For marketers, it’s not enough to meet consumers with purpose and inclusivity-driven marketing initiatives: the work starts internally, in the boardrooms of corporations, fashion houses and ad agencies.
That was the message at ‘Feminist Rising: Why Brands Must Take A Stand,’ a panel moderated by Jennifer DaSilva of Berlin Cameron and including Rebecca Minkoff and Kimberly Jenkins from the Parsons School of Design; Pratt Institute, Becca McCharen-Tran of Chromat.
For Kimberly Jenkins, an educator currently working with Gucci to guide top-down diversity after their recent ‘blackface’ debacle, it begins internally with the people behind the brand.
“For a multi-national luxury brand, it’s questionable how diverse it is at the top,” said Jenkins. “It’s important to have someone lead the course and help guide them in expanding their scope of vision.”
“When you have someone who can educate you about other people’s lived experience […] it really helps to walk the walk of innovation and bring in a diverse group of people.”
Jenkins continued, “If you want to cater to this new market, this is what you do: educate yourselves and from within, create a workforce or executive team that reflects that.”
The sentiment was echoed by Chromat founder Becca McCharen-Tran. For her, every brand is automatically political and any communications reflect the brand. That’s why it’s so important to listen to the people on your team that have a lived experience relative to your diversity initiative.
“We’re not doing this just to get more money or just to get more customers. We’re doing it because this is the world we want to see.”
Behind the curtain, McCharen-Tran is ensuring that diversity is foundational. Representation is about what her teams look like, from hiring femme photographers, black makeup artists and disabled photographers.
“People see themselves in the brand […] that personal connection has helped us really build trust and loyalty and a really wonderful community because of that.”
Why is it so important for companies to walk the walk? It’s easy enough to send an International Women’s Day tweet or champion diversity with consumer-facing marketing. But, it’s really not enough. Case in point, there’s been a fair share of campaigns that fall flat.
“I think you can notice it and consumers can smell it when it’s just for advertising’s sake,” said Rebecca Minkoff. “What is the reason why you’re doing this? Does the company stand behind the values they’re talking about?”
Developing a company culture and a diverse workforce that reflects those values is imperative. “Those brands that you can smell… they’re not authentic from their gut,” said Minkoff.
Kimberly Jenkins agreed. “Internally, if you have a shaky foundation, things just fall apart.” She continued, “When you look up who’s running this thing […] it’s bound to fall apart. You can see right through that.”
So, what do you do if a crisis hits your brand and a campaign is called out for its inauthenticity?
“It’s an honor. It means that they care about you enough to help you,” said McCharen-Tran. In short, it’s a moment to educate the creators and decision-makers so it doesn’t happen again.
For brands, the alternative to not taking these steps internally can mean missing out on a much-needed perspective and listening opportunity, a miscalculated campaign and an enormous demographic. After all, women drive 80 percent of consumer purchasing decisions.