Diversity Marketing: How to Best Reach and Engage with Customers

The U.S. is often referred to as a melting-pot, which gives brands the ability to reach wide audiences right here, yet many miss the mark by not engaging with consumers accurately through diversity marketing. On today’s show, we’re pleased to welcome Dr. Debbie Qaqish, who is the Partner and Chief Strategy Officer at the Pedowitz Group, to guide us through how brands can best engage with consumers through diversity marketing.

Transcription:

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Thanks so much for joining us on the show, Dr. Debbie Qaqish.

Debbie Qaqish:
Thank you for having me.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure. So for those that are watching us today, tell us a little bit about, from your perspective, what is diversity marketing all about?

Debbie Qaqish:
Well, diversity marketing is just about inclusion, and it’s also about being real, and it’s also about being authentic. The days of this fake plastic, corporate America, and messaging to people like they’re also fake and plastic, is gone, and what people want now is authenticity, and diversity marketing is a great way to achieve that.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure. So if I’m a business owner and I put an African American or somebody from the gay community in my ad, I’m good? Is that diversity marketing?

Debbie Qaqish:
Well, that’s certainly a beginning, right? But it’s beyond the pictures, even though a picture does paint a thousand words, and it includes the messaging. Right? We all have an unconscious bias. There has been study after study after study that talks about the unconscious bias that we bring. So we have to make sure that, in our positioning and our messaging and how we run our business, that we are being inclusive. So it’s beyond a picture.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. It’s beyond a picture and also the message that’s out there. It also of flows right into having a diverse workforce, right? I would imagine these two things really go hand in hand. I mean, you can’t be out there saying that, “Oh, we’re all things to all people, and we love all of you and want to do the best and serve all these different markets,” and then they walk into your showroom or your business or your company and they don’t see that reflective anywhere. Right?

Debbie Qaqish:
That is absolutely true. You need to have a diverse workforce. Number one, studies have shown that companies with a diverse workforce, even in gender, outperform companies who don’t have gender diversity. And if you have diversity across different races, then you even have a higher market valuation. So it pays to be diverse, if you want to speak that kind of language for the CEO, but also, that’s what consumers expect nowadays. They expect to walk into a showroom or into a store and they want to see people that look like them. They don’t want to see just one group of people and that’s it. It’s very off-putting.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. That’s right. And to your point, it isn’t just the right thing to do, but it’s also so good for the bottom line, and I think more companies now are realizing that and to have a diverse workforce, and also not just a workforce, but also a diverse C-suite, so the people making up that company, making those decisions on marketing, are also diverse. Right?

Debbie Qaqish:
And that is a little bit like the last fashion if you think about corporate America, is getting diversity into the C-suite. We see more diversity in the lower ranks of organizations, but the higher you go in an organization, the less diversity we see, which is really a shame, because again, diversity pays.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. That’s right. And to your point, because you use the word to be authentic and authenticity matters. That matters in the C-suite. I mean, you can’t just say one thing, and then somebody opens up your corporate brochure or goes online and says, “Well, wait a minute, nobody that’s running the leadership of this company… It’s all white males that are 50-plus.”

Debbie Qaqish:
You are so right, and one of the things that we’ve seen as a result of the pandemic is this thirst for authenticity, and as a company, you can’t hide that crap any more, right? Because everything that people want to know about you and your company and what you do is online, so you can’t say one thing over here and do something different over here without being caught. So people are really thirsting for authenticity. And again, I just go back to, there’s so many studies in the market right now to show that companies who are authentic from top to bottom outperform companies who are not.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah. Oh, for sure. For sure. Talk to us about how does an organization you best engage with consumers using this strategy?

Debbie Qaqish:
Well, to your point, it really has to start at the top. You can’t say, “We’re going to be diverse. We’re going to be more inclusive. We’re going to really be authentic with our customers,” and then not take action on it, so if it’s not an initiative that is not just begun, but felt strongly from the top down, you will not have an authentic company. And we see the younger generation of employees leaving companies because of that plasticity, that fakeness in organizations. Again, studies show that this younger generation of workers that we have want to be associated with something that is good, that makes them feel good, and being authentic with people is one way to do that.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Boy, there’s no question about it. And today, where we have such a divisive country, unfortunately, blame it on past or current presidents, we can sit here all day long and place blame on whose fault it is that we’re so divisive today, but it’s so incredibly important for corporate America to realize this and to say, “Look, we serve everybody. We’re not taking sides here. It’s not a political situation,” although it seems everything is political nowadays, right down to wearing a mask to protect yourself or your family or what-have-you. But this cannot be one of those issues. This has to be an issue that businesses pay attention to and say, “Look, let’s let all of that be what it is. We have to serve all of these markets and show that we do.”

Debbie Qaqish:
That’s exactly right. You really do, and again, it has to do with the heart and soul of the company. And again, the idea that corporations are these fake, plastic, “We’re only there to make money,” those days are gone, again because consumers have so much access to information about these organizations. And it really is going to be those organizations who, like you just said, who care, who want to make a difference. Those are the kinds of companies that consumers want to do business with, not the other kind.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah. Where are some other areas that you feel brands miss the mark on this?

Debbie Qaqish:
I think that brands need to do more, and let me just give you a small example, and in my company, we have an internship program for disadvantaged young people, 20-year-olds. And we recently had two people who were homeless and we took them in. This is with the Covenant House in Atlanta, and we put them through a training program. We taught them the technology. We gave them access to a technology career they never, ever would have had, and we gave them lots of training around how to attend a meeting, how to set up a meeting, business skills that we know. And as a result of that program, we actually wound up hiring one of those young men to work in our company. He now has an apartment. He now has a car. He now has a job and he now has a career.

Debbie Qaqish:
So I think we have to see corporate America begin to give back to people, right? And I don’t mean just money. And thinking about, again, I work in the technology industry, I’ve been there for many years, and giving people access to a tech career is something that we’re very, very proud to do in our organization. And these are people who would not ever have had a career like this if we had not created this internship program.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah. That’s fantastic. Congratulations to you on that and the success of that.

Debbie Qaqish:
Thank you.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
How does an organization best engage with consumers out there? What’s your recommendation?

Debbie Qaqish:
Yeah. I think it begins with your messaging, right? And to again, just get away from that Mad Men mentality, that corporate plasticity mentality, and have messaging that’s real, because people, again, they want to buy from companies that that means something that they feel that they can respond to. So I think companies need to open up their hearts, so to speak, and find the goodness and bring that into their messaging so that people know that they’re dealing with an organization that cares.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. That’s right. What’s the first thing a company should do when evaluating their marketing?

Debbie Qaqish:
I think the first thing that they should do when evaluating their marketing, and again, when we’re talking about this, I think that you have to have a marketing organization that understands PR, that understands messaging, and also that can help enable programs in the company that include diversity, that include being more inclusive to other organizations. I mean, that’s just one part of the marketing engine. Sometimes we see companies who will hire a chief customer officer, and when they hire a chief customer officer, you always see a lot of inclusiveness that comes out, because they’re now getting to focus on the customer because they want to make that connection. So that’s always a great first step.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah, for sure. For sure. Well, Dr. Debbie Qaqish, who’s partner and chief strategy officer for the Pedowitz Group, I want to thank you so much for joining us here on the show. It’s very enlightening for companies and business-owners that are watching us have this conversation. Look inward, and check out what’s getting put out there from your PR agency, from your ad agency, from your own marketing team. What you want to be from the outside looking in, and from the inside looking out? If you don’t like what you see, now’s the opportunity to make that change. And 10 years ago might have been the best time, the second best time, as they say, is today, to make the change.

Debbie Qaqish:
I couldn’t agree more.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. That’s right. So thank you so much, doctor. I really appreciate it. Hopefully we can do a follow-up with you, because I’ve got about 10 other questions I didn’t have time to get to, but I’d love to have the discussion with you. So thank you so much.

Debbie Qaqish:
Thank you for having me.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Thanks.


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