Finding the Right Ingredients for Your Agency’s Multicultural and DEI Strategies

Like any good sauce, it needs a strong foundation

Did you know brand recall increases when viewers see an ad on TV AND streaming? Download "A Practical Playbook for Multiscreen TV" to learn more. Sponsored by EffecTV.

You’ve probably seen him on Netflix’s Chef’s Table. Globally recognized Mexican chef Enrique Olvera has made mole the flagship of his iconic and colorful culinary palette. 

This delicious dark sauce is emblematic of Mexican cuisine, a fusion of essentials that blend Baroque influences with the intense flavors of delicious complexity. 

Olvera, a chef trained at New York’s Culinary Institute of America who has made the ranks of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants every year since 2012, relies on history to better forge a contemporary culinary identity. What is worth noting is that Olvera chose to craft this mixture of cocoa, chili, sesame, peanuts, tomatoes and a range of spices in such a way that it keeps evolving over time. Rather than using a single recipe each morning, he starts with a base left over from the day before and adds available seasonal products, never in the same combination. 

In the end, this Mole Madre, as he has named it, has had dozens of different ingredients added to it over time. To date, that’s nearly 1,400 days of uninterrupted cooking with fresh products added to the existing base, giving the blend lively and slightly different character each day. The mole never stops evolving, continually becoming more complex. It has become a living, breathing ingredient.

Diversity needs to be nourished, continuously enhanced and celebrated.

I find this to be a fascinating analogy to what culture really is, especially as it relates to the notions of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Just like with the mole, we continuously shape the flavors and colors of a culture that evolves and becomes more subtle yet more complex. And a deep understanding of the evolution of culture takes upbringing, inherited traditions and formal education, but it also combines constant learning, social interaction and shared life experiences.

Now that everyone is talking about DEI, it’s important to acknowledge the enormous value that derives from a wide range of cultural backgrounds and diverse perspectives relating to origin, race and gender. The more diverse a team is, the more it creates a blend of tasty and colorful creative output.

Actually, one of the most compelling arguments for DEI from a business standpoint is innovation. Just as biological diversity leads to evolution, diverse perspectives in the workplace lead to business innovation.  

Diversity “tastes” good. It’s good for business and pays off, but diversity needs to be nourished, continuously enhanced and celebrated. And brands can reap the benefits of the rich blend of insights and freshness. 

However, DEI is not the same as multicultural marketing.

The last few months, the conversation around DEI has become the flavor of the month in corporate America. Of course, this is great news. The not-so-great news is that for some corporations, DEI may be implemented in lieu of multicultural marketing programs, at least from a resource allocation perspective. The risk of treating them as the same thing could damage a brand’s bottom line.

A committed DEI program is a must for corporations to build an organization that better reflects the society and the marketplace. Diversity helps bring the right representation; equity is the recognition of everyone’s value in their difference, and inclusion is a must in order to have these voices heard at the decision-making level. 

An effective DEI program can serve as a springboard for an inclusive approach across all stakeholders, including suppliers, retailers and consumers. And precisely because retailers and consumers should be engaged in this effort, a multicultural marketing discipline with specialized expertise is required.

DEI efforts are not truly complete without a multicultural marketing strategy. And multicultural marketing strategies may be incomplete and ineffective if developed without people who understand and engage with the new demographic.

DEI is an internal effort that encourages a work environment that inspires a diverse range of representation and thought; promotes and celebrates inclusivity; and provides equitable opportunities to all. Meanwhile, multicultural marketing is an external effort for a corporation to promote and sell products or services, including market research and advertising to one or more audiences of a specific cultural segment. 

There’s now proof that DEI is an enormous benefit for organizations as differences in background, experiences and thinking lead to increased innovation and insight. However, those innovations and insights need to be communicated to multicultural consumers in a relevant and authentic way, and that is only possible by having a proper multicultural marketing strategy. 

So, let’s take a page from Olvera’s mole recipe by embracing a constantly evolving culture and by committing to meaningful DEI initiatives. It’s time to channel the powerful “taste” of those initiatives into culturally meaningful marketing programs that engage and delight the modern multicultural consumer. 

Adweek magazine cover
Click for more from this issue

This story first appeared in the Dec. 7, 2020, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.