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“Wow, she looks just like me!”

The importance of representation in marketing

Think about the last time you flipped through a magazine, saw an ad for a gym or visited your favorite retailer’s website. Did you see anyone who looked like you? And did you see various races, genders, ages, religions and even disease states represented as well? If you answered yes to the second question, the brands you’re engaging with deserve a high five for their representation efforts.

The concept of representation refers to speaking or acting on behalf of someone – typically those who don’t have a voice, vote or means for being seen by those making decisions that impact them. And when it comes to marketing, the imagery we choose is an important first step.

Little choice, big applause

Slack – a project management and communication platform – recently made a seemingly little decision that got a great deal of positive attention: It chose a dark-brown-hand illustration for its “Add to Slack” button. Kaya Thomas summed up why it matters in a tweet: “It may seem like a small thing but when you see graphics over and over excluding your skin color, it matters.”1

Emojis continue to evolve

A few years ago, emojis moved from the standard yellow to including different skin tone options, and later additions included variations such as red hair. In a review of 1 billion tweets, researchers at the University of Edinburgh found that use of skin tones has been largely positive. Dr. Walid Madgy noted, “The introduction of skin tone choices for emojis has been a success in representing diversity and their extensive use shows that they meet a real demand from users.”2 Recently Apple submitted a proposal for 13 new emojis that would represent people with disabilities. The new designs include a prosthetic arm and leg, hearing aids, people using sign language, and a wheelchair.3

Marketing takes note

Cannes Lions – a major festival and awards for the creative and marketing communications, entertainment, design and tech industries – took on the topic of representation by announcing the Glass Lion: The Lion for Change award, which recognizes work that challenges gender bias and stereotypical images in marketing. The award was launched with the support of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In organization,4 and in 2017 the “Fearless Girl” statue installed on Wall Street received the top accolade.5

So how can we be mindful of representation in our own work? In our latest Insight, we explore how next-gen is leading the way with a look at apps, social media and mental health companies. Check it out and, as always, contact us anytime. We’d love to continue the conversation.

  1. https://www.fastcompany.com/3052541/why-i-used-a-brown-hand-for-the-add-to-slack-button
  2. https://www.ed.ac.uk/news/2018/emoji-skin-tones-promote-diversity-on-twitter
  3. https://www.theverge.com/2018/4/3/17193020/apple-emojis-disability-representation-media-carrie-wade-interview
  4. https://lbbonline.com/news/cannes-lions-announces-new-glass-lion-award/
  5. https://www.fastcompany.com/40432883/fearless-girl-wins-glass-lion-grand-prix-at-cannes-lions-festival

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