Episode 12

Being authentically inclusive

We go deeper with customers to discover inauthentic action is worse than inaction.

What’s happening with Customers, Now?

Being authentically inclusive

We’ve spent the past few weeks exploring how and why people are taking action (or not) to progress racial justice. We found that people are quick to make excuses for why they don’t act – to deflect the issue for their lack of personal connection to it.

For this episode, we wanted to understand how brands’ actions (or lack thereof) are connecting with the people they are designed to support.  Simply, how are brands’ actions received by their Black customers? 

To explore this topic, we had an intimate, facilitated conversation with Black customers about what they expected and experienced from brands in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. Additionally, we chatted with a larger group of customers, of different races, to push our perspective to be both personal and universal.   

Both groups came to the same recommendation for brands: Don’t be reactively supportive. Be authentically inclusive. 

However, that’s not what brands are doing.  Customers perceive most brands to be reacting. Recycling diversity statements or posting Black squares on Instagram — reactions that feel disingenuous because the company hasn’t demonstrated inclusivity before now.    

I don’t want to say too little too late, but with some companies that’s where it is… Reese Witherspoon she has a company it’s called Draper James, it’s very country, very gingham, very cutesy and all of a sudden there was a Black square on her page. And I’m like, ‘but Reese there’s not one Black person in any of your advertisements’…don’t do it now because you want more customers…it should have been happening way before.”

Brands need to be authentic when being inclusive… and that may require taking a pause.

  • Are you a company with no pre-existing diversity initiatives? Pause.
  • Are you a company that hasn’t created products catering to the Black community? Pause.
  • Are you a company who has failed to take the time to listen closely to what your Black customers need from you? Pause.

If you haven’t been doing something, don’t just start now because sometimes when people start doing something, they get it wrong. You really need to look at your company and see what you want to bring forth to us first, maybe get other opinions…”

It starts by building a foundation of inclusivity.  And that starts from within.  

It starts by hiring diverse employees who intimately know what is best for their diverse customers.  

It starts with implementing actionable diversity and inclusion initiatives that hold your company accountable.  

It starts with putting diverse employees in charge of product development and marketing to make sure products and messaging feel genuinely inclusive.  

And perhaps most importantly, it starts with listening to the Black community and learning what they need from you as a brand.  

Target does an amazing job. You walk into Target, the signs they have with people are very diverse, they got Taraji’s new line for hair, they have the Honey Pot company – target looks for Black companies to have in their stores – I went to Afropunk, and they were heavily sponsoring and had a whole Black hair experience that you could walk through… nobody asked them to do that, it’s not like they are now reacting, they’ve been doing this kind of stuff. They’re a good example of a brand genuinely trying to do things for the community.”

I had busted my chin and I had to go to work so I had to put a band-aid there and I was like man I wish there was a brown one – you have to jump through hoops to find a color for your skin tone – band aid could easily roll that stuff out and make it easy to find…But if companies that don’t usually have products that are geared towards us and they just start pushing them out now, I’d be side eyeing it right now, it would have to be slowly rolled out – and maybe they should get ideas from their customers about how they can be better. They need to hear from their customers.”

From a strong inclusive foundation, a company then must do the work. To live and breathe the commitment to building a better business by building a more diverse business.  As one customer put it, “this shouldn’t be a seasonal trend that goes away once fall comes around.” Weave together excellence and inclusivity into the fabric of your business. 

Why put yourself out there, but then when everything goes back to normal you go back to normal too? You only last for that season. It’s something about seasonal, people; either you’re going do it year round or just for the season. And a lot of people are just jumping on seasonal things.”

And then, when you ARE more inclusive, it speaks for itself. If you’re showing up for the Black community, there will be no need to advertise it.

  • Word of mouth will speak louder than your advertising. 
  • Your diverse workforce will represent your brand better than your advertising. 
  • Your inclusive marketing initiatives will be more meaningful than your advertising. 
  • Your inclusive products and services will improve lives more than your advertising. 
  • Showing up for the Black community will make more of a difference than your advertising.  

Inauthentic action is worse than inaction. Rushing to react when you don’t have the foundation of inclusivity is worse than doing nothing.   

Actions speak louder than words.  But a lack of authenticity screams loudest.  Taking the time to pause, listen; building an inclusive foundation; doing and sustaining the work to weave together excellence and inclusivity – these are the actions that create change in their authenticity – for your company and for the customers you support.  

Customer Now 2020

Nothing is changing faster than ourselves.What’s happening with customers right now and what should business do next?

Suddenly, these two questions became a lot more complicated; the answers require us to get beyond the numbers, headlines and hyperbole in search of simple, scalable human truths.

That’s why we’ve launched Customer, Now., a project to document, explore and understand lock-down, and what follows it, from the customers’ perspective.

Through our global communities, we are tapping into the human truths behind customers’ experiences in real-time; exploring their inner worlds more deeply, and creating fresh, generative insights and implications to share with our community.

There’s one guiding insight that’s immediately become clear: in this fast-changing situation, nothing is changing faster than ourselves. This is what we’re exploring through Customer, Now.

It’s not uniform change, nor is it constant. It’s an evolution of our inner lives, our relationships, family, friends, home, health, work and, inevitably, our customer behaviour. And it’s more rapid than we’ve ever seen before.

Through Customer, Now. we’ll deliver to our community an insight, and its implications, every week. With this work, we have one simple aim: to drive a brighter, more progressive, customer-inspired version of tomorrow.

Explore the episodes:

01: Community as essential as food
02: The opposite is also true
03: Survival of the Simplest
04: We before me
05: Humanity in the balance
06: Guilt in Everything
07: The widening empathy gap
08: Habits of control
09: Energy beyond the moment
10: Projecting injustice
11: Believing our excuses
12: Being authentically inclusive
13: Embracing our Truths
14: Living in the grey
15: The “Sustainability” disconnect
16: Reinforcing Myself
17: 2020 “In” Review