If I Don't See My Face In Your Ad, I Won't Shop In Your Store
Sounds extreme, but in today's society, if you don't take a stand for something, how can you expect it to change? I’ll give you an example. Walk to your nearest shopping center and count these two types of ads. The first is an ad which features a Caucasian model or celebrity, the second, an ad with a model or celebrity of color. Did you notice the difference? I performed this task and found that my nearest shopping center featured significantly fewer ads with models or celebrities of color. However, this isn't the only category that can be tested. Consider doing this with gender, hair types or styles, or body size variations. I found that there is an overwhelming lack of equal representation in today's retail marketing ads, whether it’s print or commercial. As a high observant person and one that cares about diversity, this just didn’t feel right. Why? Because increasing representation has the power to promote inclusivity in all areas in life, it celebrates people and what makes them unique and simply, it's the right thing to do.
Let's focus on the underlying concerns and doubts associated with race and culture within retail marketing for a minute. Why are most retail brands not celebrating more diversity and seem unwilling to reexamine their choices? I believe most brands have grown comfortable in commercial approaches to marketing, rather than establishing more progressive, ethically conscious narratives. In an interview with Teen Vogue discussing the topic of discrimination, model Lillian Lightbourn, says "Creatives will only be as diverse and experienced as their clients demand them to be". The demand to increase representation in retail marketing stems greatly from what the major fashion houses are doing worldwide. Therefore, can one make the assumption that if more models of color appear in major fashion campaigns, more retailers will feature them? The answer to this unknown because only a handful of worldwide fashion brands are challenging societal standards, making the quantitative data pool too small to make absolute conclusions.
However, do retail brands need to wait for significant change to happen within the fashion industry? No. Some notable brands have expanded their marketing campaigns representation and are forging their own rules in regards to diversity. Brands such as Puma, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, Kate Spade New York, Glossier, Pantene, and Sephora, are setting new standards in this field. Why does this matter for the shopping consumer like me and you? From an ethical perspective, when a group of people is excluded from a narrative, their value in society stays stagnant or worse, decreases. I wish I could walk into a store and not look around to see who they are selling to or who they are featuring in their latest campaigns because it might make shopping easier. But for me, if a group of people is not represented in the brands I trust and am loyal too, I simply will put my money where my mouth is and support other brands that are pushing themselves to do better. Consumers nationwide are holding more brands accountable for inclusivity. Consider the outcry from make-up bloggers and YouTube audiences when a make-up brand fails to feature a full range of product shades or models wearing these products. Brands like Beauty Blender and Tarte know this too well when consumers noticed darker complexion products featured less range than lighter tones in 2018. Both brands made public statements and retracted their products, promising they will be inclusive the next time around.
Have I not shopped somewhere because I didn’t see a Latin model with curly hair in an ad? Yes. So how do you make decisions based on what brands you will support or not? How do you advocate for more inclusivity? If you’ve never considered these questions, next time you’re scrolling on Instagram or are in a mall, look around and take mental notes of what the brands you buy from are doing. Are they catering to one audience or are they featuring models that look like you? Maybe you happen to be in the majority pool for this argument, are you going to stay comfortable, in your lane or are you going to advocate for women and men of more color and sizes? In the last decade, there has been an increase in social movements, encouraging more inclusion and acceptance. The time to act is now, as society is placing higher value and weight on topics such as racism, diversity, and tolerance. If more consumers place a higher emphasis on vocalizing their desire to see more diversity, more brands will follow in that direction. For you, this could mean using social media to celebrate brands or in the opposite way, challenge them. Go off on Twitter, sis! Or like me, purchase most of your products from brands that increase diversity. Some of my favorites include Aerie, Glossier, and Target.