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Thursday, January 10, 2008,4:04 PM
Diversity marketing is good business
By Jack Riley

You’ve all seen it, you’ve all cringed. A well-meaning company runs a print ad with a beautiful African American couple dressed like a typical suburban White couple, pitching a product that has little or no relevance to an African American consumer with a dialog bubble-filled with words that no African American person would ever string together. Another attempt at diversity advertising misses the mark. Diversity marketing is more than putting a face of color in an ad campaign. It has to begin from the ground up as a unique, targeted, relevant marketing program with multiple components.

Before any of that can take place, however, a company has to be committed to the premise of diversity throughout the organization. Without a true organizational commitment, the program will come off as simply pandering to a minority group to generate sales and create a climate of mistrust internally and usually externally as well. Next, a company must understand the fact that diversity marketing is good business. Without those key components in place, diversity marketing will simply manifest itself as rhetoric and will translate into an insincere, inconsistent and ineffective message to a savvy minority consumer group that most marketers underestimate. Minority consumers have been keenly aware, for years, of the difference between what is true diversity marketing and what is manipulative window dressing designed to lure minorities into a product that has limited relevance and often even less appeal to the typical minority consumer. We believe that diversity in the workplace positions Fifth Third Bank to create diversity marketing with integrity which is transparent to the customer.

Companies who embark on diversity marketing must first take great pains to understand the minority group that they are targeting. Analyzing lifestyle behaviors, product usage and accepted messages is crucial to developing products and services that will serve as the foundation for diversity marketing programs. Even more important to the communications focus of the program is understanding the ethnic and cultural elements of the targeted minority group. Obvious issues such as special holidays, language and indigenous foods need to be addressed along with the more subtle signals such as generational aspirations.

Once you’ve established a base of understanding, it is imperative that the product is right. In banking, products and services can be tailored not only by their design, but by the internal experts available to the consumer to help drive the focus of the product so that it is truly a relevant solution. Who understands the unique wants and needs of an Arab American better than an Arab American? Now that you understand the consumer and you have developed a relevant solution with subject matter experts, it is time to communicate to your target audience, with the operative word here being target. While in many ways, minority groups’ media habits are more homogenous than those of the general population, delivering a message requires targeted creative and often non-traditional media. For example, urban radio alone is not the silver bullet for reaching African American consumers. It requires an integrated media plan that includes traditional media and grass roots venues such as public relations, sponsorships and the pulpit. Each venue has its own creative approach, but the message must be steady and singular, and again, relevant to the community to which you are addressing your message.

Creativity is vitally important to diversity marketing. Your homework on gaining a true understanding of your target group will guide your creative direction. It’s just not enough to use a minority face or minority ad. Alignment with copy, dialogue or headlines is critical.

As with any campaign, measuring results drives the future steps of your overall diversity marketing program. Sales results, survey projects, and anecdotal data should all be considered in developing new horizons for your program.

In summary, an effective diversity marketing program must contain:
• Organizational commitment to diversity.
• In-depth analysis of the target minority consumer group.
• Relevant products and services with internal subject matter experts.
• Non-traditional targeted media.
• Creativity that reflects the true minority consumer group with a singular message.
• A measurement mechanism that captures results.

Finally, my advice to any company embarking on a diversity marketing plan is to seek the council of an experienced minority public relations or advertising firm. The complexity and depth of understanding for minority marketing, especially those which present language barriers, cannot be fully comprehended until, as the proverb goes, “you have walked a mile in their shoes.” Support from a minority firm can provide you with that virtual stroll in your target consumers shoes, and in the end, isn’t that what all good marketing is about . . . walking in your customers’ shoes.

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