March 06, 2020
By: Jack Schuleman, Copywriter, RAPP Chicago
Advertising aims to draw more and more customers to your brand and the products or services it provides — but how do you expand that pool of valuable individuals? With messaging that appeals to all walks of life. There isn’t one particular demographic that banks with PNC or one type of person who eats at McDonald’s. Embracing the breadth of humanity to reach every audience is a byproduct of ad agencies prioritizing diversity and inclusion in the customer journey. It’s a tremendous way to stand up for individuality.
Diverse teams are key to diverse work. Agency teams who mirror their customers’ diversity open a wide array of experiences for the most effective work, because the team deeply understands where the audience is coming from. They can then map a customer journey strategy with different paths based on those unique experiences that make the customer feel seen and valued.
But this works only if you build a safe environment for the team to work in. Without establishing a welcoming environment, even the most inclusive team can’t reap the benefits of sharing their experiences. People might feel afraid to speak up when they have an idea that could disrupt the status quo — especially if they’re nervous about how it will be received. An agency that fosters an environment where people know they’ll be heard is where the benefits of diversity and inclusion begin to shine.
What may get lost in all of this is that your customers are individuals. In agency life, it’s easy to fall into the trap of just analyzing numbers on a spreadsheet or pieces of a pie chart. Embracing what makes us all unique as people and finding our greater stories builds a more robust vision of the customer journey. That’s what customers actually want. In fact, research shows that younger consumers prefer products, ads, and brands that value inclusion, proving the importance of diversity in business.
As a gay, Jewish man, I have seen certain brands that have stood by my various communities’ sides for decades. They’ve earned being my first choice. That retention only comes from genuine and understanding work, resulting from teams who understand who I am. Practicing this as an agency lets people of all kinds of backgrounds foster a long-lasting sense of goodwill toward a brand.
RAPP has always valued me as an employee and provided me opportunities that emphasize my experiences and individuality. I was comfortable advocating for the LGBTQIA+ community at RAPP, and within four months of being hired I was representing the company at the Out & Equal conference, one of the largest equal rights advocacy conferences in the country. RAPP also sends representatives to ADCOLOR (an organization focused on diversity in advertising) as well as 3% (one that focuses on women in the industry). This support makes me and others feel validated in the workplace and comfortable expressing who we actually are as people in the office.
By standing up for individuality within RAPP and for our customers, we keep our customers’ humanity intact. We can see greater patterns for their journeys and even identify new avenues for opportunities that clients can capitalize on in the customer experience journey. That’s why we need to ask questions like: Where do people live? How do they get around? What extra steps are they taking to complete one of their to-dos? The answers come from intimate knowledge built over a lifetime of experience. The more diverse the team, the more answers you get.
I’ve seen what can happen when everything is in sync — a diverse marketing team addressing a customer journey in an encouraging environment. RAPP was involved in PNC’s Grow Up Great initiative to support the $500 million project. Grow Up Great provides resources and tools for parents, teachers, and educators of kids between 0 and 5 years old — primarily in underserved communities — to help develop their growing, inquisitive minds.
The RAPP team working on this project had many parents of young children who got to build upon their life experiences and find insights needed for this project to succeed. They knew to demonstrate touching moments like a child writing his or her name for the first time or to show media representation by illustrating textured hair. These small details show empathy with the audience, because these are moments and features they can relate to. Grow Up Great became deeper than a corporate initiative; it became parents helping other parents. As a bonus, the client caught on to these small details and loved them, strengthening the bond between the parties.
A diverse team working in a culture that values their experience and allows it to show made the whole campaign a success. Diversity allows you to empathize with the customer, and that is where the strongest work is found.