That was the message of Dan Robertson, director, Vercida Consulting, interviewed by TTG Media group editor Pippa Jacks on stage at the Advantage Conference in Miami.
“We need to start thinking about diversity in this broader sense,” he said. “It includes things like personality, value base and social background. It all impacts how you communicate with your customer.
“This is something you [delegates] should seriously think about,” he added. “We know for sure that when people see themselves represented in brochures, on websites, they’re much more likely to shop in those places.”
Robertson added that many measures of diversity were “grossly out of date”, and often proportions of groups typically perceived as a minority were growing fast.
The UK’s BME population (black and minority ethnic) for example is listed as 12.8%, but this is according to the 2011 census, and the proportion is expected to grow to 33% by 2050.
Asked why it was so important to be adopting practices that promote diversity and inclusion, Robertson used the example of H&M causing widespread offence when it used a black child to model a T-shirt reading “Cheeky monkey”.
“If H&M had had a diverse range of people involved in that decision-making process, that advert wouldn’t have made it into production,” observed Robertson. “So diversity in our workforce can stop us from producing campaigns that could potentially offend our customer base.”
He cited Virgin Atlantic and Thomas Cook as travel businesses that were proactive about diversity. “They’re not doing it to be soft and fluffy – they’re doing it because it will impact revenue streams,” he added.
Robertson continued: “These principles apply to tiny microbusinesses as well.”
He used the example of widespread criticism of Starbucks when two black men were arrested while simply waiting for their friend to finish a shift.
“It’s a good example of the fact that despite Starbucks being a massive global company, that one individual’s [member of staff’s] decision can have quite a massive impact on a brand,” said Robertson.
He added: “It’s not about making processes overly complex, but just thinking about who your customers actually are. It’s about making sure the language you use is inclusive, your website is accessible.
“There is always diversity in your local market, even if it’s invisible.
“Talk to your community too. Lots of places might have cultural festivals, religious festivals, Pride.
Educate yourself on practical issues globally. There are experts out there who can help you, and you can speak to your contacts.”