As influential as they are, marketers need to listen to millennials. And millennials? They care about diversity and the inclusion and equity for all marginalized corners of society — people of color, women, those with LGBTQ+ identities, or other humans who are underrepresented. They want those communities represented and contributed to. It’s important to millennials that the brands they support represent those values as well. Why is it important to them, though, and why should you care about it? Why does it matter if it’s in your marketing plan and your advertisements?
Millennials Have Empathy
Somebody (we’re not sure who, though it’s often attributed to Winston Churchill) once said, “If you are not a liberal at 25, you have no heart. If you are not a conservative at 35 you have no brain.” Millennials, however, have set out to have both - using their hearts, but measuring them with logic. For this reason, they believe in the need for diversity because it is a step toward equality.
Again, they use logic to determine that diversity needs representation, and facts speak for themselves. Lack of representation leads to naivety and ignorance, which can have staggering consequences. Take the LGBTQ+ community, for instance. Social stigmas surrounding gay men when it comes to things like HIV/AIDs have discouraged many in the gay community from getting tested, which has lead to the exasperation of the stereotype as well as growing fears related to medical treatment within the community.
A millennial may argue that lack of representation works to increase this social stigma, because this stereotype can make those outside of the LGBTQ+ community ignorant to their needs, as well as blind to their existence and blind to their issues as humans. If this community was better represented in society, then the concerns of their community may publicly be seen as valid. Not only might those communities feel more comfortable getting help, but the surrounding communities would rush to their aid because they would no longer be considered “the others” or “different” in their needs.
Millennials Are Grounded in Reality
In a lot of ways, the millennial generation is tired of marketing. What this means is that they’re tired of corporate powers trying to pull the wool over their eyes. They grew up in the age of cheap toys, high divorce rates, and over-emphatic religious communities who couldn’t deliver on their promises. If you’re giving them a product, they don’t just want your best foot forward, but your heart on your sleeve as well.
Because of this, it’s important that you approach diversity from their point of view, and don’t try create representation carelessly or stereotype marginalized cultures and communities. Millennials are furiously good at fact checking, and can spot a scam from a mile away. If you come at them inauthentically or don’t do your research first (especially with something as important as representation), they are bound to sniff it out and go on the offense. It’s not a risk you want to take.
For instance, Pepsi released an advertisement in 2014 which featured a diverse cast of actors and actresses in stereotyped traditional roles for their racial and ethnic backgrounds. At the end of the ad, Kendall Jenner (a white celebrity) gives police officers who are approaching a protest a Pepsi, symbolically clearing the dust between them and protestors (assumedly protesting human rights or racial issues). Not only did this feature people of color in stereotypical backgrounds, but it gave their refuge to a rich, white celebrity, thus making her the hero of this supposedly diverse story.
On the other hand, some companies have worked hard to incorporate diversity into ads in a way that accurately represents and gives equal footing to all crowds involved. Naja’s “Nude for all” lingerie collection is an example of this, which highlighted the fact that “nude” colors vary depending on skin tone. Traditionally, the “nude” clothes color in western society has been predominantly of caucasian skin tones. However, Naja did a good job of highlighting the fact that if their products were to be for everyone, then they had to change that.
Think about it this way: a product may not be for everyone, or it may be embraced differently by various communities. Each community’s general opinion and voice regarding your product matters, and it’s important to authentically find out what that is. In this way, you will be able to market properly to a variety of audiences, and represent the needs of your broader target audience better.
Millennials Are Diverse
At the end of the day, diversity matters to millennials because millennials are compiled of more diverse numbers than their predecessor generations. This isn’t a baseless fact: Brookings University reported that the millennial generation is now 44% minority, and that they bridge the gap between the primarily white pre-millennial generation and the much more diverse post-millennial generations. That’s right — the United States is only going to get more diverse.
With that said, focusing on diversity cannot be ignored because it’s going to become the new norm. We’re only halfway there. If a company has hopes of great success, then their target audience will span different cultural backgrounds, geographical locations, sexual orientations and identities, religious beliefs, and income levels. It only makes sense to appeal to all of those.
But if you are in charge of advertising, you need to understand the point of diversity before you try to appeal to it. The baby boomer generation and its falsehoods have left millennials skeptical, and they will teach the next generation to be skeptical as well. Whatever you do, approach it from a place of sincerity, because millennials are rightly ready to pounce on anything that is insincere.
This is why diversity matters to millennials and is necessary to your advertising plan. This generation cares about the world, they want authenticity and reality-based media, and it’s all because they feel it represents them best. So if you want your advertising to reach the millennial generation, start by taking note of what matters to them and incorporate people of color, LGBTQ+ folk, and those of different cultures and backgrounds in ways that are ethical, which a generation that cares about and is aware of their diversity can appreciate.
How do you think about diversity, and how have you worked to incorporate it into your advertising and marketing? Let us know in the replies below.