We've all had that "cringe-worthy" moment. Someone from the art department puts a proof on your desk for your review. And there it is. The stock photo that looks like how diversity was represented in the 1980s. You know the photo: 

  • middle-aged Caucasian woman posed next to... 
  • an older African American man posed next to... 
  • a younger Asian woman posed next to...
  • a mature Hispanic person...
  • etc., etc., etc. 

All have beaming smiles that show how happy they are living in the diverse world of 2016 -- or is it 1982?

Whenever I see photos like this, it makes me want to break into song: "It's a small world, after all!"

The solution

Shifts in the make-up of the U.S. population have significantly changed not just what the people who live in our country look like -- but how they think, act, feel and respond to things. (If you'd like to learn more, this in-depth report by the U.S. Census Bureau provides information on the demographic breakdown of the U.S. population today and projects it into the future.) 

Here are 5 tips that could help you -- and your marketing team -- better represent -- and engage with -- today's diverse population.

1. Don't start with the photo, start with the data. It's natural for creative marketing people to think of the image first when it comes to representing diversity. But the process should really begin with numbers. 

Start by reviewing the demographic profile of your consumer base and use this information as the foundation for building your campaign. After all, you can't do good marketing unless you know: 

  • who you're marketing to
  • what their concerns are
  • the types of things they respond to. 

This could include factors like biases for and against certain types of products and services, images, colors, messages and media. Once you understand the people you're marketing to, you can develop story lines they'll respond to and make informed choices about how and where you tell that story.

2. Every Hispanic person isn't like every other Hispanic person. And neither is every Asian person. Or black person. Or white person. You get the point. Many different cultures make up different racial and ethnic groups. And you need to take the time to understand them, their beliefs and what motivates them. This is particularly true when it comes to financial marketing. Cultures respond to money in different ways and feelings about finances are very personal, deep and ingrained. Understanding the subtleties will make all the difference between a successful campaign -- and a total failure that could alienate certain consumer segments.

3. Do no harm. In an effort to be inclusive, some companies make mistakes that lead to unintentional exclusion -- making certain consumers feel that this is "Not a company for someone like me." Simple things like a photo, word choice, or reference could cause this. When you're ready to print a brochure, release an ad, publish a blog post or introduce a new web site, allow time to stress test it. 

Set up up a focus group that represents your target market and have the members of it review your marketing efforts. Online focus groups can be a convenient and cost-effective option for many organizations. Or you can create an online survey. If your company is big enough, you might want to invest in an online market research community.

At very least, do an informal review of your marketing with friends, family and co-workers and ask the question: "Does this seem to you like a company you'd do business with?" If they answer "No," you must find out why and fix it.

4. Watch the language. Many companies use software to translate websites and other materials to disastrous results. Ask any experienced marketer and it's likely they have a tale of a company that botched a translation and released copy that was unintelligible, laughable -- or worse -- offensive. In addition, badly translated websites create negative user experiences, which can lead to lower Google rankings. If a market segment is worth pursuing, it's worth doing right. Hire a translator or service that understands the nuances of the languages your customer segments speak.

5. Diversify your team. Can you genuinely represent diversity in your marketing content if it's not developed and reviewed by members of a team who have diverse backgrounds and can offer different perspectives? If you don't have the resources to diversify your team, you should consider adding part time resources -- or building a relationship with an agency -- that can help with this.

Getting started

So what are you waiting for? The U.S. population -- and your customer base -- is growing more and more diverse every day. The longer you delay dealing with diversity in your marketing campaigns is a day lost in attracting new customers to your company. And remember, you could be unintentionally alienating potential customers, losing the opportunity to ever do business with them in the future.

Not sure what to do next? Why not have a conversation with an agency that has decades of experience building brands and developing advertising campaigns that resonate with a diverse audience? We'll take the time to understand your current situation and the issues you face. Then we'll make some recommendations on how you can make your marketing resonate with a 2016 audience. Contact us today.

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