To solve marketing’s diversity problems, everybody has to get involved: top-down solutions will only lead to bitterness and conflict. At the 3 Percent Minicon in Los Angeles, marketing leaders at Adobe, Taco Bell, Logitech and Ellevest heavily emphasized the importance of getting all hands on deck to promote inclusivity in the marketplace.
“How do you make sure a brand is sincere? Show, don’t tell,” said Lisa Stone, CMO of Ellevest. “I won’t work with companies that aren’t inclusive anymore.”
The 3 Percent CMO roundtable, hosted by Joe Oh, president and CEO of FCB West, covered topics ranging from mentorship to technology to diversity initiatives to parenting, but always came back to one central theme: until everyone in an organization buys into the idea of inclusivity as a benefit, lasting change will not come.
“We should want it for the right reasons,” declared Marisa Thalberg, Taco Bell’s chief brand officer. Thalberg, who claimed with pride that Taco Bell’s customerbase represents a more diverse crowd than her neighbors in Orange County, stated that homogeneity in the marketing office leads only to an inability to relate to their customers, especially across class boundaries. “It can’t just be checking boxes.”
Thalberg expressed concern about the consequences of hiring women and persons of color to consciously meet quotas, wishing that diversity efforts would move past “affirmative action,” though Heidi Arkinstall, CMO of Logitech, pushed back, emphasizing the importance of remaining wary of unconscious biases.
In either case, the panelists agreed that pressure to improve inclusivity must come from both the top and the bottom in order to stick. “Dictatorial, didactic leadership is becoming less of a style for today,” Thalberg stated, who identified that part of the problem lies with harmful male leadership mentors and role models. “Men need to be in the room, too.”
Ann Lewnes, CMO of Adobe, supported Thalberg’s point, mentioning that all of her professional mentors have been male. The panelists, who expressed relief at the spread of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, emphasized the importance of safety in the work environment, expressed hope that gendered toxicity can be combatted by establishing more nurturing, more vulnerable leadership role models.
The subject of technology came up as well, and though Oh expressed voiced concerns at potential harmful consequences of technology on creativity in marketing, panelists unanimously disagreed, especially in terms of improving inclusivity. “Technology is the best thing to happen for creatives,” declared Lewnes, Adobe’s own creative work sharing platforms as one way that disenfranchised groups can use technology to have their voices heard. Arkinstall agreed, highlighting how technology drives “the democratization of creativity.”
For technology, like diversity, the panelists noted the importance of motive over means. “If you have to solve for AI or AR, you’re just checking a box,” Thalberg declared. “And that’s not where ideas come from.”
Inclusion, panelists offered, can solve this problem. “Women of color dominate social media,” said Lisa Stone, Ellevest’s CMO, emphasizing the importance of recruiting creatives well-versed enough in emerging technologies to treat them as just another tool in their arsenals.
However, despite the panelists expressing high hopes for the industry’s future, they acknowledged that their fields have much progress left to make, especially in how it affects society at large. Arkinstall worries acutely about the long-term consequences of voice-recognition platforms like Siri and Alexa, pointing out that children raised around the AI platforms act more curtly and less empathetically around women providing services.
Stone herself pointed out that for all its efforts, the 3 Percent Movement itself still has improvements to make. “We’re all white, aren’t we?” she asked of her fellow panelists.