5 Key Takeaways from Brands that Got their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Influencer Marketing Strategy Right

2020 was a year that highlighted the importance of social justice, equity, and change across the advertising and influencer marketing space. Not only was our way of life altered, but so was the consumer mindset. Consumers are demanding brands to take a stand against social injustices because they have the power to elicit substantial change. Recently, the term “new normal” has become a staple of modern-day vocabulary. However, it is also a motto that brand marketers must adopt for the future as the marketing landscape requires constant adaptation. Diverse, equitable, and inclusive strategies are receiving the importance and recognition that they truly deserve. Here are examples of brands who got their DEI marketing strategy right and the key takeaways for brand marketers looking to implement their own DEI initiatives.

A prime example of a brand that has taken the progressive DEI call to action in stride is Nordstrom. In 2020, Pete Nordstrom, chief brand officer and president of Nordstrom, Inc. announced the brand’s five-year plan to promote racial equality. Included within Nordstrom’s five-year plan was the significant growth in sales of Black and Latinx-owned products. In support of their plan to promote racial equality, Nordstrom launched their own DEI influencer marketing campaign to promote awareness for the vast array of Black-owned products available at Nordstrom. 



Another example of a brand that demonstrated its authentic commitment to the fight for equity was the Frito-Lay-owned brand, Doritos. In the midst of national protests for social justice in 2020, Doritos launched their #AmplifyBlackVoices campaign. The campaign sought to highlight black artists across the country with a $1 million dollar contribution. In 2021, Doritos continued to “show up” as they circled back with a new campaign labeled SOLID BLACK. This time, Doritos raised their contributions to $5 million. Not only that, the brand is supporting innovative Black micro-influencers by utilizing the Doritos platform to spotlight their work. The brand’s consistent commitment to providing a platform for Black creators has demonstrated their adoption of inclusivity as a core value. 



5 Key Takeaways from Brands that Got their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Influencer Marketing Strategy Right:

Key Takeaway #1: Market Actions & Commitments that Impact the Community - Not Lofty Statements 

Brands must avoid making lofty statements of solidarity for the sake of solidarity or to appease the general public. The intrinsic reason consumers want to see brands take a stand is that they believe brands can help champion impactful change. Additionally, consumers value authenticity. By supporting social justice movements with apparent acts of representation and inclusion following statements of DEI, a brand will build another layer of authenticity and trust. Nordstrom and Doritos are outstanding examples of brands that are listening to and addressing consumer demands. 

Brands must learn to redefine the “general market.” The United States is diversifying even faster than predicted with now 4 in 10 Americans identifying with a race or ethnic group other than white. This is amplified even further among younger groups beyond racial identity as 1 in 6 Gen Z adults identifies as LGBTQIA+. What does this mean for marketers? The antiquated notion of a “general market” target that is non-diverse is quickly being replaced by tailored brand strategies that take into account the unique consumer mindsets of various groups from acculturated Hispanic Americans to first-generation Asian Americans. 

Brands that do not incorporate diversity within their influencer marketing mix are losing out on invaluable opportunities amongst underrepresented communities to show themselves reflected in media. 61% of people find information from “a person like me” to be credible. A Magnetic North study in 2019 found that white influencers were receiving 61% of sponsorship opportunities. This shows a significant decrease from the 73% in 2015. These stats highlight the paradigm shift towards diverse representation within the influencer marketing space.

Not only is diverse representation among a brand’s influencer marketing strategy an effective way of supporting underrepresented groups, but it’s also an excellent way to reach Gen Z. Marketing Dive cited a 2020 study conducted by Kantar which found that 87% of Gen Zers follow at least one influencer whose race or ethnicity is different from theirs. 

An example of a brand that showed considerable tact was Verizon. For Father’s Day 2021, Verizon wanted to reach the Hispanic community within Miami. Instead of repurposing content intended for the general market, Verizon approached the target market with a specialized localization strategy. Verizon was aware of the fact that 66.07% of the demographic in Miami are Spanish speakers. In accordance, the brand activated a group of Miami-based Spanish-speaking creators to promote awareness of the brand’s special offer. 



Key Takeaway #2: Leverage Custom Strategies That Approach the Unique Needs of Increasingly Diverse Audiences

The key to reaching specific ethnic groups is understanding cultural differences. Instead of repurposing general content, brands will need to strategically engage with the target audience by identifying their language, dialect, interests, location, and the factors which make them unique. By including local experts in collaborative planning, brands can gain a significant leg up on the competition. As seen with Verizon, they took factors into account such as location as well as, activating creators who speak the same dialect and language. 

Diversity goes beyond skin tone and gender identity. Food, family, culture, stories, language, and many more factors contribute to diversity. As a result, simply casting an ethnically diverse group of creators does not make a brand woke and inclusive. A general best practice for brands is to conduct an internal DEI audit of overall content, talent lists, and creative briefs. This audit can help brands create content representative of diverse groups by offering insights that may not be known by people outside of those minority communities. 

An example of a brand that expertly showed representation within its content was Walmart. The global retailer wanted to reach the Hispanic and Black communities in particular for the holiday season in 2020 and identified the importance of food and family to their cultures. Walmart activated a group of diverse niche influencers that are cooking and family-oriented. The creators placed the spotlight on their families for the holidays, while definitely showcasing their creations in the kitchen using Walmart ingredients. With a majority of their following likely doing the shopping for their households, this placed Walmart in the forefront of many grocery shoppers for the holiday season.



Key Takeaway #3: DEI Planning Goes Beyond the Creator Selection Process

Walmart was able to perfectly identify its target audience, its values, and cultural cuisine. In order to replicate Walmart’s success, brands can consider conducting an internal DEI audit of their content to help with both the creative process and understanding the target market. There are many components that factor into diversity including food, family, culture, stories, and language. Brands need to be sure to represent cultural diversity within content, not just in the creator selection process.

Not only do brands have the power to elicit substantial change amongst equality and representation of race, but they also influence gender stereotypes. Society and the media’s portrayal can either reinforce or break gender norms. According to a consumer survey, “36 percent of respondents like a brand more when it runs advertisements that break stereotypes, and 25 percent of respondents said they are more likely to make a purchase from that brand.”

Nordstrom continues to be a DEI thought leader as they work to help break down gender stereotypes. Using their strong brand presence; Nordstrom’s BP line for young adults partnered with WILDFANG, a women’s apparel brand known for breaking gender norms in fashion and society. WILDFANG CEO and co-founder, Emma Mcilroy stated “we believe that the fashion industry has clung to outdated gender norms for far too long… We are challenging the idea that women have to dress a certain way, act a certain way, or have a certain type of job.” Through their partnership with Nordstrom, the two are hoping to break down gender stereotypes. To promote their partnership, Nordstrom launched a TikTok influencer marketing campaign spanning six different creators and 12 total posts. 

@courtlex_Destroying labels like... Check out this BP. + Wildfang collection, only available @nordstrom ! #ad #nordstrom #wildfang #foryoupage #fyp♬ original sound - Court&Lex??

Key Takeaway #4: Break Down Stereotypes

By making concerted efforts to improve the diversity of their workforce, management, product lines, and now the breaking down of gender stereotypes, Nordstrom has positioned itself as a thought leader in the DEI space on all fronts. Brand marketers can use a similar approach to position themselves as a forward-thinking brand.

So you’ve combed through the first four key takeaways and are ready to begin implementing or further reinforcing your brand’s DEI influencer marketing strategy, but when should you start? While there’s never a wrong time to do what’s right, consider timely moments to join the conversation. There are events all throughout the year from Pride Month to Asian Heritage Month and everything in between. These are great moments to chime in and show your brand’s support to DEI. By embedding DEI initiatives into your brand’s DNA and continuing to support diversity initiatives year-round, consumers will buy into your brand’s authenticity. 

An example of a brand that got it right is Nike. They are champions of equality year-round but certainly pick their moments to crush it as seen with their most recent Pride Month campaign. In honor of Pride Month 2021, the global brand partnered with beauty and fashion creator, Bretman Rock for their #BeTrue campaign. The brand chose to bypass monetary calls to action with this campaign. Nike didn’t create a gimmicky Pride-themed clothing line or Pride-themed affiliate marketing code. Instead, Nike built consumer trust amongst their following by going out of their way to launch their campaign centered around a message of unity as opposed to instant monetary gratification. Through the use of Captiv8’s comprehensive insights, we found that Nike’s Instagram account generated an average of 20.81K engagements per day between June 1st and June 6th. On June 7th, the launch date of Bretman Rock’s Instagram post, Nike’s engagements spiked to 183.84K total engagements, displaying a growth rate of roughly 783%!



Another example of a brand that found a timely moment to join the DEI conversation was Verizon. In honor of National Coming Out Day; Verizon partnered with Shangela, a popular LGBTQ+ rights advocate and famous Drag Queen, to foster a dialogue around National Coming Out Day and members of Pflag. Similar to Nike, Verizon chose to bypass monetary calls to action with this campaign, and instead use their platform to harbor difficult conversations. One survey found that the average age for coming out was 20.6 years of age. Through the use of Captiv8’s insights, we found that 27.74% of Shangela’s 2.54M total followers across all social media platforms were between the ages of 18 and 24. This highlights Verizon’s decision to partner with a creator that would reach its intended target audience.



Key Takeaway #5: Consider Timely Moments & Events to Join the Diversity Conversation

Brands looking for the most opportune times to begin implementing DEI efforts in their influencer marketing strategy should look no further than any holiday celebrating diversity. With plenty of options to choose from throughout the year, your brand will never wait too long to join the conversation, but you can also plan accordingly. Although Nike is a well-known champion of diversity year-round, their innate ability to develop timely inclusive campaigns helped elevate their brand strength.

Final Thoughts

Along with the world, the influencer marketing space is rapidly evolving. In order to create campaigns that resonate with consumers, brand marketers must ensure that the general population feels included and represented. 

There is an abundance of resources to assist brands in their DEI initiatives. End-to-end influencer marketing platforms can aid in the creator selection process, creative process, and campaign launch from start to finish.

The right influencers, concepts, and content will go a long way in the impact and reception your campaigns will ultimately receive. Assembling a team of diverse creatives is a great first step towards achieving this goal.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are in our DNA as a minority-owned business. As part of our commitment to transform our values into real-world impact, our Influence Change Grant aims to provide real value to BIPOC-owned small businesses through complimentary access to our platform, consulting, and other services.  To apply for our grant and download other DEI resources from Captiv8, check out our website. 

Author Bio 



Andrew is a content marketer at Captiv8, the world's largest influencer marketing platform where brands can uncover actionable insights through social listening, plan, manage, and execute campaigns at scale. Captiv8 is an accredited TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook partner, and helps marketers build smarter influencer programs with a central and easy-to-use platform.

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