Research reveals marketing and advertising is failing us

As the President of PrideAM, the UK’s LGBT+ advertising and marketing network, I feel incredibly strongly about the need for greater diversity in our advertising output and in our creative workplaces.  I also believe that today’s brands are yet to adapt to meet the gender and sexually-fluid society we now live in.

But, I wanted to know what consumers thought. To find out about the inclusiveness and representation of minority audiences, we partnered with insight specialists, Simpson Carpenter, to get actual consumer feedback. The research reveals that key industries are failing to address the rapid changes in consumer attitudes to gender and sexuality.

The findings are eye-opening. Firstly, we found both the general public and the LGBT+ community felt it is important for the advertising and marketing industry to accurately portray the diverse society of today (83% of the LGBT+ community and 72% of the general population).  Secondly, and more poignant, is that 40% of LGBT+ respondents and 33% of the general population believe different gender identities and sexual orientations are poorly represented.

Of the different industries included in the research, Automotive is deemed the worst performer with 24% of the general population and 33% of LGBT+ respondents believing they portray minority groups badly. Financial Services and Home & DIY did not fare much better.

Furthermore, the research suggests that brands that do portray social diversity reap the rewards. Not only do they receive the benefits of positive word-of-mouth and improved brand reputation, but they even see an increase to their bottom line. Consumer feelings around diversity and representation have a genuine impact on their behaviour. 37% of the general population and half (49%) of LGBT+ respondents say they feel more positively about brands who portray minority groups in their advertising, while both sets of respondents were found to be more likely to buy from those who are taking a more inclusive approach.

So, what does this mean for today’s brands? Well, the research clearly shows that the majority of younger people and a significant number of older consumers today have a completely different perspective on gender and sexuality. While some brands have taken note and begun to question the status quo, others (such as automotive and DIY) need to up their game and embrace the change in society.

This research doesn’t need to be seen as a negative. It should be seen as an opportunity for brands to adapt and step up to the challenge of embracing the new gender agenda in their marketing and advertising. A change in approach will better reflect the increasingly gender-fluid society of today.

However, the change must be authentic. Consumers are cynical at the best of times and will be able to tell if brands are committed to a more diverse approach or not. I think one of the most damning findings of all is over half the general population (52%) and 61% of LGBT+ respondents believe brands are simply jumping on the diversity bandwagon, rather than truly reflecting today’s attitudes.

Check out the full research here to see more on how each industry performed.

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