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Opinion

Diversity in Casting: It’s Time For a Wakeup Call

Today, consumers expect more from brands. They expect more than just a transaction, quality service and reliability. They expect brands to be socially conscious, outspoken on important social issues, and sensitive to the times. In fact, recent studies show a 70% majority of consumers want to know what their favourite brands do to directly address social and environmental issues.

We’ve heard about brands doing this right, and have certainly heard of instances where brands fall short. However, being a socially-conscious brand is more than just donating money to a cause or sharing supportive words on Twitter. Brands need to make a real effort to diversify their marketing dollars in every sense of the word.

Diversity in casting, specifically in creator marketing, is an important investment for brands who want to ensure consumers know their brand represents all people. It’s unfortunately not a simple lever to pull, but the time and effort needed to successfully diversify creator brand dollars is well worth the investment.

Admitting there’s a problem

The first step for a brand to implement truly diverse creator campaigns is to admit that there is in fact a lack of diversity today. That’s surprisingly difficult for many brands, as studies show almost two-thirds of marketers believe influencer content adequately represents diversity in society. This sentiment isn’t shared among consumers, as less than a third of consumers believe that to be true.

There are several stories from diverse creators who have experienced inequality from brand marketers first-hand—whether it be not receiving the same opportunities, like influencer trips and events, or even drastic differences in pay. A recent study shows a massive pay gap of 29% between white and BIPOC influencers (Black, Indigenous & People of Color). That gap extends even further to 35% when comparing white and black creators alone.

Brands need to make a more concerted effort to diversify their creator spend. More than just being the right thing to do, marketers who ignore diversity in casting are limiting their potential reach. In the U.S., black consumers alone made up 10% of the nation’s total spending on goods and services.

Committing to diversity in creator marketing will help brands reach those important, underserved audiences and will generate public goodwill. Diversity in a brand’s in-house creative efforts is, of course, just as important, but it can only cover so much—not to mention it lacks the authenticity that comes with creator marketing. By activating diverse creators, brands can expand their efforts and truly reflect what their current and future customers look like, and who they resonate with.

Taking the leap

There is no easy turnkey solution to diversifying your creator marketing tactics. There are several steps that brands can take to ensure they’re doing everything they can to represent all people with their creator investments.

The first thing a brand can do is hold itself accountable by setting realistic, attainable internal guardrails and benchmarks to ensure they are appropriately diversifying its creator strategies. For example, they can commit to casting a certain percentage of diverse influencers for each campaign. They can also set different benchmarks beyond just demographics – casting across creators from diverse backgrounds, platforms, genders, and body types of all sizes.

Next, it’s important for brands to have specific DE&I messaging and programming as part of their overall marketing strategy. As mentioned, consumers expect brands to be outspoken and take a stance on important social issues. Brands can use creators to amplify these initiatives and do so in a way that is truly authentic. They can ensure the diverse talent that they cast has the freedom to be unapologetically themselves, share their own personal experiences and speak on these initiatives from the heart.

Lastly, brands can take DE&I beyond just casting. They can ensure that there is equal representation internally, every step of the way – from campaign strategy to casting, to execution. It’s important that creators aren’t used as a mask to feign diversity just to earn goodwill. Instead, brands really need to commit to diversity throughout their entire organisation if they want to be seen as truly genuine.

We still have work to do

Equality in creator marketing is still not fully realised, but the fact that we’re having these conversations and brands are starting to understand its importance is a step in the right direction. Going forward, we will see new diversity standards in casting become mainstream and those internal benchmarks that brands set for themselves will increase.

Diversity will no longer be a goal but will be a table-stakes necessity for creator marketing success. We’ll also see the word diversity continue to evolve in meaning. It will grow to include the diversity of thought, expression and opinions in a respectful and celebratory way.

Brands that make the effort to invest in diverse creators to truly reflect their internal values will find themselves earning the trust of consumers across the board. Those who choose to ignore it will ultimately pay the price.