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Brand StrategyFebruary 16, 2022

Why Real Representation Matters to Brand Success

February 16, 2022
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Cory Schröder
Senior Content Marketing Manager

When creating a brand campaign, how much thought and effort do you put into the strategy and content? What about the imagery and visuals? For most brand and marketing managers, it’s quite a lot.

But in 2022, your brand campaigns have to be about more than just snappy copy and eye-catching visuals — they need to accurately reflect your target audience and brand identity.

Over the past few decades, we’ve seen families change and grow. What was once a cookie-cutter expectation has evolved into a beautifully diverse concept — and brands have a duty to evolve alongside consumers.

Therefore, when creating brand campaigns and strategies that resonate with modern consumers, it’s imperative that brands explore and deeply understand their target audiences — to ensure their visuals are representative and inspire connection.

This article will take a look at how consumer and family demographics have evolved over the last decade, as well as provide tips for brands to increase emotional connection and inspire loyalty with modern consumers.

Why Should Brands Care About Accurate Representation?

Source: Pexels

Before we dig into how family demographics have changed over the past few decades, it’s important to address why this actually matters for brands.

According to a 2019 report from Adobe, “61% of Americans find diversity in advertising important, and 38% of consumers are more likely to trust brands that do well with showing diversity in their ads.”

However, the same report found that “66% of African-Americans, and 53% of Latino and Hispanic Americans feel their ethnicity is portrayed stereotypically in advertisements.” While increasing diversity in advertising is important, it must be done intelligently and with sensitivity.

Diversity for diversity’s sake (without careful consideration and research) won’t get you far with modern consumers.

Instead, you need to do your homework and gather data on what your target audience looks like. What’s their demographic makeup? What do they like to see from brands? All this information will help you to better understand how to approach diversity and representation in your ads and branded materials — that way, you can provide consumers with the experience they’re looking for and increase brand loyalty.

Next, let’s take a look at how family demographics have evolved over the last few decades to see what brands should pay attention to going forward.

How Have Consumer & Family Demographics Changed?

Source: Pexels

When looking at family demographics over the last few decades, there have been some interesting changes — not just in size and makeup, but also concerning marital status and average family income.

Between 1960 and 2020, the average family size in the US dropped from 3.67 to 3.15 people — a 14% decrease. And, according to the NCHS & US Department of Health and Human Service, between 1990 and 2019, the birthrate decreased from 16.7 to 11.4 per 1000. That’s a pretty significant drop.

But what does this tell us? When it comes to size, the landscape of the US family has changed over the last 30-60 years, with the average size and birthrate both dropping — which is something to keep in mind when representing families in brand campaigns.

Quite interestingly, the divorce rate in the US has also seen a decline — going from 1.21 million divorces in 1981 to only 750,000 divorces in 2019. However, at the same time, the number of single parents has increased quite a bit.

According to the US Census Bureau, there were 11.27 million families with single mothers in 1990 and 15.49 million families in 2020 — that’s a 37% increase over the last 30 years. Similarly, the number of families with single fathers has also increased — going from 2.91 million in 1990 to 6.96 million in 2020.

So, while divorce rates have decreased, the rate of single parenthood has increased — meaning the definition of “family” must be expanded to include single-parent households, whether they’re a product of divorce or began that way.

Thus, to connect with families in 2020, brand and marketing campaign visuals should show more than just two-parent households in their ads and branding materials — single-parent families need to be represented appropriately.

It’s also important to look at how demographics have changed concerning family makeup. What for many years was assumed to be the “average family” — a cis, heterosexual married couple with 2.5 children — no longer applies in 2022.

Now, families come in all shapes and sizes — there’s no “correct” ethnic or cultural makeup, sexual orientation, gender expression, or relationship status. According to the Pew Research Center, one in six kids in the US now lives in a blended family — aka a household that includes a step-parent, step-sibling, or half-sibling.

Source: Pew Research

As we can see, Hispanic, Black, and Caucasian children are all equally likely to live in a blended family, while Asian (7%) children are a bit less likely. Clearly, blended families are a part of today’s family landscape and brands should find innovative ways to include them in messaging and visuals.

Another important change Pew Research found over the past six decades has been an increase in mothers as the family’s primary breadwinner — with four in ten families now being supported primarily by the mother.

“The bulk of these breadwinner moms—8.3 million—are either unmarried or are married and living apart from their spouse.19 The remaining 4.9 million, who are married and living with their spouse, earn more than their husbands.

“While families with married breadwinner moms tend to have higher median incomes than married-parent families where the father earns more ($88,000 vs. $84,500), families headed by unmarried mothers have incomes far lower than unmarried father families.”

However, based on data from Facebook Advertising, “male characters are 1.3x more likely than female characters to be shown working, and 1.6x more likely to be shown in the office.” Obviously, this doesn’t accurately represent the current landscape.

So, for brands looking to accurately represent and connect with modern families, it’s important to remember that many women work full-time and provide the main source of income for their households. Be mindful of the ways in which they’re represented in brand visuals and avoid antiquated stereotypes.

Finally, we need to consider the growing ethnic and cultural diversity in our modern landscape. According to the 2020 US Census, diversity is increasing faster than predicted — as seen in the chart below.

Source: Brookings

And, this diversity is increasing most dramatically in younger generations — specifically those 16 and under. As these consumers age, they will likely be even more interested in seeing brands that employ proper representation — as will the parents of this age group.

But advertising isn’t keeping up. According to data from Facebook Advertising, “ethnic minorities are 2x less likely than white characters to be shown as a member of a family and 1.9x less likely to be shown driving.” This just won’t work in 2022.

So, for brands whose target audiences include younger consumers (and their parents), keep in mind that the importance of diversity will likely increase — and to connect with these consumers, you need to provide accurate representation in your brand visuals.

3 Tips To Encourage Proper Representation in 2022

Source: Pexels

Based on the data we’ve shared, it’s clear that the landscape of diversity has been evolving, and brands who want to remain successful need to keep up.

Let’s discuss three tips you can implement to encourage proper representation in 2022 and beyond.

1. Diversify Your Own Company

One of the best ways to encourage proper representation in your brand visuals and ads is to start at the foundation: a diverse company.

When you make it a top priority to hire and foster a diverse team, it will become a whole lot easier to gather different perspectives and insights. And there’s more than one type of diversity — ethnic and cultural diversity, gender diversity, neurodiversity, the list goes on.

Having a team that more accurately corresponds to your target audience provides a huge advantage. Diverse colleagues bring in diverse perspectives — and that’s something we need a bit more of in 2022 to keep up with consumers.

2. Deep Dive Into Consumer Data

You can’t really know what your customers are looking for unless you know your customers. And to do that, you need heaps of data.

First, you need to consider the demographics of your customers. What age are they? What gender? What’s their income level? Marital status? Ethnicity?

While you may not have access to some of this data due to data protection laws — these are the kinds of questions you need to find the answers to if you want to paint an accurate picture of your customer landscape.

Then, take a deep dive into your consumer data to find out how these different target audiences currently feel about your brand. Would they consider using your products and services? Do they prefer you to the competition? Do they think of your brands as innovative or bold or diverse?

And if you’re still unsure of how your target audiences feel about diversity and proper representation in your brand visuals, ask them using a brand monitoring tool like Latana. With the ability to gather data directly from the source — your target consumers — you can figure out the answer to this (and many more) important questions.

3. Understand & Meet Your Customers’ Preferences

Remember, customer demographics won’t tell you the whole story. Not all of your customers may be neurodiverse, people of color, or members of the LGBTQIA+ community — but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to see representations of diversity and inclusion.

According to a 2019 survey by GLAAD, 75% of non-LGBTQIA+ adults are comfortable seeing an LGBTQIA+ person in a commercial and 70% are comfortable seeing an LGBTQIA+ family with children in an ad.

And based on data from Microsoft Advertising, we know that 70% of Gen Z consumers are “more trusting of brands that represent diversity in ads.” But perhaps the most revealing insight for brands considering diversity in advertising comes from Facebook Advertising data:

“In more than 90% of the simulations run by Facebook, diverse representation was the winning strategy for ad recall lift.”

Clearly, you don’t have to belong to a specific demographic to support diversity and want to see it properly represented. So, while it’s important to know the demographic breakdown of your target audiences, it’s also important to understand what consumers want and are expecting from you.

And in 2022, 71% are expecting brands to promote diversity and inclusion and will vote with their wallets.

Final Thoughts

Ensuring that your brand promotes proper representation in all advertising and brand visuals is a big undertaking — there are many mistakes to be made and pitfalls to avoid along the way.

No one is expecting you to be perfect from day one — but to do your research, put in the effort, and learn from your errors. At the end of the day, it’s a smart marketing move. So start working on your representation sooner rather than later — we promise it will be worth it.

Brand Strategy

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