business can take right now if it wants to improve its ability to attract the best marketing employees to its brand. If you are proud and transparent with your diversity and inclusion metrics then promote them, by doing so, you could strengthen both your employer brand and credibility and boost your competitive edge at the same time, helping you ensure you win the race for the best talent available in a competitive marketplace.
So why, despite the strong indicators regarding the benefits associated with encouraging a diverse workforce, do we still see such disparity and under-representation?
Age discrimination – Too old for tech?
There is a tendency, especially within marketing departments, for recruiters and hiring manager to focus solely on attracting the millennial demographic. This was indicated in an interview with the HubSpot founder who claimed that:
“in the tech world, grey hair and experience are really overrated”.
This begs the question of how prevalent views such as this may exist within the industry and if this impacts the access older workers have to securing marketing related positions (9).
The fact of the matter is the population in the UK that is aged 65 is increasing and so when you combine this knowledge with the purchasing power of this demographic (10) it suggests there should be potential financial benefits in diversifying the creative department of your company with the inclusion of older professionals too. By tapping into the wealth of experience and knowledge of this age group, this will enhance your company’s ability to connect with a growing ageing consumer base.
I may be being harsh so I would like to highlight that there are success stories…
- Sodexo: A landmark lawsuit on the grounds of racism in the workplace saw services company, Sodexo, pay $80 million to former employees who brought the case to court.(11) Since then, the company has invested in many diversity and inclusion programs within the company and now has ethnic minorities in 14.5% of the senior leadership positions as well as a strong female presence on the executive board. Indeed, Dr Rohini Anand, the company’s Senior Vice-President and Global Chief Diversity Officer noted that “for every $1 it has invested in mentoring, it has seen a return of $19”.(12)
- Accenture: Accenture became the first consultancy firm to publish data regarding employee diversity (13). Also, the company developed a business which saw the success of its Diverse Supplier Development Program, a venture which engages with small and medium-sized companies to incorporate them in the Accenture supply chain. This venture reported a 30% increase from total procurement spends from expanding their suppliers. (14)
- Livity: The London based agency which centres on promoting diversity and inclusion, it is part of the Hospital Club Hot 100 and BIMA Entrepreneurial Business of the Year. Promoting inclusion and diversity from the top down, the company works with people from diverse backgrounds and links them with businesses that are keen to diversify. (15)
Conclusion – let’s encourage diversification, transparency and improve marketing success at the same time!
I think my views are pretty apparent within this article, however, I think a summary is needed to drill home the points.
- If businesses continue to limit the presence of a particular demographic within senior positions, then they will lose the opportunity to have fresh perspectives on ideas for strengthening marketing success.
- By failing to diversify creative departments, a business risks missing the mark concerning its ability to gain wide appeal to broad consumer bases, subsequently affecting the reputation or brand appeal of the company.
- With the growing importance of social media acting between companies and the consumer, it is now more essential than ever that companies create a relatable and personable presence online if they wish to achieve marketing success.
- By encouraging transparency in relation to diversity and inclusion, your brand will be more attractive to talented marketing professionals seeking new opportunities. Subsequently, it could help your business to secure a competitive edge in the current marketing war that exists when it comes to securing and attracting the best talent.
- Companies should not underestimate the purchasing power of certain demographic groups. For example, ethnic minorities have the purchasing power of over £300 billion in the UK (16), women are responsible for 83% of all shopping purchases (17) and the UK population aged 65 and over will account to £1 in every £4 spent by 2030 (18). These are striking figures which indicates strong margins of profitability for companies willing to embrace diversity proactively.
- With less than 20 women in CEO positions on the FTSE 250; it is obvious that the UK still has a long to go. It raises the question of whether negative perceptions regarding the capabilities of women in senior positions, similar to the controversial views aired by the former Saatchi & Saatchi boss (19), are still acting as a barrier for women to attain more of a presence in senior positions.
If the reasons for a lack of diversity isn’t down to negative bias then what is it that is stopping all businesses from introducing a top-down approach to promoting diversity and inclusion? Businesses need to take an empowered approach to promoting diversity – if they can do this then they will be making an essential step towards driving effective and long-term change that will not only benefit its brand, creative capabilities and reputation; but will also improve its global appeal and its bottom-line profits.
What do you think? By Commenting, Liking and Sharing, we can make a collective difference. Let’s get involved!
This article was written by Nick Day, Managing Director at JGA Marketing Recruitment – a boutique agency with a “quality over quantity” approach to creative recruitment practices.
If you are looking for expert talent in the fields of Marketing, Social, Search, Creative or Digital fields, then please call me or email me and I would be delighted to discuss how we can help.
Nick Day | Managing Director
JGA Marketing Recruitment
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Tel: 01727 800 377
1 Opinium Research – http://opinium.co.uk/belief-diverse-workforce-smes/
5 The McGregor- Smith Review – https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/594336/race-in-workplace-mcgregor-smith-review.pdf
6 McKinsey and Company – https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/delivering-through-diversity
11 Corp Watch – http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=12160
18 Retail think tank study – http://www.retailthinktank.co.uk/whitepaper/how-will-demographic-trends-in-the-uk-affect-the-retail-sector/