Welcome to Diversity Week

The first half of 2018 is feeling like a true inflection point in marketing. Trends which have been clear enough for at least two years reached a tipping point. Brands can no longer dismiss external and internal crises about diversity — in the broadest sense — as minor tempests in the communications teacup.

In fact — and here’s a key message — brand crises around diversity (not to mention privacy) are not PR issues any more. It’s no longer just about handling the fall-out and continuing with business as usual.

Down to cases? #MeToo is nothing new, but gained a tremendous boost from multiple high profile reports of sexual harrassment. #TimesUp sprang from a determination to make concrete changes to end sexual harrassment in the workplace. #BlackLivesMatter is, disarmingly, five years old. #MarchForOurLives may not have its roots in diversity issues, but has strenuously sought to highlight the heightended dangers gun violence in non-white communities.

Internally, some brands are perceived as getting it right. Salesforce is putting its money where Marc Benioff’s formidable mouth is to combat its gender pay gap. Some brands, despite apparent good intentions, have a way to go. Starbucks’ very public commitment to inclusion and diversity ran into the roadblock of reality just last week when the manager of a Philadelphia outlet called the police to report two black male customers for “trespassing” — or “hanging out,” as it’s perhaps better called.

The arrest of the two men was captured on video, leading to a storm of social protests, a response by Starbucks’ CEO describing the incident as “reprehensible,” protests outside the coffee shop, and a call for an investigation by the city mayor.

From sexual harrassment to racial profiling, the tip of an iceberg is now clearly visible, trapped in the glare of social media.

We’ve spent the last few years —  hasn’t everyone? —  talking about the importance of social as a brand marketing channel. It’s an astonishing forum, not just for reaching customers, but for creating two-way engagement with them.  Now we’re looking at the other side of the coin. Just as Facebook is now recognized as a place to share misleading political propaganda, as well as videos of cats, so social as a whole is now clearly a place where motivated citizens can send a deafening message of anger and hostility in the direction of brands, as well as receive offers and discounts.

And the long-tail of social —  the potential of a message to be shared, re-shared, recycled, and to become an enduring online meme —  does mean that a quick apology, a well-crafted statement, a promise to do better, doesn’t cut the mustard. The social audience knows when a brand is putting lipstick on a pig. What the audience expects is action; and when it’s not forthcoming, that audience will return to the subject again, and again, and again. Lipstick

So, in an environment where real change is being demanded, we bring you DMN’s first Diversity Week. We’re not defining diversity narrowly, and we’re including both market-facing and internal topics. We’ll be talking about marketing across cultures, about avoiding stereotyped imagery, about the relevance of #TimesUp to advertising, and diversity in commerce.

Stay with us for a real mix of content, and stand by for more news about our own DMN Marketing Hall of Femme.

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