Over the past two years, Procter and Gamble (P&G) has released groundbreaking advertising that provides mainstream audiences with perspective-taking on the societal struggles of racial identity (The Talk,The Look,and The Choice)and LGBTQ+ identity (The Pause).Recognizing the power of advertising in shaping cultural norms and attitudes, the company has increased visibility for historically underrepresented consumers in its advertising and digital media. In 2020, it launched a program called #talkaboutbias to increase the cultural awareness and knowledge of U.S. consumers to reduce societal bias. It works diligently to represent those consumers authentically rather than perpetuating stereotypes that negate the gains of visibility. It has tapped into how it can help consumers through the pandemic with everything from Safeguard donating $10 million to provide underserved communities and families with free hygiene products to the star-studded Can’t Cancel Pride virtual LGBTQ+ Pride party. This year, P&G committed to 2,021 acts of good for the year 2021 as part of its “Lead with Love” campaign that includes a call-to-action to make 2021 the year we all come together to support our communities, accelerate equality, and protect our planet.
This pioneering work is designed to deliver on P&G’s commitment to be a “Force for Growth and a Force for Good.” P&G’s Chief Brand Officer, Marc Pritchard, suggests that “being a force for good without growth is philanthropy; there’s nothing wrong with philanthropy, but businesses and brands are accountable to shareholders. Being a force for growth without doing good for society overlooks our responsibility to a broader set of stakeholders, including consumers and employees. Doing good leads to driving growth, which in turn enables doing more good.”
P&G’s commitment to being a Force for Good extends to hiring as it builds a workforce whose demographic composition mirrors the U.S. population. However, while P&G is close to hitting its goal of gender equality in the management ranks, the company admits it still has much more work to do to achieve its aspiration of racial and ethnic representation equal to the U.S. population. And let’s be clear—P&G’s progress towards a culturally representative workforce is the exception rather than the rule in the marketing industry. Despite the changing demographics of the U.S., the marketing industry continues to reflect the populations of the past. A recent report by ANA's Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing (AIMM), found that ANA client-side marketers continue to make significant progress in achieving gender equality among CMOs, but there has been little headway made in improving ethnic diversity.
Only 12% of CMOs and equivalents are diverse. African-Americans/Blacks comprise 3% of ANA member company CMOs, Asians comprise 5% of ANA member company CMOs, and Hispanics/Latinos comprise 4% of ANA member company CMOs. And it doesn’t get much better in the lower ranks of the marketing industry. Among the ANA overall membership, 74% are Caucasian, 6% are African-American/ Black, 10% are Asian, 8% are Hispanic, and 2% are Other. This is a far cry from racial and ethnic representation equal to the U.S. population—13% Black, 18% Hispanic, 6% Asian-Pacific, 2% Native American—for a combined 40% multicultural. The 2020 Marketing Week Career and Salary Survey reveals a similarly troubling finding in the United Kingdom with a staggering 88% of the 3,883 respondents identifying as white, with just 4% identifying as mixed race, 5% as Asian, and 2% as black.
Future demographic shifts mean the marketing and advertising industry will be chasing its tail for some time. Between now and 2030, whites as a proportion of the population will get smaller, and the minority race groups will all keep getting bigger. Eventually, Whites will become a minority, dropping below 50% of the U.S. population in around the year 2045.
Representation across sexual identity is so outside the realm of consciousness within the marketing industry that those numbers are impossible to find. Yet research from Hornet.com and Kantar Consulting shows that the LGBTQ+ market is currently the fastest-growing consumer market in the U.S., and is on target to grow by millions in the U.S. in the next few years (Horbelt, 2018). The "Q+" represents individuals who do not define their sexual orientations and gender identities as anything other than "non-straight" and "non-binary." Recent research by the Pew Research Center suggests that 50% of Millennials believe gender is a spectrum, and that "some people fall outside of conventional categories ." How can marketers capture the non-binary mindset of a generation, or “Genderation,” when they can only conceptualize lives lived in the binary?
These numbers point to a troubling culture gap between consumers and the marketers who are tasked with empathizing with their pain points and solving their problems. Culture, defined by social psychologist Geert Hofstede as the “collective programming of the mind,” represents a set of “standard operating procedures” or behavioral norms and cognitions that are shared by individuals in some distinct group of people but different from normative beliefs and behaviors shared within some other population. Culture has been defined as “deeply rooted patterns of values, customs, attitudes and beliefs that distinguish one group from another.” As such, culture may be broadly defined by race, gender, nationality, sexual identity, age, or any system that can be defined by distinct values and behaviors. Culture subconsciously guides our behavior and thoughts, and often influences our sense of belonging, motivation, and effectiveness, resulting in a minefield of potential cultural misrepresentation, appropriation, or exploitation between marketers and consumers.
As demographic and identity shifts redefine the marketplace but remain unmatched in the marketing industry, Cultural Intelligence can play a vital role in bridging the culture gap between marketers and the people who consume their products. Cultural Intelligence (CQ) is the ability to function effectively in different cultural contexts and is conceptualized as a specific form of intelligence focused on an individual’s ability to handle intercultural situations. In 2003, P. Christopher Earley and Soon Ang developed a model of CQ that identifies and measures four components of Cultural Intelligence: motivational, cognitive, metacognitive, and behavioral and developed a scale to measure an individual’s cultural intelligence. Motivational CQ reflects the ability and willingness to use knowledge about different cultures in order to achieve a culturally appropriate response. Cognitive CQ refers to factual knowledge about cultures, including knowledge of cultural norms and conventions accepted in different societies. Metacognitive CQ refers to an individual’s level of conscious cultural awareness during cross-cultural interactions. Behavioral CQ reflects a person’s ability to acquire or adapt behaviors appropriate for a new culture.
Over the past decade, HR professionals and managers have extolled the virtues of cultural intelligence within organizations in building an inclusive diverse workforce, linking it to increased innovation and firm performance through effective collaboration. Surprisingly, little attention has been paid to the value of cultural intelligence in navigating cultural differences in the marketplace—and in filling the cultural gap between marketers and the consumers they see to attract.
In practice, CQ development begins with self-awareness of the influence of one’s own culture on one’s thinking, attitudes, and behavior. CQ can bring empathy and perspective-taking to the marketing planning and practice in diverse and dynamic environments if it is purposefully infused into marketing decision-making. To avoid the potential pitfalls of designing marketing for diverse consumer populations, P&G has made enormous investments in building the cultural intelligence of its marketers. Most importantly, it has the cultural awareness to recognize that, while it works to build a demographically representative workforce, it must bridge the culture gap with external guidance. P&G compensates for the lack of cultural knowledge in its internal ranks by seeking knowledge, direction, and insights from panels of culturally diverse social media influencers and researchers with cultural expertise. It provides ongoing training to employees to provide a shared cultural knowledge of historically underrepresented consumer populations in the marketplace. The company appoints senior management to convert this cultural awareness and knowledge into bold identity-based marketing that is designed to create cultural awareness and attitude change among the “Movable middle” of the American population. Finally, it conducts post-campaign marketing testing to ensure its advertising resonates with under-represented consumers as authentic and non-exploitative.
In 2020, Pritchard’s claim that “doing good” drives firm performance played out as P&G’s fiscal year 2020 net sales were $71 billion, an increase of five percent versus the previous year. P&G achieved the double win of realizing the market potential of marketing with cultural intelligence as a Force for Growth while using its brand power to enhance the cultural intelligence of its consumers as a Force for Good.
More marketers must recognize that they don’t have to choose between market growth and social good and that a lack of internal diversity within the marketing industry shouldn’t be a barrier to marketing activation that resonates with consumers that have been historically invisible in the marketplace. An investment in developing the cultural intelligence of the marketers who drive their brands can achieve both market growth and social change—and younger “genderations” will accept nothing less.