By Kerri Loudoun, IABC London Director of Professional Development
If you were born and raised in Canada, I suspect many will believe our country has ensured diversity is woven throughout our society. From the acceptance of cultural customs around dress in the workplace, to human rights laws protecting those to be free from persecution based on the colour of their skin/sexual orientation/religious beliefs, on the surface diversity is evident . But how deep does the concept of diversity go within organizations and the communications they create for internal and external audiences?
The importance for brands to show ethnic diversity in their advertising campaigns isn’t new in North America, but even in the 21st century, we still see big organizations like H&M struggle with this concept and its execution. Their “coolest monkey in the jungle” hoodie debacle brought the clothing retailer a lot of bad press to say the least, and some brands can struggle to bounce back from those types of errs in judgement.
But then, we see a brand that takes a significant step to go against the current.
Recently, MEC’s CEO David Labistour released an open letter to the public about the retailer’s advertising approach in how they represent their members in their advertising.
Labistour notes, “White athletes hold the spotlight in advertising, while the diversity that exists and continues to grow in outdoor spaces isn’t represented in the images we produce and promote. The truth is that we haven’t represented the diversity of Canadians or of our 5 million members.”
A bold step for any organization to make – admit they are falling short in how they represent those who support the brand. But, it also shows the level of commitment MEC is making to right a wrong that is sadly too prevalent all across communications on this continent and beyond. Their need, and ask, to collaborate with their members and communities, is a perfect next step to move them towards a truly diverse brand that is representative of their membership and partners.
But not all of us are in a position to take such a bold approach to a very real problem in our industry – and that’s okay. Ensuring diversity is so much more than making a public statement like Labistour has done. As communicators we need to work to understand the nuances of our audience, look at the diversity it holds, and consciously make decisions to improve even if it’s just little.
As communicators we have a prime seat at the table to help reflect diversity in the messaging that we put out into this world. So let’s not waste the opportunity, and help be the catalyst the brings about important, and meaningful change in our industry.