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In 2020, I was leading communications for Kellogg’s RxBar. That was the year the brand announced its plan to observe Juneteenth. Watching employees from a range of backgrounds connect with and celebrate Black culture was a powerful thing. The response was so inspiring; it’s part of why I jumped at the chance to lead the new Kellogg Cultural & Inclusion Acceleration Plan in Marketing. I couldn’t wait to scale what I’d seen.

The program has achieved meaningful change in a surprisingly short time, thanks to the efforts of a cross-functional team. Our initiative's early wins prove that if a century-old CPG brand can transform its marketing processes in a matter of months, anyone can. Here’s how.

Steps Kellogg took to improve diversity and inclusion: Make it a team effort. Ask the right questions. Give your teams the tools.

Make it a team effort

Before we can implement plans and procedures, we must educate ourselves on the case for change. Why is this so important? To create a foundation of common understanding, we partnered with a cultural intelligence agency to launch the Cultural Intelligence Marketing Accelerator. This multiweek training program consisted of five facilitated sessions that aimed to close the empathy gap, helping us connect with and learn about the diverse consumers we look to serve. Among the attendees of the initial training were key internal stakeholders and several of our agency partners.

Including our partners was the key to the program’s success. We cannot work in silos if we want to make a significant and sustainable impact. Our new Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Steering Committee gathers internal and external stakeholders, including our partner agencies, to collaborate on, inform, inspire, and educate each other on topics related to our EDI initiatives, then disseminate those learnings back to their respective teams. All participants are deeply committed to advancing our EDI priorities and ensuring our work has relevance and resonance with our consumers.

Our “Black History. Every Month” campaign is a testament to the power of that process. The campaign includes videos honoring Black heroes who have made invaluable contributions to the food and beverage industry, like Fredrick McKinley Jones, inventor of the refrigerated truck, and Edna Lewis, chef, author, and protector of Black Southern cooking. We have also partnered with World Food Program USA, in support of the mission of the United Nations World Food Program, and Street Art for Mankind, creating murals in six cities affected by food insecurity due to systemic racism. Every video and activation is informed by the committee’s complex conversations and is better for it.

This time-lapse video of a mural being painted in Houston features the faces of four Black children and messages like “Zero Hunger” and “Food Justice."

Ask the right questions

If an ad tailored to a diverse audience runs when no one is watching, is it really inclusive?

Connecting with the right audience means understanding their preferences.

As marketers, it is our job to avoid assumptions and, instead, consider a multitude of factors that determine when and where an ad will reach consumers. No matter how inclusive our creative is, the context surrounding a placement determines how people will experience it. For example, running an ad during a show with a Black lead does not necessarily mean you have reached a Black audience. Connecting with the right audience means understanding their preferences.

To create opportunities for the type of meaningful engagement that drives impact, we partnered with media agency Starcom to complete the first round of media composition benchmarks within our buys. Our teams are now starting to evangelize the importance of understanding message receptivity among our multicultural audiences. By sharing our learnings around optimization, we hope to create opportunities for diverse consumers to feel more connected to Kellogg’s leading brands.

Apart from being the right thing to do, using these metrics helps us demonstrate the importance of engaging multicultural consumers in delivering overall business goals. The numbers show that when companies invest intentionally in diversity, everyone benefits.

Give your teams the tools

A truly unified approach to inclusion means giving every team the same opportunities to learn. Those include free resources, such as Google’s Inclusive Marketing Toolkit, as well as internal market research.

Through Google’s Culture Lab service, we get access to culture- and privacy-first insights, as well as inclusive best practices and media solutions.

In addition to repurposing and distributing materials from the Accelerator to other departments, the Culture and Inclusion (C&I) team has created ongoing office hours and playbooks that focus on five specific consumer segments: U.S. Hispanic, African American, Asian American, LGBTQ+, and people with disabilities. While every brand will focus on different areas, these deep dives provide a starting point for teams to learn more about each group, as well as their buying power and shopping preferences.

Keeping everyone aware of best practices is always going to be a cross-functional enterprise. C&I works closely with Kellogg’s centralized Insights and Analytics (I&A) division, which shares research across the organization, to ensure multicultural insights are integrated into our learning plans. Through Google’s Culture Lab service, we get access to culture- and privacy-first insights, as well as inclusive best practices and media solutions. Our first session helped to illuminate a new perspective for Special K regarding cultural relevance to the Latinx community.

To gauge that relevance, we have adopted the Association of National Advertisers’ Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing’s (ANA AIMM) new Cultural Insights Impact Measure (CIIM), a metric that conveys how multicultural consumers feel about how we talk to them. So far, the results look promising: 40% of ad effectiveness can be explained by overall CIIM score and persuasion.1

40% of ad effectiveness can be explained by overall CIIM score and persuasion.

Since the launch of the acceleration plan, we have had an immense uptake in our trainings, tools, and ways of integrating multicultural insights into our go-to-market strategy. Internal surveys show the C&I training was our highest rated yet. We have even seen some teams go beyond their mandate to tie EDI goals to compensation. To me, that says this 115-year-old company is serious about fulfilling its commitments to equality.