CMO Moves

Why Do CMOs Care About Diversity and Inclusion?

In Cannes this year, we convened a dynamic group of leading CMOs to discuss two critical topics shaping the future of marketing: diversity & inclusion and the changing marketing ecosystem. On this hot and humid day on the French Riviera, thirty of us escaped the heat on the outside to crank up the heat on the inside, with bright minds churning and sleeves rolled up.

The first topic, diversity and inclusion, was indeed a passion-filled discussion. We almost didn’t get to the second topic because we just couldn’t stop talking about the possibilities.

Why do CMOs care about this topic so much? Because it is all about people and how we not only see them, but include them. It’s the heart of marketing and fuel for growth and innovation. In a colorful world made up of unique individuals, how can brands authentically connect with and inspire people on the outside and on the inside?

Just as we tackled tough topics in the January Symposium, we collectively weighed in on what’s working, what’s not and what’s possible. Here is an overview from that pivotal day in Cannes, which subsequently has fueled today’s announcement of the new Adweek Diversity and Inclusion Council:

What’s Working?

  • We’ve made a lot of progress in raising awareness around the importance of diversity and inclusion in the past few years, albeit progress is slower than hoped.
  • The emergence of specialized efforts in representing the under-represented like diversity talent provider Jopwell, organizations like The Female Quotient and ADCOLOR and industry call-to-actions like #SeeHer, co-chaired by Fiona Carter, Chief Brand Officer of AT&T and Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer of P&G.
  • Transparent conversations around equal pay with brands stepping up to help advance the conversation or bridge the gap, as we saw recently with the actions from Procter and Gamble, to subsidize the pay gap of the U.S. Women’s Soccer team.
  • Brands publicly declaring their purpose and values that are grounded in diversity and inclusion like Nike’s Impact Report.
  • Brands leading industry coalitions to create new opportunities for under-privileged individuals to come into the advertising and marketing industries, like Verizon’s adfellows program which includes their agency partners, American Express, Anheuser-Busch and more brands enrolling to fuel their talent pipelines.
  • Leaders stepping up to reach back and pull forward diverse talent through mentorship, sponsorship and advocacy, as celebrated in this year’s Adweek and ADCOLOR Champions

What’s Not?

  • Today’s world is all about erasing pre-defined lines around gender, age, ethnicity or lifestyle preferences. Stereotypes that were formed decades ago still exist and continue to drive advertising cohorts like “Latina” or “Seniors” or “Gen Z.” Gen Z, by the way, is probably the best representation of no lines. It’s a generation that does not like to be defined, especially around gender.
  • Rise to mediocracy. Instead of truly digging deep to understand individuality, it seems the world is moving towards vanilla to avoid conflict. This is driven by the lack of tools and personal drive today in how to understand the differences and tap into true empathy, a leadership skill that is inconsistent and not well developed across the marketer community. As one executive stated during the Symposium, “People don’t dig deeper until they are forced to.”
  • Approaching diversity as a “check the box” requirement vs. fully embracing the benefits. Equally challenging is putting too much pressure on diverse groups to be the sole heroes in driving growth vs. acknowledging that diversity is part of the solution.
  • Using language that sends the wrong message, like “cultural fit” vs “cultural add.” Why would you want to bring people in who are just like you? That’s the fastest way not to grow.
  • Lack of ownership and clarity across organizations between CMO, CHRO, CEO, CFO, etc. Which then drives lack of action and a bigger problem, retention. According to a recent Verizon inclusivity study conducted in partnership with the Center for Talent Innovation, women and people of color are much more likely to leave their roles and the industry due to microaggressions within their organizations.

“A lot of people just think about diversity in the context of increasing the pipeline of talent. You might hire all the diverse people that you want, but if they come to an environment where they’re not going to feel included, then it’s just a waste of time.” -Diego Scotti, CMO of Verizon 

What’s Possible?

  • A world without boxes or lines. Celebrate individuality, freedom of choice and erasing those lines, like The Ad Council’s Love Has No Labels Get rid of old cohorts that are meaningless and focus on connecting authentically with your team, your consumers and society.
  • Empower leaders with inclusivity training and help them develop leadership language around comfort and connectedness.
  • Focus the organization on authenticity, empathy and collaboration. Empathy is not always a natural skill. As Chris Capossela, CMO of Microsoft said, “proximity is the most powerful path to empathy.”  Sometimes you need to get up close and personal to really develop that superpower, much like Rick Gomez, Chief Marketing and Digital Officer of Target did by going to visit his shoppers in their homes and Carla Hassan, Chief Brand Officer of Citi who believes in “Putting Yourself in Someone Else’s Shoes.”
  • Create safe spaces for team members to share concerns and help each other address those concerns with real action.
  • Be a mentor to those in need of breaking through barriers, whether real or perceived, it doesn’t matter.
  • Sponsor through time, resources and effort the actions that will close the gap on diversity and inclusion within your organizations.
  • Create allies across the industry for collective action, As Gail Tifford, Chief Brand Officer of WW and Shelley Zalis, CEO of The Female Quotient did when they founded #SeeHer.
  • Measure your actions, starting with an honest assessment of where you and your organization are today with priority actions identified for the next 6, 12, 18 months. Revisit milestones periodically to ensure you are on course and adjust as need be to reflect circumstances in that moment.
  • Essentially, walk the walk and keep walking!

“For me, empathy is not just getting to know who people are, it’s also about understanding what people have to deal with in their business issues day in and day out so you can help them add value into an organization.” - Carla Hassan, CBO of Citi

As a result of this lively discussion and direction from our Steering Committee, Adweek is excited to announce today that we will be tackling the “What’s Possible” to better serve our community of marketers starting with the launch of our dedicated D&I Council, who will steer us forward in our efforts.

We cannot thank our partners, The Trade Desk and Nielsen, enough for enabling all of us to come together in Cannes to collectively make meaningful progress for our industry.

Thank you to all who participated!