Big brands and the power of diversity

A study by Conor Henderson at the University of Oregon emphasizes that the one-sided representation of ethnic groups in advertising is no longer appropriate. Instead, advertisements should show a diverse range of models from different backgrounds in order to promote a sense of integration and identification in multicultural societies. This approach could significantly increase brand value in an increasingly diversified world.

Participants in the study who saw ads with a one-sided representation, be it exclusively with black or Asian models, rated them as less effective compared to ads with a diverse cast. These findings were consistent across all participant groups, regardless of their own ethnicity. Study leader Conor Henderson from the University of Oregon emphasized that non-white participants identify less with US society than white participants. However, they noted a stronger connection to society when they saw advertising with a diverse group of models.

Increased consumer identification leads to consumers engaging more with established brands and perceiving them more positively than small challenger brands. These conclusions were drawn during a research visit to France by Henderson together with Marc Mazodier from ESSEC Business School and Jamel Khenfer from Excelia Business School. The study included research in the USA, the UK and the United Arab Emirates.

Comprehensive data analysis

The researchers began by analyzing an extensive dataset of customer reviews of hundreds of US brands, taking into account ethnicity and zip codes. They found that the usual advantage leading brands gain from being well-known and popular was less pronounced among people of color. These groups were less interested in validating themselves by buying popular brands and therefore had less need for social conformity.

Effectiveness of various advertisements

The researchers emphasize that their findings mainly apply to large brands and are not necessarily transferable to small brands. They also found that the impact of leading brands was weakened among participants from ethnically diverse communities. In a further step, the researchers investigated whether ads featuring people of different ethnicities can help to strengthen feelings of connectedness with society.

The comparative analysis of real advertisements and artificially generated scenarios was used to examine the reactions to advertisements that showed either only models of a certain ethnicity or a mixed cast. It was found that ads without ethnic diversity were not rated positively by any of the participants. Ads with a diverse cast, on the other hand, received the best ratings. These results were published in the "Journal of the Academy of Marketing Sciences".

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