The Covid-19 pandemic has completely changed our lives. Take something as mundane as the adjective close: geographically, we’ve been socially distancing and domestically travelling, and metaphorically, we’ve been looking within and discovering ourselves. Transparency and truth have never been so important, and for brands, that means authenticity could accelerate your recovery.
In today’s world, the power of perception reigns. Brands can no longer get away with simply chasing profits and staying neutral. Under the ever-increasing spotlight, supporting your staff, contributing to society, and serving the planet are all up for debate. With Covid-19 and the Black Lives Matter movements exposing the world’s disparities, consumers are more ‘woke’ than ever. Discussing this new level of awareness on the inaugural episode of PROUD Experiences’ podcast, On the Mic, Black transgender activist, Raquel Willis, explains:
“It feels like in a lot of ways that the rest of the world is catching up to where we’ve been for so long. Honestly, this feeling of discomfort is not new for black people; it really just feels like a lot of white people are catching up to it. In that regard, it’s a promising time; folks are uncovering things that have always existed and are finding new ways and new solutions for tackling them.”
With many brands engaging in woke-washing—trying to cash in on social injustice—consumers are relying on an age-old proverb: actions speak louder than words. Those responsible for brand campaigns are tasked with the tricky business of keeping up with our fast-paced world, where winning strategies can become obsolete plans in weeks. So what questions do brands need to ask themselves? Shannon Knapp, CEO of Leading Hotels of the World, shared her advice during On the Mic’s latest episode:
“We are acutely aware of the brands that are authentic in their support of and engagement with the LGBTQ+ community and those that are pandering. We look beyond the rainbow logo. What are they doing for their employees? What are they doing for their communities? How are they investing in LGBTQ+ charities and causes? This is, quite frankly, what our community values.”
As marketers and advertisers, that’s what we’re all aiming for, right? Strengthening our brand equity. Making sure the opinions, beliefs and feelings surrounding our brand are positive. Those doing it right, such as avoiding negative stereotypes and monolithic constructs, will always come out on top. Joining Raquel for On the Mic’s launch, Mark Fletcher, CEO of Manchester Pride Festival, echoed the dangers of narrow-mindedness:
“I use the term ‘communities’. I think one of the big myths of being an LGBTQ+ person is that we’re all part of this exclusive membership. For me, there are many different communities within a group of people. I’m really proud of the work I’ve been able to achieve in platforming black queer artists. Or making visibility key for BAME people in our marketing channels. How can you be if you can’t see yourself?”
Being accepted, seen, and understood is no more important than in the hospitality industry, whose backbone is comprised of first-class customer service. Moreover, today’s clientele is more diverse than ever with 31% of Centennials (those born in 1996 and after) identifying as LGBTQ+. If you’re not speaking their language, you’re potentially missing out on a third of future business. As a brand, being authentic is crucial. Simon Mayle, PROUD Experiences’ Event Director, highlights how some companies can struggle to do so:
“The personalised experience level for the LGBTQ+ traveller is not as good as it should be, certainly not at a premium or a luxury level. We spend day in, day out in the luxury travel world talking about micro-personalised experiences—how to really make the traveller or the guest feel like an individual—and whilst succeeding on so many levels, it is not filtering down.”
So, how can brands authentically reach and service people from top to bottom? Here are five key takeaways:
Vocal over silent.
People appreciate brands that take a stand and do so transparently; in fact, 94% of consumers would be more loyal to brands that practice transparency.
Actions over words.
Consumers are demanding that brands act differently during the pandemic; one in three have already stopped using a brand that was not acting appropriately in response.
Diverse over similar.
Diverse workforces aren’t just good for brand perception, they also increase your profit margins: ethnically/culturally diverse executive teams outperform their peers by 33%.
Informed over ignorant.
Cultural intelligence shouldn’t only be appreciated, staff should be trained in it: 66% of Black and 53% of Latino Americans say they feel their ethnic identity is portrayed stereotypically.
Seen over hidden.
Never underestimate the power of representation, your marketing needs to be inclusive: 64% of allies are more likely to consider a brand after seeing LGBTQ-inclusive advertising.