Companies use diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as a marketing strategy in various ways to appeal to a broader range of customers and to align themselves with socially conscious values. Here are some common approaches that companies use to incorporate DEI into their marketing efforts:

1. Inclusive Advertising: Companies strive to create advertising campaigns that showcase diverse individuals and promote inclusivity. They use models and actors from different ethnicities, races, genders, and backgrounds to represent their products or services. Inclusive advertising aims to resonate with diverse audiences and demonstrate that the company values and respects all individuals.

2. Social Media Campaigns: Companies leverage social media platforms to highlight their commitment to DEI. They may share stories of employees from diverse backgrounds, showcase initiatives that promote equality, or engage in conversations surrounding social issues. By actively participating in DEI discussions on social media, companies demonstrate their support for inclusivity and foster engagement with their audience.

3. Partnerships and Sponsorships: Collaborating with organisations, events, or influencers that promote DEI can help companies align their brand with the values of diversity and equality. By sponsoring events or partnering with DEI-focused organisations, companies show their commitment to supporting and uplifting marginalised communities.

4. Product Development: Companies may develop products or services that cater to diverse customer needs and preferences. They conduct market research to understand the unique challenges faced by different demographic groups and create offerings that address those needs. By explicitly targeting underrepresented communities, companies demonstrate their commitment to serving diverse audiences.

5. Internal DEI Initiatives: Companies that prioritise DEI internally often showcase their efforts externally. They may highlight their diverse workforce, share employee testimonials, or publicise the steps they are taking to foster an inclusive workplace. By emphasising their commitment to creating a diverse and equitable environment, companies aim to attract customers who value these principles.

6. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): Incorporating DEI into a company’s CSR initiatives demonstrates a commitment to social justice and equality. Companies may support DEI-focused nonprofit organisations, contribute to scholarships or grants for underrepresented communities, or invest in initiatives that aim to close the opportunity gap. By actively participating in DEI-related causes, companies can build a positive brand image and engage with socially conscious customers.

It’s important to note that while many companies genuinely embrace DEI principles, others may engage in “performative allyship” or “woke-washing” by using DEI solely for marketing purposes without making substantial changes within their organisation. Customers should critically evaluate a company’s actions and commitments to determine the authenticity of their DEI efforts.

Unfortunately, Black people and other marginalised communities have been used as marketing tools in instances of performative allyship. Performative allyship refers to superficial or insincere support for social justice causes or marginalised communities, often done for public image or marketing purposes without genuinely addressing the underlying systemic issues or working towards meaningful change.

In the context of marketing, some companies have been known to use Black individuals or other marginalised communities as mere tokens or symbols of diversity without actually addressing systemic racism or making substantial changes within their organisation. This can include featuring diverse models or spokespeople in their advertising campaigns, using cultural elements from marginalised communities for aesthetic appeal, or adopting social justice slogans without actively engaging in efforts to combat inequality.

When marginalised communities are used as marketing tools without a genuine commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, it can contribute to tokenisation, cultural appropriation, and further marginalisation. It reduces individuals and their experiences to surface-level representations, rather than addressing the systemic barriers and injustices they face.

Companies need to move beyond performative allyship and instead take substantive actions towards fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion. This includes implementing inclusive policies, diversifying leadership and decision-making positions, investing in marginalised communities, and engaging in long-term efforts to dismantle systemic inequalities. Consumers should also critically evaluate a company’s actions and commitments to ensure that their support for marginalised communities is genuine and goes beyond mere marketing tactics.