Representation Matters.

Promoted Representation Vs Actual Diversity. 

I recently had a chance to provide a few thoughts on marketing diversity and representation for Top Design Firms, a firm that ranks and reviews companies involved in advertising and design. In their research, 40% of white individuals surveyed believed their race was represented accurately. For non-whites that number decreased to 29%. 

Over the last 7 months or so, you probably have consumed a little more television and social media than prior to entering the pandemic of 2020. The biggest civil rights movement ever to happen was displayed on every medium known to earth. The reason behind this movement was the reason for most civil rights movements – the unjust killings and treatment of Black folx. This unjust treatment is largely due to how we’re represented historically in various mediums such as books and advertising. 

In the United States, images we see on television, in movies, on our local and national news, in marketing campaigns, and on social media heavily influence how we view other races and cultures. It further influences how we view companies. For example, McDonald’s advertises heavily to the Black community. Unfortunately for McDonald’s, there are current lawsuits filed by dozens of Black franchise owners citing financial suicide due to their franchise locations.  How do such practices make Black franchise owners look in the eyes of other franchise owners whose restaurants are thriving? They’re represented as struggling owners and their community stakeholders aren’t supportive. Facebook, TikTok, and dozens of other companies love to promote that they’re for diversity and inclusive representation without partaking in actual diversity behind the scenes. 

The conversation around diversity and representation has been heavy. Major conglomerates have recognized their blatant discriminatory practices. These practices have purposely kept, and continue to keep BIPOC out of the boardrooms of Madison Avenue and senior management positions that provide the greenlight for their advertising and hiring, or in McDonald’s cases where franchise owners’ locations are selected. 

As a Black woman, the question around what is appropriate representation has clouded me since I knew I was Black. That would be May 1983. So for 30 odd years, I’ve witnessed brands falsely represent their commitment to diversity by controlling Black representation while not including Black folx or other communities of color. I call this promoted representation. Promoted representation involves advertising to consumers on the premises that a particular company is for Us when in actuality – Black or individuals of color are gravely underrepresented in all aspects of their companies. When diversity is represented – that voice systematically has no weight.

I’ve witnessed brands falsely represent their commitment to diversity by controlling Black representation while not including Black folx or other communities of color.

The common excuses of BIPOC individuals or we don’t have the qualifications are not applying screams racist hiring practices. Frankly, I see no intentions of certain CEOs to disrupt this prejudiced culture. That’s why being competent where we spend our hard-earned dollar is vital. 

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