The Drum Awards for Design 2022

Live in - hours - minutes

Ignore the doomsayers – brand purpose still beats out bombardment

With Unilever on the defensive for its focus on brand purpose in recent years, Deloitte Consulting’s Christina Brodzik reminds us that consumers consistently prefer meaningful messaging to brand bombardment.

On any given day, up to 10,000 discrete advertisements bombard consumers during their waking hours. Consumers – especially the youngest generations – are expecting more from these messages than just details about the latest seasonal sale. But this begs the question: is it possible for brands to prioritize purpose-driven initiatives without sacrificing business performance?

These initiatives serve as an effective way to win customers – and as a gateway to growth. According to research conducted among C-Suite executives and consumers as part of Deloitte’s annual Global Marketing Trends Report, consumers are becoming more discerning about whether a brand supports diversity, equity and inclusion both publicly and internally. Because marketing and advertising often serve as the face of what a brand stands for, marketers have an opportunity to elevate equity inside and outside of their organizations.

Making DEI commitments in all spheres of influence is key to effective branding

In our survey of 11,500 global consumers, we found that the youngest respondents (from 18 to 25 years old) took greater notice of inclusive advertising, while non-white respondents were up to two-and-a-half times more likely to be aware of a brand prominently promoting diversity when making a purchasing decision.

But it’s not enough to just market inclusiveness or diversity – our results also show 57% of consumers are more loyal to brands that commit to addressing social inequities in their actions. Appealing to the loyalties of future customers can require brands to demonstrate they are promoting equitable outcomes in all their spheres of influence: in the workforce via hiring and retention, in the marketplace using diverse suppliers, or in society through meaningful community partnerships.

The impacts of measurable DEI commitments are highlighted by high-growth brands (defined as those with annual revenue growth of 10% or more), which are more frequently establishing key performance metrics for DEI objectives than their lower-growth competitors. Notably, in our survey of over 1,000 global executives, we found that the highest-growing brands are committed to achieving equitable outcomes across all their areas of influence – workforce, marketplace and society –in ways their lower-growth peers are not.

Additionally, 27% of high-growth organizations have established equity metrics for community investments (versus 18% for negative-growth organizations) and 38% of high-growth organizations have established similar metrics for their brand messaging campaigns (versus 30% for negative-growth organizations).

These demonstrable commitments to DEI can help bolster brand visibility, prominence, and trustworthiness among its consumers – particularly its youngest demographic. An overwhelming 94% of Gen Z consumers expect companies to take a stand on important social issues. Without legitimate commitments to DEI in all spheres of influence, attempts at inclusive marketing or promotion of diversity can fall flat and appear disingenuous to consumers who are expecting more from the brands they purchase from.

Elevating equity inside and out

How can marketers avoid the pitfalls of hollow messaging and win the hearts of consumers? We’ve highlighted three actions across an organization’s ecosystem.

Firstly, ensure teams and suppliers reflect your market. Marketing teams – both internal and external – that closely reflect the markets they serve can reduce the cultural and demographic distance between the brand and the consumers they aspire to reach.

Secondly, bring a diversity of voices to the organization. Chief marketing officers should use that position of influence to continuously monitor and bring the needs of underrepresented communities to their organization – and feature those voices and faces in campaigns.

Finally, make your commitments measurable. Ultimately, no amount of messaging can help a brand overcome the hurdle of being labeled disingenuous. One way to solve for this is to make sure your DEI goals are not just checking a box but creating real, measurable outcomes.

In the end, future generations and increasingly diverse communities are expecting more from the brands that they support. Simultaneously, the highest-growing brands are reducing the cultural and demographic distance between the makeup of their teams and the markets they aspire to reach. Marketers can help their organizations not only hone their messaging but also support their company’s transformation to a more equitable, diverse and inclusive organization, thereby underpinning their brand messaging with authenticity.

Christina Brodzik is a principal at Deloitte Consulting.