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Why You Should Be Applying DEI Principles to Your Multicultural Marketing Campaigns

The way we approach multicultural marketing in the U.S. is changing. It’s time for a foundational shift in how we approach integrated marketing and communications: no more thinking of multicultural marketing as an add-on, but instead evolving to bring diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) principles to everything we do. But what does that mean?

To answer this question, C+C conducted a series of workshops with independent marketing subject matter experts from a diverse set of communities, geographies and ethnicities. The discussion was facilitated by Energy Trust of Oregon, a non-profit organization bringing clean energy to Oregonians. The goal was to co-create a framework for advancing DEI values within the context of marketing communications. This included documenting best practices for audience research, campaign planning and strategy, and creative ideation, which I will share here and in a series of posts to come.

DEI and Multicultural Marketing: Connected but Not Interchangeable

Our first task was to define the role of DEI in multicultural marketing. While it is common to hear the terms DEI and multicultural marketing used interchangeably, each serves a unique purpose and different audiences.

Organizational DEI refers to internal practices that seek to create an environment where every employee feels represented and heard, and is also provided with fair opportunities to succeed.

Multicultural marketing implies external efforts by a company or organization to sell products or services to audiences of diverse ethnicities or cultural backgrounds in authentic ways that honor cultural differences.

The two concepts are different yet closely related. Both DEI and multicultural marketing efforts need to be ongoing, with a true commitment to building relationships with stakeholders and community members — not a temporary response to address a problem. The most successful multicultural marketing strategies are those that apply core DEI values to ensure reaching diverse audiences effectively and respectfully.

Best Practices to Incorporate DEI Principles into Multicultural Marketing

  • Truly understand your audience. Establish a very clear vision of the people you are trying to reach — who they are, how they want to be identified, what challenges they face, and what matters most to them. Be as specific as possible. Look beyond simple demographics. 
  • Don’t make assumptions. Start each project anew, and don’t assume all diverse communities are driven by the same motivators. There are complexities and differences within each community that will affect your marketing approach.
  • Be ready to invest equitably. Equity only happens with a real commitment to spending the money to ensure that every audience that needs to hear your message has access to it.
  • Seek authenticity. Work with authentic community voices to participate in campaigns as advisors, talent and creatives throughout the strategic planning and creative processes. The earlier you engage with them, the better.
  • Set specific, measurable goals and metrics. Success may look different for multicultural campaigns. For instance, rather than measuring media impressions (which tend to be lower for multicultural media), you might want to track engagement via community-based organizations serving those audiences. It is important to capture the impact of your marketing efforts and investments in a community. Setting specific, measurable goals helps track progress and keeps you accountable.

A Closer Look: DEI Values Applied to Multicultural Marketing

Diversity = Representation

Applying diversity values in multicultural marketing means acknowledging, respecting and honoring the complexities of a given community through the unbiased representation of its diverse members.

To do this, ask yourself:

  • Will all people in the community feel represented in this campaign?
  • What am I doing to ensure marketing efforts — and the people behind them — are representative of the communities I want to serve?
  • Does my content reflect everyone it is trying to reach?
  • Am I avoiding stereotypes and considering the nuances and complexities of my target audience?

Equity = Fair Access

Incorporating equity principles in multicultural marketing implies investing in resources that ensure fair access across all communities and affinity groups.

Ask yourself:

  • Am I providing the same level of access to information to everyone regardless of language spoken, affinity, ability or cultural background?
  • Is my marketing investment in this community equitable to other groups?
  • Do my tactics and communication channels align with how my target audiences think, act and communicate?
  • Am I creating space for representatives from within the community to guide decision making?

Inclusion = Belonging

Applying inclusion principles in multicultural marketing means ensuring the voices and desires of all community members are heard, valued and acted upon when designing marketing campaigns and materials.

Ask yourself:

  • Does my campaign allow my intended audiences to feel seen and understood?
  • Am I looking beyond the basic demographics to get to the heart of what my intended audiences need?
  • Do my creative assets reflect the diverse voices in a community?
  • Am I being inclusive of all forms of diversity, like race, ethnicity, age, geographical location, gender identity, socioeconomic status and ability, among others, as well as how they intersect within different audiences?

So, let’s retire the debate about changing the name and instead continue the steady drumbeat of getting more organizations to adopt Social Marketing best practices in planning and implementing their behavior change campaigns. Staying on the path is the most efficient way to do more good in our communities.