Diversity Marketing in Action

How can smaller businesses put diversity principles into practice? It’s easier than you think

Diversity marketing can seem like an overwhelming concept that is only really possible for major brands working with larger agencies. But, with some awareness, planning and creative ideas, even smaller businesses can create a great diversity marketing campaign.

Let’s talk about what diversity marketing is really all about. Diversity marketing is an effort to reach out to and communicate with a more diverse audience. It is a way to get certain demographics, which you aren’t currently reaching, to start relating to your brand and its offerings. It is also a way of connecting with non-diverse consumers who value diversity and inclusion.

Here are some examples of diversity marketing done on a large scale.

Wells Fargo’s “Learning Sign Language”

“Learning Sign Language” was one of nine television ads Wells Fargo launched in spring, 2015 featuring diverse subjects. The ad shows two women separately learning sign language in various settings. At the end of the one-minute spot, we learn that the two main subjects are a gay couple who have taken on this challenge so they can adopt a hearing-impaired girl. This combination of factors helps the brand connect emotionally with a diverse audience and with potential customers who consider inclusion important.

Learn from AdWeek how BBDO helped Wells Fargo create this campaign.

CoverGirl Names James Charles Its First CoverBoy

In an effort to be more relatable to Millennials and especially Generation Z, CoverGirl signed James Charles as one of its new spokespersons and first male model. Younger generations are looking for inclusive, be yourself, feel good messages, and that is just what CoverGirl is delivering. James Charles is a social media star and make-up artist and makes a perfect fit to the CoverGirl spokesperson line-up. This relationship helps to make the CoverGirl product line more accessible to consumers with more open definitions of gender norms, sexuality and beauty.

Fortune.com offers more about James Charles and the CoverGirl campaign.

The Cheerios Effect

In an effort to emphasize the human need to make real connections, coupled with the fun fact that when two Cheerios are in a bowl together they move towards one another due to surface tension, Cheerios launched its “Cheerios Effect” campaign. This campaign is less about direct marketing and more about value sharing with consumers outside of the traditional target audience. Cheerios is featuring 15 stories of real connections between people from a diverse set of demographics. The brand extends the campaign by allowing others to share their connection stories on its website.

Marketmag.ca has more on this and other General Mills diversity campaigns.

Making these ideas work for your business

While these campaigns are all great examples of diversity marketing, they are also all examples from large companies with major marketing dollars. As a smaller business with a more modest marketing budget, how can you take these same principles and put them into practice? It’s easier than you might think.

Your Strategy

First, ask yourself and others who work in your business what makes you diverse. Diversity marketing is only truly effective when it comes from a place of authenticity, from a brand that practices what it preaches.

  • What kind of story do you have to tell? Have you done enough to merit consideration as a company representing the ideals of diversity and inclusion?
  • If not, what more can you do? It will help to engage your employees deeply in this process – form a diversity leadership team.
  • What about your company are people in untapped demographics missing?
  • How can you get the word out about your efforts to make your company more diverse and inclusive?
  • How can you share your company’s values with potential customers who will appreciate these values?
Sharing Your Story

Think of things your company is already doing to diversify and share those efforts with the public:

  • Tell long-form stories on your blog as Wells Fargo does here. The more personal you can make these, the better.
  • Taking notes from CoverGirl’s Instagram account, you can ask people to take turns posting about something they are doing at work that supports your company’s diversity goals.
  • Use social media outlets to share pictures and stories that help to illustrate your brand’s story, just like Cheerios.
Spreading the Work

As mentioned above, you can ask all of your employees to help spread your message, but don’t stop there! Your professional contacts, friends and even other media sources can help get the word out about your company. You don’t have to do all of the work or spend much money. Word of mouth, social media and traditional media are all great ways of marketing yourself without having to run fancy and expensive ad campaigns. Done right, diversity and inclusion campaigns like those described above have a way of going viral thanks to the emotional connections they make. Take advantage of this fact!

Keep it Simple and Do What Works Best for You

Have you ever heard the expression, “It is brilliant in its simplicity”? Don’t trick yourself into thinking if it is simple and straightforward it isn’t going to work. Quite the opposite is true! Often the simplest plans of action return the best results.

Start by picking one plan of action, something that seems like a logical fit for your brand. Then establish a trial run, set a reasonable amount of time that will allow you to give this plan a good try, and list the outcomes you hope to achieve. This will allow you to focus on executing this plan well without second guessing yourself along the way.

Once your established time period is up, you can measure against your expected outcomes and evaluate if things need to be tweaked, changed, or scrapped. When you are comfortable with one course of action you can build in a second and a third. Just remember, you don’t have to do it all at once!

You’re on the Right Track

Just by thinking more about diversity, you’re doing something very healthy for your business. Soon you will be finding great ways of sharing your values and your efforts with a larger market and seeing the benefits of reaching out to a broader demographic.


Join San Diego AMA for “Breaking Through the Barriers”, our third annual San Diego Diversity Mixer brought to you in conjunction with the Public Relations Society of America and the International Association of Business Communicators. This dynamic event brings together journalists, business leaders and communications professionals from around San Diego to celebrate diversity over craft brews and tasty appetizers.

About Bryan

Bryan Koontz is Founder and CEO of Guidefitter, an online community and network of outdoor enthusiasts. Bryan finds joy in connecting people from all walks of life with outdoor sports and the professional outfitters that make up his industry and passion.