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Breaking Bias: Diverse Representation Amplifies Brand Power

Leveraging diverse talent in advertising is not only a moral imperative but also a strategic opportunity for brands, writes BAV Group's Brian Owens in honor of Juneteenth.

As I prepare to sip my strawberry soda to pay homage to my ancestors on Juneteenth, I believe we still need more diverse representation in advertising. Leveraging diverse talent in advertising is not only a moral imperative but also a strategic opportunity for brands. By embracing more diverse talent in targeted celebrity influencer campaigns and broadcast TV spots, more brands can position themselves for long-term success in a competitive marketplace.

Due to the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, there was a notable increase in the visibility of people of color in media. It appeared to be a watershed moment for greater diversity and inclusivity. Yet, recent studies have shown a decline in the representation of diverse talent in advertising; a reminder that systemic biases still exist, so we need to do more collectively as an industry to overcome this inequity so more consumers can see themselves in our creative work. 

Recent data from the Brand Asset Valuator (BAV) syndicated study reveals that Coca-Cola's Sprite, a brand long known for its use of diverse talent, enjoys high levels of relevance, knowledge and esteem among the general adult population, but struggles with differentiation causing it to fall into the mass-market brand quadrant. 

But when looking at Sprite's performance among the Hispanic community, the brand not only excels across all four key metrics — but also is far more differentiated with Hispanic audiences when compared to the general population — elevating it to the status of a category leader within this audience.

By featuring Hispanic music artists and influencers in marketing campaigns, Sprite underscores its commitment to celebrating and representing Hispanic culture. For instance, Grammy-nominated Spanish singer Rosalia, whose influence permeates the U.S. market, plays a significant role in Sprite's broader efforts. Her collaboration with Sprite effectively connects the brand to the Latin music-loving community, helping the Sprite brand to stand out among Hispanics in a culturally relevant way.

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Brands that prioritize representation, especially during significant occasions like Juneteenth, which commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans, are better positioned to succeed in today's multicultural world and will grow faster in a more inclusive society.

More from BAV Group

Why is representation so pivotal to brand equity growth? 

BRAND STRENGTH (BAV Group defines it as future growth potential)

  • Differentiation: Increased representation in advertising helps brands grow faster by creating unique points of difference from competition. Airbnb's user experience allows individuals from diverse backgrounds to become hosts and share their unique spaces with travelers. For example, Airbnb's 2023 "Belong Anywhere" campaign focused on the idea that no matter where you are in the world, you can "belong anywhere" with Airbnb, thanks to the diverse and welcoming community of hosts.
  • Relevance: More diverse voices in marketing experiences help brands grow faster with diverse consumers. Nike uses a variety of diverse talent in its advertising to create its brand relevancy. For example, Nike has a video commercial starring Leiomy Maldonado, a transgender athlete, to emphasize that every kind of men and women can “fly,” despite their native condition. 

BRAND STATURE (BAV Group defines it as current operating value)

  • Esteem: Brands that ensure diverse voices are represented and heard, and cultural nuances are respected and celebrated, grow equity faster. An excellent example of a brand leveraging esteem to grow equity is Unilever's Dove through its "Real Beauty" campaign. The campaign was launched in 2004 to challenge beauty stereotypes and promote a more inclusive and diverse representation of beauty in media and advertising. The campaign featured real women of various ages, ethnicities, body types and backgrounds, celebrating their natural beauty and unique characteristics.
  • Knowledge: Brands that collaborate with diverse influencers to amplify brand knowledge grow equity faster. Pepsi continues to connect with diverse consumers on a human level. For example, in 2023 Pepsi enlisted TikTok food critic Keith Lee to support black-owned restaurants. Pepsi supports Black food entrepreneurs via its Dig In platform and has also teamed up with Lee to spread awareness to recognize the country’s best Black-owned restaurants, which creates new points of distribution for Pepsi products. 

Overall, building brand growth and equity with diverse talent requires a commitment to inclusivity, authenticity, equal opportunities, recognition and collaboration. By prioritizing diverse talent in more strategies and activations, brands can grow faster in a supportive and empowering environment where all consumers from all backgrounds feel valued, respected and empowered. 

About BAV Group

BAV Group is a WPP and VML (formerly VMLY&R Commerce) consultancy with expertise in consumer insights and data-driven brand and marketing strategies. Its strategic consulting services harness the power of WPP's proprietary BrandAsset Valuator (BAV) — a global database of consumer perceptions of brands. We are strategists and statisticians, but also anthropologists, creatives, sector experts and, ultimately, data storytellers. We bring our diverse experiences and teams together to help our clients make smarter decisions. We provide growth focused brand intelligence, customer insights and marketing and business strategy by bringing data to the brand opinion party.

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