Staff Writer
Jun 21, 2021

Walking the talk on inclusive marketing

Your brand can have a genuine POV on how to improve society, but it needs to be done through the lens of your category, says Dhiren Amin, CMO, Kraft Heinz.

(from left) Unilever's David Porter, HP's Siew Ting Foo, Kraft Heinz' Dhiren Amin
(from left) Unilever's David Porter, HP's Siew Ting Foo, Kraft Heinz' Dhiren Amin

This is part of an article series for the Power List 2021, created in partnership with Twitter as part of their global #LeadersforGood initiative. 

Diversity in marketing used to be nice-to-haves, but they’ve increasingly become a core part of business strategies, as company leaders realise moral & business imperatives of marketing that truly reflects the diversity of the audience they serve. In fact, it’s become such a key part of business and marketing that a “marketer's contribution to diversity, equity and inclusion” was added to criteria for this year’s Asia-Pacific Power List for The region's most influential & purposeful marketers  

Disha Goenka, senior director, global business marketing, Twitter Inc - the Power List partner -  notes, “Twitter is on a journey to be the world’s most diverse and inclusive tech company. We have a responsibility to support the diversity of the people we serve, and we believe the same of our partners. That’s why we’re committed to helping them reflect their communities’ diversity through their marketing efforts. Our partnership with Campaign Asia for the 2021 Asia-Pacific Power List is another step towards evangelizing the importance of “Inclusion & Diversity” in creating more inclusive marketing across various industries in the region. This is just the beginning.”

What is inclusive marketing? 

For Siew Ting Foo, CMO, Greater Asia, HP, customers are especially seeking brands that can give them a safety net and can connect them with a more emotional level during trying times. 

Earlier in May, the company outlined a series of ambitious diversity goals to achieve by 2030, including 50/50 gender equality in the leadership. 

“I look at diversity in 3 key areas. Whether we can communicate in an unbiased way, whether our marketing reflects the people we serve, and whether we’ll continue to that pipeline of diverse talents, Foo notes. 

For David Porter, VP global media, Unilever, beliefs need to translate into action.

If a brand believes in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, this should be apparent in how it presents itself to the public. The difference between saying and doing is immense in terms of authenticity and business impact.”

Globally, the group has launched their Positive Beauty vision, which aims to end use of the word ‘normal’ on beauty and personal care brands’ packaging and advertising, and have banned any digital alteration to change a person’s body shape, size, proportion or skin colour, in all ad material. 

In APAC, a success story is Brooke Bond Red Label Tea, which is known for centring its campaigns around underrepresented groups, including the transgender community, in India. 

 Lessons when purposeful campaigns are done right 

One piece of work Kraft Heinz getting praised for is Real Husbands Cook, a ABC campaign encouraging husbands to share cooking duties with their partners.

“For years, food brands have always targeted women, but we weren’t targeting the ‘helping segment’. Men should be helping women in their household chores, and one of them is cooking. We chose to be a brand that includes men in that conversation.”

One important lesson from the Real Husbands Cook campaign was that a brand’s purpose needs to be something that they can credibly stand for, says Amin. 

“Your brand can have a genuine POV on how to improve society, but it needs to be done through the lens of your category,” says Amin. “We are a cooking brand, so we want to talk about equality in cooking. We can’t talk about equality in the world, because we don’t have the right to.”

When brands have a purpose, their functional differentiation also needs to be stronger. For the CMO, media investment actually comes last in a purpose-driven business strategy.

“We started by saying, how is my packaging more friendly for men to cook? How am I creating products that guarantee taste? How do I ensure my product is available where men shop?”

Looking at inclusion through an APAC lens

When it comes to contextualising purpose, Foo likes to use the phrase, “global brand, local soul”. 

Last week, HP launched a gaming campaign in Korea with the message that gaming is a level playing field.

“[The campaign was] under the global positioning of ‘gamers wanting to play to progress’, but in Korea, we also realise there is a [sense of inequality in society]. Some are born with a silver spoon, others are judged by their physical appearance. We used that local insight”

Taking one framework and applying it to all locales doesn’t just lead to diluted messaging, it also risks making your brand appear unauthentic. 

In purpose-driven organisations, it can be tempting to try to solve all the world’s problems. But our role has boundaries: we provide the world with soap, ice cream and tea: daily necessities and occasional treats,” says Porter.

At Unilever, where best campaigns are often those with highly localised execution. 

As in the case of beauty brand Lux. 

“Its purpose is that all women should be able to express their femininity, unapologetically. In China we tied up with Universal Music Group to launch a music video with music sensation Dylan Xiong while for sub-Saharan Africa we created a campaign with star athlete Caster Semenya. Very different approaches, designed to fit the local context.”. 

What metrics should inclusve marketing have?

While multiple studies have noted that diversity in hiring and thinking improves performance, it can be tricky to draw a straight line between a diversity campaign and ROI. 

Foo admits the business success of an ‘inclusive strategy’ can be difficult to measure, though says that “if your campaign talks to customers, it will show up in your brand equity.”

Amin believes purposeful marketing has two types of metrics. 

“There is the brand metric. Good purposes will drive good businesses, and only when you have a sustainably healthy business, can you drive good purpose. The social metrics “are easier to define but much harder to influence”.

He gives the example of the Real Husbands Cook campaign. “Less than 3 out of husbands cook. In two years time, can we make that number 5 or 10?

Sustaining the momemtum

The pandemic has no doubt brought diversity to the fore, leading many business leaders to put in place DEI initiatives, both within the company and beyond. 

But as Porter rightly points out, the industry is still far from achieving real inclusion and equality. He emphasises the importance of cross-industry initiatives such as Unstereotype Alliance, a platform that seeks to eradicate harmful gender-based stereotypes in all media and advertising content.

“DEI is not a race to be won by one organisation: it needs us all to work together.” 

One of HP’s priorities is to ensure a continuous pipeline of diverse talents so that campaigns can consistently reflect the demography they serve. “In APAC, we’re big on having different types of internal programmes, for example, womens’ leadership programmes and HP Spark, a virtual internship programme,” Foo says. 

But perhaps we should also celebrate campaigns coming out of APAC a bit more, she says, citing Ariel’s Share the Load campaign, which asks men to take part in household chores, and Nike’s New Girl/Play New, a campaign about gender equality in Japan.

I’ve personally seen lots of great work coming out of the region. We need to celebrate these works on a global scale.” 

Campaign Asia

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