Diversity in Advertising: Kimberly-Clark Leverages Social to Spur Greater Inclusiveness
Multicultural Marketing Leader, North America
eMarketer: How has social media influenced the conversation around diversity in media, advertising and marketing?
Lizette Williams: Social media has created a platform to bring this conversation to the forefront of the industry, which we never would have seen 10 or 20 years ago. It’s given a real voice to consumers, many who have historically been disenfranchised. We’ve seen this with platforms like Black Twitter and organizations like Latina Bloggers Connect. These diversity issues have become mainstream issues as a result.
eMarketer: Data shows that multicultural consumers tend to be more active on Twitter, which has often been used to “call out” brands and companies. Do companies often take this “call-out culture” into consideration when strategizing campaigns?
Williams: I think advertisers are paying attention to this movement. At Kimberly-Clark specifically, I think it’s something we’re aware of. We leverage our PR and digital partners to inform our social media strategies, and social listening tools now allow us to tune into what consumers are saying in real time.
eMarketer: Can you give a specific example of a campaign that has embraced diversity where social media was instrumental in its success?
Williams: Our Kleenex “Gesture of Care” program, which we’re in our second year of, is a great example. Before the campaign launched, Kleenex was experiencing years of decline. We saw an opportunity to reposition Kleenex from a simple cold and flu wipe to an everyday gesture of care.
“We created a video campaign to tell the stories of real people, showing real acts of connection.”
We created a video campaign to tell the stories of real people, showing real acts of connection. These include stories of an LGBT couple who finally got the right to marry, a blind cellist who finally got the glasses he needed, a Navajo family who raised money to get clean water to their reservation, and a group of African-American students honoring their former chorus teacher.
These videos are distributed via social media—Facebook in particular. They aren’t targeted toward specific racial or ethnic groups, they’re meant for mainstream audiences, which works especially well on Facebook. The engagement that we’ve seen has surpassed all benchmarks.
eMarketer: How does Kimberly-Clark approach issues of diversity and inclusiveness in its own campaigns?
Williams: We always aim to reflect our consumers, which means thinking about who they really are throughout the entire strategic process, from beginning to end. Nearly half of children and millennials in the US today are nonwhite or multiracial, so our brands such as Huggies, Kleenex and Kotex especially hinge on developing marketing programs that connect with those consumers.
eMarketer: What’s an example of what brands have done wrong when trying to reflect diversity in their messaging?
Williams: One of the big ones is using Spanish, or Spanish and English together, in the wrong way. Language can be an especially sensitive area, and needs to be integrated appropriately with cultural context. Consumers can tell when advertisers are being disingenuous or when they’re being pandered to.
eMarketer: Many people agree that the advertising industry is in a state of crisis when it comes to diversity within its own leadership positions. What needs to be done to improve this?
Williams: I think it comes down to three key areas. First is recruitment. We need to engage diverse groups to ensure that there’s a pipeline of emerging talent entering the industry and ask if the talent is reflective of the consumers we serve. Second is retention, to make sure we’re retaining that talent. This means creating an inclusive environment and making sure that there are enough diverse senior leaders that reflect that aspiring junior talent pool. Third is development and promotion. This means putting programs in place to ensure the advancement of qualified diverse talent. There needs to be sufficient mentorship, sponsorship and competency-building opportunities.
eMarketer: How does Kimberly-Clark address the need for increased diversity within its own organization?
Williams: We continue to be on a journey in the space, similar to our peers. I’ve worked very closely with our internal diversity and inclusion group at the company to make sure that we’re looking across the three areas I mentioned previously. We have made a lot of progress, but there’s still work to be done. We’ll continue to do that until we feel really good about where we are.