Sarah Carberry is head of U.S. multicultural strategy and sales at Google. She leads a team of specialists who consult with brands and agencies to accelerate growth through culture-driven insights and ad solutions. Here she shares advice on how to plan and deliver culturally relevant media.
Over the past few years, companies have placed a growing emphasis on diversity and inclusion. Long overdue, these multicultural strategies are critical to creating more inclusive workplaces. But they’re just one part of the larger fight against systemic racism. Fact is, America’s racial representation is more diverse than ever, yet Black and Latinx people continue to be drastically underrepresented in both the workforce and the media. The arrival of COVID-19 and the resurgence of the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement in recent months have brought these disparities into clear focus.
A tale of two pandemics
As businesses rushed to pivot their marketing to offer remote working tips and new ways to sustain life at home, many overlooked — or were simply unaware — that the pandemic presented a very different reality for Black and Latinx communities. In truth, people from underrepresented communities are more likely to work in essential front-line jobs that don’t offer the privilege of working from home. They’re also disproportionately affected by the disease itself.
Brands that aren’t engaging these audiences are falling behind — and worse, perhaps perpetuating inequities.
Marketers who fail to see and address these realities run a serious risk of alienating Black and Latinx Americans, who account for nearly one-third of all consumers and have trillions of dollars in combined spending power. Brands that aren’t engaging these audiences are falling behind — and worse, perhaps perpetuating inequities.
Going beyond a pledge
Recently, brands in the U.S. and around the world have pledged to do more to address systemic racism. As advertisers, it’s imperative that we combine these pledges of support with meaningful action. In building an action plan, one thing that should be top of mind for all companies is ensuring that their media is a reflection of their consumers.
My team specializes in helping brands and agencies make this culturally relevant shift. Here are four steps we encourage everyone to take to plan more inclusive media.
1. Stop “othering” multicultural marketing
Black and Latinx audiences are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population but are consistently separated from marketing strategies. Often they’re a focal point only in specific moments, like Black History Month.
Transforming your approach to multicultural marketing from “nice to have” to “integral” requires ongoing commitment.
Since it’s the job of marketers to reflect the realities of consumers, marketing should account for the diverse realities of all communities. As recent research shows, consumers favor a more inclusive approach too. People are more likely to consider, or even purchase, a product after seeing an ad they think is diverse or inclusive. In fact, 64% of them report to have taken some sort of action after seeing an ad that they considered to be diverse or inclusive.1 This percentage is even higher among Latinx (85%) and Black (79%) consumers.2
Transforming your approach to multicultural marketing from “nice to have” to “integral” requires an ongoing commitment. A great way to begin honoring that commitment is by adding Spanish language content to your media buy. This will help diversify your campaign viewership and ensure you’re reaching Spanish-speaking audiences.
2. Choose partners with reciprocal accountability
As with any strategic shift, committing to multicultural marketing requires accountability from everyone who touches your strategy, from the people who plan it to those who execute it, measure it, and so on. For most advertisers, the orbit of accountability extends well beyond internal teams to external partners: agencies, platforms, and even publishers. The partners who share and empower your goals around inclusive marketing will help you be accountable and be accountable to you.
Since external partnerships are multifaceted and may be influenced by factors other than your strategy, a good starting point for creating accountability is to have an honest conversation about your goals. Ask your agencies what steps they are taking to build diverse, inclusive teams and how they are integrating multicultural marketing into client work. Discuss with your platform and publisher partners about their expertise in reaching diverse audiences. From there, you can foster accountability together.
3. Invest in culturally relevant media
An ongoing commitment to multicultural marketing also requires that you intentionally allocate budget to culturally relevant media. To reach these underserved audiences, you need to be where they are.
In practice, this means committing a specific percentage of your budget to “culture-first” media and investing in the channels and events — across audio, digital, and social — where Black and Latinx audiences are highly engaged. For example, since half the Latinx population of the U.S. lives within 10 media markets,3 committing dollars to local media channels may be an important consideration. Leveraging media partnerships that have large multicultural compositions can also be critical. So can partnering with authentic, trusted influencers with large, diverse fan bases.
When it comes to digital specifically, Black and Latinx audiences are the beating heart of platforms like YouTube.
When it comes to digital specifically, Black and Latinx audiences are the beating heart of platforms like YouTube. While mainstream media has been slow to adapt and reflect Black and Latinx viewers in their programming, these audiences discover volumes of content on YouTube created for them by creators who look like they do and who share their interests and passions. Exploring upfront buying solutions like YouTube Select lineups can help familiarize you with the types of content Black and Latinx audiences gravitate toward and inform your media plan.
4. Deliver inclusive experiences
A final, necessary step in committing to multicultural marketing requires focusing on how you’re showing up for Black and Latinx audiences. A poorly optimized user journey will stifle the impact of your media, regardless of whether you’re advertising in all the relevant places. Delivering more inclusive ads through relevant creative is the goal here.
While localizing your ad creative by language can improve campaign performance, there are many other ways to deliver more inclusive content that don’t involve the cost of creating assets in multiple languages.
For instance, you can diversify casting to ensure that the folks you feature in videos and print are an accurate reflection of all communities. It can also be as simple as considering the words you use to convey your messages; recent experimentation has shown that audiences respond favorably to inclusive, authentic communication styles. Figure out which tweaks you can begin making today to pave the way for more inclusive creative over time.
Take meaningful action now
If this year has taught us anything, it’s that our current reality will continue to evolve, and, as it does, our priorities will inevitably shift. But as advertisers, our commitment to fighting racial inequity must remain strong and constant.
As advertisers, our commitment to fighting racial inequity must remain strong and constant.
This commitment will be different for every advertiser. At Google, we’ve committed to allocating 15% of top-tier brand campaign budgets in the U.S. this year to reach multicultural audiences through culturally relevant media. We’re also developing an action plan to ensure that all of our future marketing plans have a dedicated multicultural component. We hope you’ll consider the steps your own business can take toward making advertising more inclusive.