“I think it’s very important for people to be celebrating all these different types of people because you never know who your customer is going to be.” – Christian Siriano
Historically, the “tried-and-tested” formula in advertising of what’s sexy, smart, or overall, just good, has been very, very white, young, heterosexual, and able-bodied. We see this in the years-long lack of representation of minority groups within media, as well as the perpetuation of stereotypes about women, as docile, overly-emotional sex objects, and men, as powerful, emotionless, head-of-household’s.
Before “taking a chance” on ‘The Cosby Show’ and ‘Roots,’ Hollywood’s white, male executives often believed that putting Black people on television wouldn’t be of interest to most Americans–yet, both sitcoms went on the have two of the most viewed episodes in TV history. When it comes to female misrepresentation, feminist activist and advertising researcher Jean Kilbourne has tackled the perniciousness of these beliefs throughout her career; and though improvement has been made since she began her work in the 1960s, gender stereotypes in advertising remain, and creep into our society in much bigger ways.
Off of TV screens and billboards, we see proof of this in education, wherein history textbooks and leisurely reads alike facilitate the erasure of important events for POC and LGBTQ+ people by the lack of coverage. In 2016, POC accounted for a measly 22% of children’s book characters, though making up more than 40% of the US population in thirteen states alone.
It’s no surprise then, that the lack of representation of all of these groups is also apparent within corporations and the cultures they cultivate. The many fiascos, involving major players like Victoria’s Secret’s former head Ed Razek, celebrity brands, like Kim Kardashian with her now-defunct ‘Kimono’ shapewear, and ubiquitous brands like Nike that represents women in their advertising while facilitating the mistreatment of female athletes within their running program, shows the power of having a diverse chorus of open, and well-informed minds at the head of an operation.
Marketing Exec. Sekinah Brodie points out that “different perspectives and including a variety of people can only help bring out the best in a product or service. When you decide what type of culture you want, listening to your team will help to cultivate that.”
In today’s hyper-social market, wherein your next loyal customer is only an Instagram scroll or soundbite away, what is the point of not creating a team that reflects society as a whole, and has the know-how to inform the brand in a way that widens its reach?
I have some thoughts
*The author of “The Building of Luxury” is Kyojira Hata