Getting Personal at Multicultural and Diversity Conference

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At the ANA Multicultural Marketing and Diversity Conference in Miami last week, a line-up of marketing leaders took the stage to both present and represent. These masters of marketing channeled the authenticity of businessman-rapper Master P, while delivering a multicultural marketing mix based on a new formulation of the venerable 4 P's: Purpose, Pride, Profit and Pritchard.

ANA CEO Bob Liodice opened the conference with straight talk about an industry in decline. He shared a twelve-point growth plan developed by the ANA Masters Circle in which "inclusiveness, diversity and multicultural marketing" play an essential role. Calling courage "the foundation of creativity and innovation," Liodice set the stage for some of the boldest statements of commitment to diverse consumers that the industry has seen.

Fierce and fearless aren't the first words that come to mind when describing Procter & Gamble, the 180-year-old CPG company. But Marc Pritchard's keynote was transformational. So much so that over 700 attendees were moved to give him a standing ovation. The creative he shared for leading brands like Pantene, Tide, Always and others, addressed hair bias, body shaming and racial bias. It was courageous work in the true sense of the word -- "cor," Latin for heart, and "rage," a passionate response to injustice.

P&G's influential chief brand officer also reflected on his own brand. Pritchard, he explained, was his father's adoptive name. His half-Mexican father's birth name was Gonzalez.

It would be nice to believe that Marc Gonzalez's path would have mirrored Marc Pritchard's. After all, it's just a name, right? Today, as anti-Mexican sentiment grows stronger, Pritchard is taking a stand against racism. He is no longer suppressing his Mexican identity, something he never denied but almost never disclosed. And, in spite of some backlash, he is doubling down on insightful creative that incites necessary, often uncomfortable, conversations. "When leaders talk about tough issues like bias, it gives others the emotional safety to address bad behavior," Pritchard said.

Manoj Raghunandanan, Johnson and Johnson's VP of marketing, likewise presented with vulnerability and vision. Sharing personal stories and photos, he reminded us that diversity is family and community. It's the people we love, he said.

Raghunandanan and conference speakers like Walmart's Tony Rogers and Hallmark's Philip Polk are reengineering corporate America's relationship with diversity and retention. Inclusion is relatively easy -- doors are opening every day. But without cultural fluency and commitment, inclusion is just a feel-good word for those sending out the invitations. Retention is the metric that really matters; it's the litmus test for workplace relevance and respect.

During the two-day conference, there were case studies and the requisite data points that judge and justify multicultural efforts. Yet too many marketers may still ask, "Why would we do that?"

To address this reticence, The ANA's Alliance of Multicultural and Inclusive Marketing (AIMM) is launching a collaborative measurement and metrics initiative to close research gaps. The Alliance is partnering with the Advertising Educational Foundation on an internship program, attracting speakers like Verizon's CMO Diego Scotti to share innovative strategies for identifying and developing young talent.

The ad industry's failure to recognize its own bad behavior may be shifting. More people are calling out the overt and covert marginalization of multiculturalism. This is shining a light on the toxicity of statements like: "They're so talented … for a multicultural agency," "Maybe our British planner should present, the client likes his accent," or "We had to cut that program's budget, but let's make it happen as part of the general market work."

Tuesday evening's national election results provided a coda of sorts for the multicultural conference, with wins for a diverse slate of candidates, including transgender representatives, a Sikh mayor, and refugees from Liberia and Vietnam. This ought to remind us that terms like "general" and "total market" are meaningless in a real-world context. To quote Marc Pritchard, "It's not only okay to recognize differences, it's actually preferred." The people have spoken and, if this year's ANA conference isn't an anomaly, it seems marketers are really starting to listen.

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