In the summer of 2020, anti-racism protests swept the nation, garnering international attention. I was struck by the many companies and brands, including Nike, LEGO, and the NFL, that issued statements against racism and in support of diversity.
Brands followed those statements up by launching a variety of initiatives aimed at driving greater equity and inclusion in response to demands for social justice, including:
- Investing in action - making donations to social justice nonprofits or community groups
- Outlining internal policies - setting hiring and internal promotions goals to build greater diversity and representation
- Making space for curation and education - partnering with diverse creators and influencers, while using their voice and reach to curate or educate
- Increasing marketing representation - representing greater diversity in their advertising and promotions
While all of the above moves us in the right direction, the fact remains that most brands are not considering the identities of the full range of their consumers. Consumers who bear marginalized identities—identities based on ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, or ability—are often forgotten or at best an afterthought.
Beyond doing the right thing, they are large potential financial rewards for those brands that get it right. Still, many brands are having a hard time translating their good intentions into concrete action. We wrote our new ebook to help more brands continue on their path toward greater inclusion, societal change, and ultimately success in the market.
Why identity is so important to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
From a psychological perspective, identity broadly refers to our sense of self, who we are. While we often think of identity in individual terms—beliefs, values, goals, and preferences—identity is also very social. Our identities include other people, our roles, and the social groups to which we belong. I am Black, a woman, a mother, an immigrant.
Our identity serves as the primary filter through which we see the world. It shapes what we pay attention to, how we explain events, and how we behave. Two people may be exposed to events that look similar on the surface, but they may experience it very differently as a function of their identities.
Brands may think they are addressing identity by marketing to wide swaths of consumers based on their demographics. Though it may be a common approach, relying on demographics presents a limited and potentially misleading view of your target audience.
Instead, seeking to understand the identity and actual lived experiences of a broader set of identity groups is absolutely essential for brands who want to be more inclusive. I argue in our new ebook that this is the work that leads to real change.
How brands benefit from being more inclusive
The most obvious benefit of greater inclusivity is that brands open themselves to reaching many more consumers, given the fact marginalized groups account for a significant portion of the population and market. For instance, people with disabilities have a collective global buying power of $8 trillion. Within that broad group, 285 million people are visually impaired, and 466 million people have disabling hearing loss. Still, how many large brands are creating specific products and experiences for them?
On top of missed market opportunities, brands also risk losing their most potentially loyal customers. Our research shows that, when customers identify with a brand on a deeper level, they are five times more likely to follow that brand into new categories and twice as likely to recommend the brand to others.
And that’s just scratching the surface. The brands that succeed in understanding identity stand to gain financial benefits, but more importantly, create and lead important societal change.
Download our ebook for much more detailed guidance on how incorporating identity can help your organization back up your diversity statement with concrete action.