Insights From Cannes Lions 2022: How Brands Can Represent the Intersectionality of Women

In today’s increasingly diverse society, it’s crucial that brands tap into the collective power and influence of women in the multicultural marketplace. The stats prove it: The 2020 census showed an overall increase in racial and ethnic diversity in the U.S. population. Gen Zers are more racially and ethnically diverse than any generation before them. By 2045, it is estimated that white Americans will comprise less than half of the population. The collective minority is the new majority.

How do you tap into this audience in relevant ways? “You can’t just paint a brush and say ‘let’s reach multicultural women.’ Everyone has different resources, different experiences, and different goals,” Debbie King,  senior vice president of marketing communications and culture at Velocity at Paramount says. 

At our Equality Lounge® at Cannes Lions, we gathered dynamic leaders to discuss how brands can better serve, reach, and accurately represent the intersectionality of female consumers. Here’s some of what we learned: 

1. Ensure the process to gather research and insights is inclusive.

Today, there’s an ever-increasing likelihood that two people chosen at random are of different races or ethnicity groups. Thus, advertisers and marketers can no longer put people in boxes. It’s important to understand the unique factors and diverse identities that define consumers. Creating intersectional branding and marketing campaigns starts with research and data collection that focuses on contextual reach and relevance. Examining both will allow brands to attract consumers of diverse backgrounds and identities. 

King says, “Brands and marketers can’t just go to the same old places where they have historically gone to because the information is not there. In today’s increasingly diverse world, you have to look deeper than you have in the past.”

Deborah Harper, global unite lead for Unilever at Mindshare, agrees: “The need to increase our data about those intersectional audiences is huge right now. But you can also reach those audiences in other ways through contextual targeting. Looking at both is key.”

2. Create company cultures centered on not only diversity, but allyship and sponsorship. 

In order to better represent the intersectionality of consumers, it’s paramount that internal company culture reflects the diverse audiences that brands are trying to reach. However, it does not stop at attracting and hiring diverse talent. Companies should focus on nurturing that talent through allyship, mentorship, and sponsorship.  

“Beyond diversity, it’s about creating a sense of inclusion and belonging,” says Jessica Park, the SVP of global fan marketing at the National Basketball Association (NBA). “Diversity is having a seat at the table. Inclusion is having a voice at the table. And belonging is being heard at the table, which allows you to push the business forward.”

The collective minority is the new majority. Leaders should ask themselves what role they play in creating a culture of belonging and a community of intersectionality, whether that is as an ally or a sponsor.

“In addition to allyship, sponsorship is key. If you are in a room, and you are not encouraged to use your voice, it’s really difficult. That tension can kill spirit,” add Park.

King agrees that internal culture is key for representative content creation. “What we do on the DEI aspect inside of companies affects what we do outside, and it only makes us stronger.”

3. Start with small, scalable, and intentional steps. 

Since the spark of the social justice movement in 2020, many companies have jumped on the diversity and inclusion bandwagon. However, only about one third have put action behind their commitment to equity and inclusion. In order to make true impact, brands should start by asking how they can have the most influence and the most effective ways to drive DEI.

“Companies should take small and tactile action steps to start engaging with diverse audiences and engage with the tools that exist already,” says Claudia Romo Edelman, the founder and chairwoman of We Are All Human.

One tool that advertisers can take is to utilize existing research and media marketing campaigns. SeeHer’s Gender Equality Measure (GEM), which is the global gold standard for media measurement, helps brands embed diversity and inclusion into their research processes, and it’s proven to drive inclusive media and improved business results. IBM Watson Advertising also launched a research initiative in 2021 to assess the prevalence of unwanted bias in digital advertising and how to reduce it.  

Edelman sums it up well: “Instead of being paralyzed by what to do to drive DEI, it’s possible to start one step at a time as an advertising or media organization.”

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