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In 2020, marketing strategies have had to evolve and change at dramatic rates. From figuring out how to advertise during a pandemic to creating paid media plans in preparation for the election, marketers have been challenged to innovate and improve upon current processes. One of this year’s most significant developments was the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, which led many brands to rethink how they had marketed in the past and evaluate how they could make changes to build more genuinely inclusive marketing.

One of the most rewarding things my team and I were able to accomplish this quarter was conducting 3Q Digital’s first creative inclusivity audit. The account, a health sciences university, has campuses across the nation, each with a distinct demographic makeup. Our mission was to assess whether or not we, as their marketing team, were doing our due diligence to represent the students at each respective campus and within the various programs offered.

The process wasn’t by any means easy. Our team put in over 30 hours from beginning to end, analyzing all available creative from the client repository, as well as what creative we were currently utilizing, and then comparing the outcome of the creative asset audit to the campus and program demographic breakdowns. And, the audit wasn’t a perfect science. Our team actively recognizes that personal unconscious bias likely came into play.

With all of that in mind, what we found was promising: all of the programs we were marketing had a near equal or higher percent of inclusive creative assets compared with the percent of the total student population that was not white. However, when we did a by-campus breakdown, we found that two of our five campuses were falling short. For example, we worked with the client’s campus-specific personas and initially believed that the creative would have been more tailored to the demographic makeup. We were surprised that the audit revealed opportunities to increase the inclusivity ratio by utilizing the methodologies developed in our creative audit process. It meant that we were able to emerge from this audit with action items and concrete goals.

Although the project itself was a bit of an undertaking, our team, as well as the client, now has a better understanding of how we can build upon what we have already created to develop and run truly inclusive creative. Some of these action items include:

  • Creating a shot list for when photo and video shoots resume. This includes ensuring a diverse population of subjects, especially for those campuses that are not meeting their inclusivity ratio.
  • Diving deeper into the use of personas for all campuses.

The long-term goal? To hit the account’s overall inclusivity ratio by H2 of 2021. Ultimately, action is needed for change, and that is what we continue to strive towards.

Building an inclusive brand doesn’t depend entirely on marketers, but we should continue to do our part where we can by leaning into inclusive messaging and creative. It means being a better partner and, in our case, ensuring the prospective and current students are properly represented.

As 3Q CEO Rob Murray said in a recent eMarketer report on Best Practices for Inclusive Marketing, “You have two generations of purchasing power that grew up in an online era and know what to do to amplify brands they love and take on brands that are tone-deaf. The conversation is loud, and it’s imperative.”