Here’s why the demand for diversity is driving digital marketing success

Evaluating a few key questions can help your team create respectful, inclusive and more effective marketing campaigns.

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American society isn’t just more diverse than it’s ever been – that diversity is now highly visible. More than ever, consumers are demanding marketing that pays attention to representation and shows the American public as it is: A huge and varied spectrum of races, bodies, genders and socioeconomic classes.

It’s understandable that some companies are struggling with these new standards – after all, things have changed rapidly in the past decade – but it’s time for anyone who’s been on the fence to start making an active attempt to create better representation in their marketing. Today, we’ll take a look at a few key questions that can help your team create respectful, inclusive and, ultimately, more effective marketing campaigns.

How is diversity defined?

First, let’s talk about what we mean by the term “diversity.” You might hear the word tossed around a lot, but what does it mean on a practical level? Diversity, as we’re going to be discussing it, is:

  • Creating spaces and media that are inclusive to people of color, people with disabilities, people outside the gender binary and more.
  • Acknowledging the existence of and representing these people in your marketing campaigns.
  • Following established best practices for using language about race, gender, disabilities, etc.
  • Avoiding harmful stereotypes and not using race, gender or disability as a punchline.

While these definitions will be helpful, it’s equally important to figure out what diversity means to your business specifically. It might mean fixing the representation in your ads when it doesn’t accurately reflect your brand’s demographics, or it might mean taking a stand on an issue that’s important to many people in your audience. For some businesses, it may even mean acknowledging harmful things that have been associated with your brand in the past and taking responsibility for them.

Why does diversity in digital marketing matter?

So, why is it so important that your digital marketing campaigns feature inclusive representation? Several different studies suggest that there are a variety of ways that diversity matters in marketing, including:

  • 80 percent of marketers agree that using diverse representation in ads helps a brand’s reputation.
  • Millennials and Generation Z consumers alike prefer media with diverse casts, view ads with diverse representation more favorably and are more comfortable with brands taking social stances.
  • Aiming products and campaigns at previously unserved markets can create great new revenue streams, as the story of Fenty Beauty’s expanded foundation range shows.
  • Diversity and representation are top drivers of engagement with content and Black millennial audiences have actively asked for more in surveys. 

Diversity in digital marketing also has a defensive side. A solid grounding in diversity principles is important for reducing costly gaffes and potential PR disasters such as Dolce & Gabbana’s ill-advised campaign featuring a Chinese woman attempting to eat various American foods with chopsticks. Saying the wrong thing can be much worse than saying nothing at all, and having a diverse staff who are empowered to candidly call out a misstep is the best way to prevent that.

How can you make your digital marketing more diverse?

Unfortunately, there’s no magic wand to wave and create “instant diversity.” Inclusion has to be grown organically from a marketing philosophy that rewards and celebrates it, and that usually requires some long-term work. Some of the diversity steps that marketers can begin taking today include:

  • If diversity is like growing a flower garden, you have to prepare the soil first, so the best way is to start with your team. Diversity-centered hiring practices are a subject unto themselves, and if you haven’t yet embraced them, that’s something to work on first. If you don’t have representation on your marketing staff, your representation in your campaigns will suffer. 
  • Businesses that already have a diverse team in play should remember that their minority team members aren’t there to rubber-stamp marketing materials as “certified unproblematic.” Make sure that they’re being asked to take the lead on plenty of projects, particularly ones that are aimed at a group they’re a member of. 
  • Robust market research can help identify demographics your brand may have been under-serving. Try to understand the specific concerns that motivate people from different cultures and how your marketing may have been missing a beat. Using social media listening services can be a great choice for discovering how a diverse audience relates to your brand on social channels.
  • Curate some customer-centered diversity by offering customers a place to upload content related to your brand, such as a YouTube channel. And if you work with social media influencers in your campaigns, you have another great opportunity to improve representation by making the effort to reach out to a demographically varied group of relevant influencers. 

Remember that these aren’t one-and-done tricks to score some easy points. It’s critical to approach diversity as a constant process rather than as an achievement. Keep a running list of improvements you’d like to make and don’t be afraid to add to it.

What mistakes can derail digital marketing diversity?

With issues as potentially sensitive as those surrounding diversity and representation, it’s no surprise that there are some important pitfalls to be aware of and avoid. Some key mistakes many brands make when they’re trying to create inclusion and diversity include:

  • Using people as token representatives to pander to a certain group.
  • Trying to wade into social issues that are out of your brand’s depth.
  • Getting defensive (rather than listening and learning) when your marketing is criticized for lack of diversity or sensitivity.
  • Using “victim/hero” language when discussing people with disabilities.
  • Not aligning your message and your practice (such as publicly supporting transgender rights when the brand’s physical spaces don’t offer gender-neutral restrooms).

Representational diversity can be a fine line to walk, and it takes practice and commitment. Diversity in marketing is best created from the ground up by a team that already has a culture of inclusion in place. Without a foundational grounding in what it means to be diverse, your efforts will often fall short or backfire. That means that there’s no shortcut – only the hard but extremely rewarding work of building up your business as an inclusive institution.

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IBM’s Watson Marketing spinoff launches with agile strategy

The company will focus on delivering marketing solutions that could compete with larger marketing cloud vendors.

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Back in April, IBM’s Watson Marketing announced plans to spin off to form a standalone marketing company under the new ownership of New York-based private equity firm Centerbridge Partners.

The new company, which is still yet to be named, launched on Monday.  The company aims to deliver marketing automation, marketing analytics and content management solutions. 

In separating from IBM’s larger umbrella, Watson Marketing should be able to focus more keenly on its marketing customers’ needs.

“Marketers and advertisers are burdened with mediocre technology and disappointed that most of the promises MarTech and AdTech companies make aren’t kept,” CEO Marc Simpson wrote in a blog post. “They’re being asked to change the way they work to retro-fit to the tools they use, rather than the other way around. The difficulty of making sense of their data is made even tougher by consumers questioning if it should be available to marketers in the first place. We’ve leaned heavily into technology, but seem to be losing the inherent humanity needed to actually move people.” 

While positioning itself separately from its former parent, the new company also aims to adopt an agile approach to help drive its competition with other marketing cloud vendors – notably Adobe, Oracle and Salesforce.

“With over 1,000 people on day one, we’re far from a small company. And yet, we’re also able to be one of the nimblest and most responsive to industry changes of any other marketing cloud,” Simpson added. “We aren’t weighed down by unrelated businesses and large company structures like our competitors, but we have the experience and capabilities to match them and are able to focus 100% on the marketer.” 

Why we should care

In separating from IBM, the new Watson organization is able to move away from some of the antiquated processes of the legacy organizations, allowing it to adopt an agile growth strategy. As Simpson noted, it is not a small company, but launching with an agile-first mindset could play a key role in how the company evolves and maintains its competitive edge against other martech goliaths. 

More on the news

  • The name of the newly-launched entity is slated to be announced later this month.
  • The company plans to “double down” on AI by investing in an experienced team of data scientists
  • IBM marketing and commerce solutions include Campaign Automation, Marketing Assistant, Media Optimizer, Customer Experience Analytics, Content Hub, Real-Time Personalization, Personalized Search, Universal Behavior Exchange, Intelligent Bidder, Price & Promotion Optimization and Payments Gateway.
  • Centerbridge plans to establish a board of directors with deep marketing solution experience.

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How marketers can take the lead with revenue optimization teams

Many marketers are best positioned to drive change, improve alignment and create new opportunities for business results.

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Most marketers are equipped with copious amounts of data that help us understand our customers, create meaningful messaging that resonates with our audience and drives the business outcomes we need to achieve our goals. Marketers also have the ability to translate different trends across customers and prospects such as strong lead generation sources, common themes, objection trends and overall responses to different campaigns. But, many organizations operate in siloes, making it difficult to share these data points with the necessary people.

A solution? Establish a revenue optimization team to bring together the key internal players in your organization to improve alignment and ultimately, drive more revenue. 

Marketers and sales need to track the same goals

Thanks to the amount of valuable information accessible through our martech stacks, marketers can — and should — play a critical role in establishing a customer-centric revenue optimization team.

“Revenue optimization starts with the idea of putting the customer in the center of every interaction an enabling everyone to align around the customer to generate value in every interaction,” said Patrick Morrissey, chief marketing officer of customer revenue optimization platform, Altify. And according to Morrissey, marketers should play a critical role as part of the revenue team, and are best positioned to lead the charge. For many marketers, this requires a shift in thinking about our revenue contributions.

“From a marketing perspective, thinking about the fundamental outcomes, marketers have to start thinking of themselves as part of the revenue team,” said Morrissey. “This intersection presents an opportunity for marketers who are generally better communicators to become the translation mechanism for an entire team. Instead of tracking pipeline, marketers need to track revenue in closed/won business along with the sales team.”

The shift in mindset expands past the marketing team, however. According to Jenn DiMaria, senior manager of client services at marketing automation solution provider Digital Pi, the shift in mindset needs to be organizational. “Marketing is often viewed as a cost center, but in reality, other teams are lusting after the tools and data we have access to,” said DiMaria. “Aligning a revenue team creates opportunities for marketers to improve accessibility  to the data and help bridge gaps with other parts of the organization.” 

Marketers, get closer to the customer

Marketers tend to be far removed from any interactions with customers, but it is extremely valuable to engage face-to-face with customers. After all, marketers understand that relationship-building is key to retaining customers.  According to Morrissey, marketers need to put themselves in the shoes of the customer in order to understand their challenges.

“Marketers should focus on how we can get out of our own way and put ourselves in the shoes of the customers,” said Morrissey. “Going on the road to meet with salespeople and sit with customers will help marketers better understand the market, the broader changes in technology and fundamentally how to help customers succeed, personally and professionally.”

“Marketers need to have some real-world customer experience, explained Mary Ngai, founder of Connector42 and head of analytics and technology at RI. “Even if marketers are listening on sales calls, it can be incredibly insightful in grasping a better understanding of their needs.” Ngai also recommends that marketers attend customer site visits during ongoing projects or sales deals to increase visibility into accounts.

In addition to more face time with customers, Morrissey recommends that marketers lead internal account reviews and deal reviews with the sales and customer success teams. Regularly reviewing the accounts with members of different parts of the organization will expose different issues and areas that can be addressed by the necessary members of the revenue optimization team. Working with customer success can also bring to light what some of the daily challenges and successes the customer experiences — valuable insight for marketers as they developing retention campaigns to drive renewals. 

Leading the path to revenue optimization

Revenue optimization teams present an opportunity for marketers to leverage their communication, analytical and creative skills to improve holistic marketing efforts in coordination with other internal departments. 

“Marketers have proven that we can lead revenue optimization teams as we typically bear the brunt of the responsibility when it comes to acquiring new leads and we have to track our efforts,” said DiMaria. “Also, tools that have entered the market in the past ten years have made this possible.”

The concept of implementing a fundamental shift in thinking may seem overwhelming, but the long-term benefit is streamlined efforts across your organization and consistent communication around prospect and customer activities.

“If you think about the customer journey, we’re all trying to get a numeric view of the customer — BDRs are measured by the total number of call they make and are concerned with propensity-to-buy data,” said Morrissey. “Marketers are providing that data, creating segments and determining what funnel to put a prospect in. Then we talk about deal size or ACV, then finally we’re just an NPS score. Marketers are the ones who can best translate this into plain English, for everyone to understand.”

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