With segments once thought of as marginal now accounting for a big chunk of sales, Mateusz Chrominski, Software Product Director at Wunderman Thompson Technology, looks at how you can ensure they don’t slip off your marketing radar…
In today’s era of heightened social awareness, brands have been forced to redefine themselves to stay relevant, responding to pressures to take a stand on important matters and act responsibly. Meeting consumer expectations around matters such as diversity and inclusion has become a case of make or break, with Gen Z in particular seeking to buy from brands that care about the issues that are important to them. A Wunderman Thompson study found that 76% want a brand that is accepting of a range of identities and experiences and 79% want their money to go to a brand they believe in.
And customer segments that have historically been considered marginal now encompass a sizable percentage of the world’s population. For example, the disability community comprises 15% of the world’s population and accounts for $1.9tr (£1.4tr) in disposable income; the combined spending power of African American, Asian American, Native American and LatinX consumers in the US is at least $4.9tr (£3.6tr); and the LGBTQIA+ community constitutes at least $3.9tr (£2.9tr).
Clearly, when it comes to marketing, representation matters. And if audiences don’t see themselves reflected in the messages they receive, they are less likely to respond. Brands and marketers therefore need effective tools and strategies to ensure that they respond appropriately to support the desires and aspirations of their customers.
A growing opportunity — and risk
One area where brands are potentially exposed is across the massive amounts of content they are creating to fuel personalised customer experiences at scale across all channels and geographies. While this has opened up great opportunities to reach and connect with traditionally overlooked but nonetheless substantial audiences, it also requires brands to be increasingly sensitive to consumer needs and expectations.
Brands need tools to gain control over the flood of content they’re creating. Each discrete audience demands individualised experiences that recognise their unique identities and meet their heightened expectations. Those that misfire not only risk losing brand equity in minority markets, but also risk damaging their perceptions with all audiences. When a brand faces public shaming for greenwashing, whitewashing or patronising marginalised groups, its reputation is impacted in ways that can challenge recovery for a long time.
But, how can they step up to this challenge?
Technology, and particularly artificial intelligence [AI], can help brands address expectations in a way that’s efficient, natural, and also highly scalable. According to Wunderman Thompson’s 2021 ‘Building Better Experiences’ report, 63% of enterprise marketing technology stacks feature purpose-built Content Management Systems [CMS], while 60% include a Digital Asset Management [DAM] system. A typical stack also incorporates various other tools, including social media, marketing resource management and creative software tools, as well as collaboration tools such as Dropbox, OneDrive and Slack.
These technologies support an increasingly complex content lifecycle, from ideation and creation of assets to production, adaption, storage and enrichment, and finally distribution, measurement and attribution. While DAM technology is central to solving the challenge of content proliferation, marketers are also integrating more specialised tools to help them ensure that content is compliant with local regulations and meets the quality standards of the brand. AI and machine learning are key tools in helping businesses understand more about their content and assets.
It can also help brands speed up and improve the content assurance process, particularly across IE&D use cases – using applications that can be plugged into existing tech stacks, they can audit and review how well they are representing and speaking to diverse audiences. Of course, the technology only does what it is taught to do, so it is absolutely vital that diverse teams are engaged from the outset, to set the rules and train the tools. After all, it’s difficult to know what’s missing from your content if you are only looking at it from one perspective.
Moving towards an inclusive strategy
Getting this right comes from the top down and depends on organisations having a hiring strategy that adheres to IE&D policies. As Ezinne Okoro, global chief inclusion, equity and diversity officer at Wunderman Thompson, has highlighted in the recent ‘Marketing in an era of heightened social awareness’ report: “Inclusion, equity and diversity are interconnected in multiple parts of a business – it is not a silo function.” Indeed, without the right people across an organisation, the tools that are deployed to automate processes are likely to remain biassed.
When it comes to making tangible changes, AI-based tools like Wunderman Thompson’s Brand Guardian, which work in tandem with computer vision, enabling the AI to review assets such as videos, images and text for violations, mean that marketers can really walk the walk, rather than just talk the talk. The solution can help them to measure and optimise content when it comes to IE&D – many brands will have a specific set of objectives in these areas but few are able to truly see if they are delivering upon them. Auditing the content regularly, such as once every month or quarter, can support strategic IE&D initiatives with much-needed data, to measure and understand what effect the execution of top-down actions is having.
Brought in at the start of the creative process, these tools can also collect data so that you don’t actually need to audit; and integrate suggested changes to assets, such as diversifying the mix of people being used in imagery – bringing the right thinking into the early stages of design. Other benefits include consistency, speed and data reliability. Any single asset being tested will always see the same results, which often isn’t the case for humans, whose performance can vary according to mood and situation. The approval process is faster, safeguarded against human error, and can result in huge cost efficiencies, enabling rapid content creation at scale, and ensuring that all potential audiences are continually presented with relevant and engaging content across every channel.
The growth of what were once considered marginalised audiences is proof enough. For brands to grow, they must be relevant to every audience. They must show up for every audience on every channel in real time. And they must speak to those audiences in a meaningful way.