Global Opinions

IWD: Why diversity and inclusion matter in experiential marketing

In a face-to-face situation, people have the opportunity to embrace difference, say Jack Morton Worldwide’s Natalie Ackerman and Lucille Essey.

For years we have been talking about why diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) matter. It goes without saying that DEI matters across every industry. So why should experiential be any different?

In the experiential space, studies have shown that women are dominating the scene, with more than 77% of event planners being women in the USA and similar statistics across the globe, including in the United Kingdom and Australia. Women are part of the conversation and that’s definitely something to shout about. But this is just a start.

Diversity and inclusion is more than one gender having a voice, it’s about everyone, regardless of gender, age, race, cultural heritage, religion and background having equity. 

DEI is vital and as leaders in the experiential space, we need to understand the impact it has on our work, our people and the business.

So what impact does DEI have in our space, why is it so important and what can we do as leaders in experiential?

Real life, at its core, is diverse

When we create experiences, we are operating in the realm of real life interactions and situations, oftentimes providing people with different backgrounds an opportunity to come together, meet and engage. This could be a conference you’re speaking at, a public event or even an exhibition you’re attending.

Experiential provides a diverse and inclusive platform for people to engage, and embrace one another’s differences in real-time. Advertisements can promote D&I through content, but the individual consumer can easily not think about any existing biases. In a face-to-face situation, biases are not so easily ignored and people have the opportunity to embrace difference, resulting in more real engagement.

Diversity is creative gold

Experiential is, of course, all about experience. And an experience that creates a lasting memory and impacts people on a personal level, is an emotional experience. But a team lacking in diversity will result in ideas that access a limited emotional pathway, thus limiting the potential emotional success of the experience.

Lack of diversity also means that you will likely end up producing one-dimensional ideas that lack depth and are based only on the foundation of the majority. This is not the voice of the future, nor the present.  What we realised is that the more diverse the influences, the broader the ideas and the experience.

Make diversity and inclusion a priority, and growth will follow

In a recent study, companies that have more diverse management teams were shown to have 19% higher revenue due to innovation. This shows that diversity is not just a metric to be strived for, it is actually an integral part of a successful revenue generating business. 

In our own work, we’re also seeing clients taking an active part in the conversation — not only respecting companies that have a stance on the topic, but also demanding that those they work with do.

One of the most unique and important traits about the experiential space is its people. Our professionals come from all walks of life, with experience globally. In Greater China alone, our colleagues have worked in many different countries and industries, often un-related to marketing, including architecture, finance and even sciences. What does this mean? Our people have naturally diverse backgrounds and it’s important as leaders that we embrace this diversity and provide a safe, supportive and inclusive workplace for them.

One way to create a supportive and inclusive environment is by creating an equal workplace. At Jack Morton, we believe in equity over equality. Leaders need to pay attention to individual needs. Remember that your employees are coming from vastly different backgrounds and, as a result, will need different types of support. Schedule regular updates with your team mates, understand their needs and customise a programme to grow and nurture them.

What can we do as leaders in this space?

So, yes. DEI matters. The benefits are well documented and there is empirical evidence to support it.

DEI is just as important to experiential as any other industry. In fact, as we continue to attract more diverse people to the industry, we owe it to them and ourselves to nurture this opportunity. 

How can we nurture it in the work we create?

The change begins with our teams. Our diverse and informed teams who are aware and whose eyes are open to designing inclusively. We have the power to push and drive the conversation with our clients and our partners and through our choice of suppliers.

We can enhance the experiences we create through small steps — ensure the speaker and talent mix is diverse, text caption videos for the hearing impaired, incorporate facilities for the disabled, include mothers’ rooms and religious facilities into our planning, design our registration forms and surveys with sensitivity towards inclusive language.

It all adds up and makes a difference. And it’s the right thing to do.

Natalie Ackerman is EVP of Greater China and Global Lead of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council at Jack Morton Worldwide. Lucille Essey is ECD of Greater China at Jack Morton Worldwide.