Building diversity and inclusion into your brand should result in more business and loyalty from multicultural millennials and Gen Z consumers, according to Fuse’s new study, “Empowerment: Going Beyond Representation and Inclusion.”
According to the study, which was conducted for Fuse Media by National Research Group, millennials and Gen Z consumers define empowerment as “the act of taking a public stance to build confidence and support issues that help level the playing field for all.” These groups say that to feel empowered you have to be confident (92% agree), educated or informed (76%), or in control (71%). Yet, there is an opportunity for improvement among Gen Z, millennials and Gen X alike, as only one in five of those surveyed describe themselves as being empowered.
The top way to be an empowerment agent is to be a good friend and support others, the study found, with the least effective way being “taking up space” of those who are disempowered. As one of those surveyed said, “When there are stances to be made, don’t use it for your own benefit to get social media followers if you post yourself at a rally. You have to use it because you believe in it.”
Similarly, brands who adopt messages of representation and inclusion need to be authentic about it or risk losing and alienating those customers.
“The message from young consumers is loud and clear: for brands wanting to bond and build a relationship with multicultural millennials and Gen Z – be bold or be benign, but do not block,” said Fuse Media Head of Marketing Mark McIntire in a statement. “Brands that take positions have a tremendous opportunity to connect at a higher level with this audience. But it isn’t always a true necessity. The research shows that for some categories the smart move is to focus on the value proposition of their product or service. Problems arise for brands perceived to be trying too hard, or inauthentically, thus being seen as disempowering to potential brand champions.”
The study found that this new definition of empowerment is built upon representation, which means featuring people of various ethnicities, abilities, sizes, etc.) plus inclusion (targeting messages to different people’s needs). If done properly, empowerment takes representation and inclusion to the next level by inspiring action and support of these consumers.
Some key findings of the study are that it’s key to get empowerment right, with 49% of African-Americans and 35% of Hispanics—compared to 30% of Whites—saying representation is very important for brand messaging. This is especially true for aesthetic and entertainment brands, which also have the obligation of being inspiring. These groups also tend to be attracted to “challenger” or “loud” brands. Among those identified as such brands among survey respondents are Nike, Dove, Adidas, Disney, Amazon, Weight Watchers and Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty.
These consumers feel that this sort of empowerment helps society as a whole, with 51% of Gen Z respondents saying empowerment is a social need versus a personal need compared with 41% of millennials and 37% of Gen X. Multicultural GenZers feel this way even more strongly, with 58% of young African-Americans and 56% of young Hispanics saying they consider empowerment a social need.
“Our previous research showed the importance of inclusivity to young people, as a way to their goal of unity, but there is an opportunity for brands to do more than simply appear inclusive or diverse,” said Michelle Auguste, Fuse Media VP of research, also in a statement. “If done authentically and transparently, brands that speak up and take a stand can empower and engage with these consumers on the next level.