Outliers needed

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At its heart, marketing is about solving customer problems, and when it comes to solving complex problems, personal or otherwise, we often look outside our own experiences to do so. Because we know we don’t hold all the insights and that someone else’s perspective would be a useful addition to our own. 

But we are not doing it enough in business and marketing and this is the crux of the issue when it comes to Diversity & Inclusion. 

Innovation in an increasingly speeded up and urgent business landscape has never been more important. But if your business isn’t actively looking beyond the borders of your sector for talent or continuing to employ people with the same backgrounds and experiences then you will keep getting the same results. And in a society that is increasingly fragmented in terms of culture and identification, to not do so misses an opportunity for growth.

Why do we do it? We do it because we have our own unconscious biases and because it’s comfortable. This is not a criticism, it’s what makes us human. Working with people who are similar to you, with similar perspectives and experiences feels good, but it limits our ability to think differently and in a hugely competitive and fast moving environment that is a disadvantage.

Marketing exists to solve consumer problems and to do this we must understand the lives of the customer. But finding a way into people’s lives, also means finding a way out of our own, because right now, marketing professionals still live in a bubble. According to Marketing Week’s 2020 Career and Salary survey a staggering 88% of the respondents identified as white, 82% identified as middle class, and despite women making up 61% of marketers only 30% of the roles they hold are senior.

Marketing is, whether people admit it or not, front and centre in our lives. It’s responsible for influencing how we think about ourselves and how we think about others. So surely our marketing teams need to more closely reflect the society they serve?

We want the brightest and best people for our teams, but looking for experience beyond our category, considering talent that didn’t have a traditional career path or go to a specific university is sometimes the best way to innovate. To be human is to be diverse and true talent exists everywhere, if only we would look for it.

Diversity and Inclusion is riding high on the agenda and rightly so, because there is a wealth of research to prove that a more diverse set of backgrounds, perspectives and experiences are a key driver of business growth. According to a study conducted by McKinsey, companies with higher executive-level gender diversity are 21% more likely to outperform their peers in net income and research by Boston Consulting Group found that companies with more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenues due to innovation. 

Diversity of thought, and the gender, generational and cultural experiences that drive it are integral components in delivering successful marketing. So if we are to continue to drive growth for our brands and develop innovative products and services it  needs to be taken seriously. Business needs to lean into diversity and inclusion, not just wear it as a badge. They need to think about not just who the target audience is but who is it excluding?

Out of the box thinking is always highly prized in the marketing industry, so maybe it’s about time we did that when it comes to the make-up of our teams. Let’s “widen the gate” and welcome in more new faces, perspectives and ideas. 

By Andy Young 

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