Diversity and inclusiveness becoming mainstream

Article by Maysoon El-Ahmad /
Retail Anthropology /
March 28, 2016 /
Click here to view original /

For many years, the topic of diversity has circled around many different elements of society from industry board level right through to the lack of representation of Australia’s diverse population in the entertainment industry.

The need to embrace diversity continues to be a hot topic in industry and corporate bodies and while the agenda has moved on since the late 90’s, there is still a long way to go. This is despite the fact that study after study have shown that having a diverse and inclusive work force is linked to greater innovation and creativity.

While corporates continue to slowly work on the diversity and inclusiveness agenda in the workplace, we are now starting to see some real change taking place outside of the office ranks. These changes that I am referring to are now taking shape on the consumer facing level.

Over the last 4 months’ consumers have witnessed a new breed of brands that are actively promoting diversity in their advertising campaigns. In December 2015 Target was showered with praise for a catalogue that featured women of all different sizes and ages. Last month clothing brand Blue Illusion signed with 94-year-old American style icon Iris Apfel to be the face of its new ‘ageless’ autumn/winter advertising campaign.

The latest breed of these brands has included Kmart which has won lots of praise from consumers after it featured children with disabilities in its Easter catalogue and Bonds only just announced a toddler with Downs Syndrome as its newest face for its its brand.

Let’s also not forget about Mattel’s recent announcement to expand its Barbie collection to include a wider variety of skin colors and hair textures, height and body types. The new Mattel lineup of Barbie’s promises to deliver seven different skin tones, 22 different eye colors and 14 different facial variations in all.

In 2004, Dove was the first brand to promote diversity when it launched its ‘Real Beauty’ campaign. After huge success it surprises me it has taken over a decade for other brands to catch onto the increasing desire for consumers to see advertising that better represents them and their lives.

According to Dr Lauren Rosewarne, an advertising expert and senior lecturer at the University of Melbourne, for a brand that targets a broad demographic of people, “using models that reflect the spectrum of their demographic makes good business sense”. She goes onto say that “Advertising has an important role to play in helping culture change”

While diversity at the board and executive level will take sometime to see some real change, advertising campaigns and new product developments that serve to demonstrate a greater level of diversity and inclusiveness can be the much needed catalyst that drives real social change at the top of the social sphere in generations to come.