‘Marketing teams need to be more diverse to improve output’

It is often said that marketing does not reflect the diversity of multi-cultural Britain but the past week has seen several calls for marketing departments to be more representative or risk failing to meet the needs of their customers. 

Diverse Britain
Some have called for marketing departments to be more representative or risk failing to meet the needs of customers.

Speaking at the launch of the IPA’s latest report into multicultural Britain, Hason Sandhu, managing director of educational and careers initiative Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO) says marketing is lagging behind other industries in attracting talent from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds and needs to come up with a cross-industry programme to speak to students from a younger age if it wants to catch up. 

The IPA’s “New Britain” report found about 13 per cent of people working at advertising agencies come from a BME background. SEO figures show this lags the 18 per cent of BME students that graduate from university every year and it trails law and banking, where firms are typically hiring between 25 per cent and 35 per cent of their graduates from the BME population.

Sandhu claims hiring more marketers with BME backgrounds would provide a new perspective on the types of campaigns that can work and resonate with BME audiences.

It is a sentiment echoed by Britvic CMO Matt Barwell. Speaking following his appearance on Marketing Week’s “CMO 3.0” session at Advertising Week Europe last week when the need for diversity was raised by an audience member, says diversity of thinking leads to better creative output.

“It makes sense to have your marketing teams be broadly representative of the consumers you are speaking to…..I think at Britvic in marketing we have done a good job in gender diversity and have great female talent and this is something you see across a lot of marketing businesses. However, I think there is more to be done on other forms of diversity.”

Anne Godfrey, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, says although she agrees “diversity delivers value” for small marketing teams instinct is also important. 

“Not every company has a large marketing team so the marketers need to deliver real customer insight regardless of their own background. Do these marketers need to reflect their own customer base? Not necessarily. They just need to be good marketers.”

It is not just diversity in gender and race being called for but in age. SpeakIng at a separate Marketing Week Advertising Week Europe panel on what “makes a modern marketer” Adam Johnson, marketing director at Nokia UK said marketers needed to accept that they are “no longer their target audience” and should build a team that reflects the customer demographic or risk becoming “totally out of-sync” with their target audience, he added.  

Johnson said: “Working in technology is a ridiculously fast-paced industry and if you miss an innovation break, as Nokia has done over the last three or five years, then you almost miss a generation in terms of understanding how they consume media. The thing I’ve learnt is to surround yourself with young people to stay on top of those habits. 

“Otherwise you get driven in certain areas by your media agency, for example, or use your own consumption habits to make decisions.”

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