This month we’ve been talking about ways to better serve international and multicultural markets. Nancy Tobler wrote about the benefits, challenges, and best practices for supporting the multicultural workforce. Nicki Keohohou—joining us on the podcast—spoke about encouraging diversity through business practices and marketing materials. I’d like to focus on the issue of diversity in your marketing materials. In direct sales, the lion’s share of marketing dollars go to commissions for on-the-ground distributors rather than ad buys and PR campaigns. But that doesn’t mean that we have no reason to put thought and resources into cultural sensitivity and into simply appealing to diverse groups.
We see increasing racial and cultural diversity in corporate marketing across the board—representations of black families, Hispanic families, Asian families, and LGBT families are more and more common. There are practical reasons for this. The population of the United States has shifted. In 1960, 85% of the population was white (Forbes.com). By 2015 that number dropped to 77% (census.gov) and the trend in that direction is continuing. The bottom line is that appealing to only white Americans doesn’t move product as well as it used to.
Diversity marketing is in. If your objective is to sell, you should work to appeal to all demographics that might benefit from your product. And although your catalog, product videos, and website represent a smaller portion of your marketing budget than do the commissions you pay to your distributors, it is still vitally important that you weigh your decisions when you create them.
You don’t have to look very hard to find direct sellers failing in this arena. So many companies’ catalogs and websites feature all (or mostly) white faces alongside their products. Don’t be one of those companies.
It’s important to note here that when we speak about diversity marketing, we’re not talking about shoving black models into photoshoots identical to those featuring white models. It is important to include people of color in your marketing—we are more likely to identify with people that look like us—but diversity marketing is also about recognizing and reconciling the cultural values of each group we want to appeal to. In other words, don’t just hire models of varying skin tones, hire marketing professionals from diverse backgrounds. Build a team that understands the cultural values of the groups you market to and reach out to the sub-groups within your customer and distributor base to learn—from them directly—what matters to them.
Let’s look at some of the direct selling companies that are getting it right in this arena. Companies that have put in the effort to appeal to the increasingly diverse American market.
Traci Lynn Jewelery
Traci Lynn Jewelry’s founder, Dr. Traci Lynn, is a self-made African American woman. Unsurprisingly, the Traci Lynn brand is inclusive.
Traci Lynn catalogs feature both white and black women in traditional fashion layouts. Not a word about race appears in their marketing materials.
The tacit message is that good taste and the desire for elegance and beauty exist outside of issues of race—that fashion is for everyone that wants it.
Sabika is a jewelry company owned and operated by women. CEO Karin Mayr founded the company at the age of 50 with the goal “to build a company that connects women in every community” (sabika-jewelry.com).
The women featured in the Sabika catalog are not models but instead professional women working for or otherwise associated with the company.
Not only are these women racially diverse. The Sabika catalog features women in age groups and body-types typically ignored in the fashion world.
And each woman appears with a brief description of her personal story—her unique characteristics and values that blend and weave into Sabika’s brand.
You don’t have to look very far into Younique’s catalog to see the diversity in Younique’s brand and culture. The very first spread lets you know that every woman in the catalog is a Younique presenter—again, these aren’t hired models. Remember when I suggested that you reach out to your field and try to understand their needs and values? Younique hits that mark.
Diversity marketing is essential in the makeup industry. If you sell foundation made for a narrow range of skin tones, you’re leaving people out. If you sell a wide range but only feature images of white women, women of color are unlikely to expect anything you sell to match them.
Younique sells makeup for a wide range of skin tones and shows off how well their products work for women of all racial backgrounds. Even the phrase above, “your own best light,” shows off their branded commitment to respecting, highlighting, and honoring their customers’ individuality.
Trades of Hope
Trades of Hope sells jewelry, accessories, and home décor and helps to elevate impoverished women around the world. Their products are made by hand, by artisans from poor areas. So, when you buy their products, you’re helping women improve their quality of life.
There are a lot of reasons to love Trades of Hope. Their marketing materials are the least of those reasons. But as you flip through their catalog, their corporate ideology of respecting and understanding diverse cultural values is clear.
Their catalog is full of spreads detailing where their products come from and the people that made them.
Not every company has a message and mission like Trades of Hope. But even without their aspirations for a better, more economically equal world, you can take a lesson from them. Cultural sensitivity is a philosophy, not a gimmick. Don’t just go through the motions to appear as though you care. Commit to understanding and valuing the diversity in your market.