3 ways to build a more equitable industry with purpose-driven marketing

LaToya Christian / October 2020

LaToya Christian, managing partner, strategy and analytics at GroupM, shares how purpose-driven marketers can change the industry for the better.

As brands and marketers speak to customers navigating the fight for racial equity, one thing has become clear. Our ability to comprehend the need for change in this moment — and how we act on it — has the power to build a more equitable and purpose-driven industry.

Right now, we must move beyond empathetic ads, posts, and statements toward real action that can be measured and felt. Here are three ways we can build on the increasing call for brands to affect real change within communities.

3 ways to build a more equitable industry with purpose-driven marketing

Commit to purpose and social good 

Today, only 7% of Fortune 500 CEOs believe their companies should “mainly focus on making profits and not be concerned with social impact goals.” Brands must have a clear purpose that also moves the needle on social good, especially in our current climate of elevated consumer consciousness.

Brands must have a clear purpose that also moves the needle on social good

According to Forrester, nearly 70% of U.S. consumers say that a company’s social responsibility reputation influences their purchasing decisions, and 41% want to buy from a company associated with social, environmental, and political ideals. This becomes increasingly true for millennials and Gen Z, with 74% wanting companies to take a stand on issues that are important to them.

As a result, it’s important to make sure your company’s purpose is constantly reevaluated to account for evolving social and consumer dynamics. At GroupM, we continue to reexamine, reflect upon, and strengthen how our purpose of “making advertising work better for people” shows up in how we hire, work, and invest for our clients. A strong purpose should be actionable and add value, not only during good times but also in moments of difficulty and crisis.

Statements are not enough. For example, if your company advocated for Black Lives Matter and pledged to support the Black community, get clear on how you’ll drive ongoing social progress. Find innovative ways to intersect corporate and brand initiatives with the needs of the community to help foster connection and close existing inequality gaps.

Marketers and brands should prioritise authenticity

Now, more than ever, authenticity is vital for brands. Marketers looking to build a bridge with underrepresented audiences will need to be intentional, lead with relevant insights, and, most importantly, be consistent. Short-term tactics won’t win share of wallet. This becomes increasingly true when engaging with Black audiences.

Having representation in every facet of the marketing process is nonnegotiable

Black adults in the U.S. are 42% more likely than white adults to say they never see themselves represented in advertising. Building equity with a segment that has been left out of brand narratives, while the marketplace thrives off their ingenuity and purchasing power, will be hard yet necessary work.

To show up authentically, brands will not only require reliable data insights, but the ability to interpret cultural nuances that dimensionalise Black people beyond a single narrative. This reinforces why having representation in every facet of the marketing process is nonnegotiable. 

At GroupM, we launched the Multicultural Marketplace with this in mind. It’s a dedicated and verified list of Black and Hispanic owned or focused publishers that create, curate, and distribute content specifically for these audiences. Investing in these partners is key to diversity health within the media environment and critical to driving reach and relevance, and we’re working to adapt and scale this marketplace globally.

Create collective accountability

Consumers expect the makeup of our global industry to accurately reflect the world in which we live. Specifically in the U.S., 66% of adults want the companies they buy from to have diverse leadership teams

It’s imperative that companies examine and amend existing policies and practices that foster inequality. Undoubtedly, leadership should set the example; however, there is power in collective accountability. Put clear, measurable, and timely goals in place across your organisation, within individual teams, and with partners and third parties. Implement frequent reporting as a requirement for doing business. It’s time to tear down the bias structures that have kept underrepresented groups from flourishing in the industry.

To begin breaking barriers at Group M, we’ve eliminated the need for a college degree for many roles, and invested in multicultural and local news organisations across 31 countries through our global Local News Inclusion List. We also created the GroupM Externship program, providing media career training to frequently overlooked and underserved communities, which has led to job placement across the agency network. The responsibility lies with all of us to take positive actions toward a more sustainable and equitable business.

In the future, I envision an advertising industry that has evolved as a force for good in the world. For this to take shape, we must be relentless and unwavering in holding one another accountable, and live up to the promise of this moment. 

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