Diversity In Influencer Marketing: Why Representation Matters
Updated: Sep 18
YouTuber influencer culture has seen a fair amount of drama lately. There was the famous feud between James Charles and Tati Westbrook, and during that timeframe, Gen Z fashion app Dote was called out across social media for their lack of diversity in their Dote Girls branded campaigns.
At a recent influencer trip, YouTube star Daniella Perkins shared her experience with racial exclusion at the Dote house where the influencers were staying and promoting Dote at Coachella. This shocking revelation prompted many A-list Gen Z influencers such as Emma Chamberlain, Ellie Thumann, and Summer Mckeen to end their relationship with the fashion app.
Dote vows to be a more inclusive brand, but it begs the question: how can the influencer marketing ecosystem be more representative of all genders, races, sexualities, and perspectives?
Here are how brands, influencers, and influencer marketplace and agencies can collectively work together to do a better job in promoting diversity and inclusion.
Brands: Highlight diversity in campaigns.
Brands are leveraging influencers now more than ever. They’re tapping into every type of influencer whether B2B employee ambassadors, fashion nano-influencers, or celebrities with millions of followers. With this immense investment in influencer marketing, brands need to think about inclusivity from the very start of their campaign strategy.
Eric Toda, former marketing executive at Gap Inc., Airbnb, Nike, and Snapchat who has created high-visibility global campaigns with influencers like Beyonce and Kim Kardashian, shared his thoughts on how brands can do better:
“You tend to see marketers let their unconscious biases' make decisions. It's not a secret that marketing is a predominantly white industry so naturally there are marketers who choose influencers who look like them; it's safe, it's relatable, but unfortunately, it's not real life.
As marketers we continue to be one of the only industries in the world that can influence large masses of people; we can do that in the effort of good, or we can choose the other route. We need to put values-driven messages out there, show real life versus a sterilized mirage, and instill purpose. You can achieve this by partnering with influencers that represent different stories, races, socioeconomic backgrounds, etc.”
Influencer Marketing Takeaway: When crafting your campaigns, think about your target demographic and imagine how they’d react to a non-diverse influencer mix. Be strategic in finding influencers that represent your audience and brand values. This allows for more positive brand sentiment and affinity as you’re leveraging connectivity between community and influencer.
Influencers: Research the right partnerships.
Being an influencer is a business. With a high-followership, influencers have opportunities to produce content for a broader audience through brand partnerships. Influencers need to research the right brands to work alongside.
Indian-American beauty influencer Arshia Moorjani who has over 600,000 social media followers and works with top brands like L’Oreal and Estee Lauder is passionate about the choices she makes with brand deals:
“I have turned down many campaigns because the brand is not inclusive, and this goes beyond the products. Before agreeing to any campaigns, I study the brand from looking at their products, social media accounts, and past campaigns.
I also love to meet brands in person to understand their core values. It's not just about accepting another paycheck; it's about aligning myself with brands who actually create products for my skin tone but represent a large group of people.
I want brands to continue to work with a diverse group of people, not for the sake of being inclusive but from an understanding of why actually diversity matters. Everyone should feel represented in this industry and that goes beyond one's skin tone. True diversity means showcasing people with different backgrounds, genders, body types, ages, sexual orientation, audience size, and more.”
Influencer Marketing Takeaway: Influencers need to align with forward-thinking inclusive brands like Fenty Beauty, MAC Cosmetics, and NARS that are creating products for a wide audience, but are also showcasing diversity on their social media accounts and campaigns.
Influencer marketplaces and agencies: Educate clients.
Influencer marketplaces and agencies help facilitate connections and campaigns for brands and influencers. Employees at these marketplaces and agencies can help educate their clients on how to optimize successful campaigns by showing data and insights that highlight the importance of inclusivity.
Kate Edwards, COO of influencer marketplace, Heartbeat, is actively encouraging brands to work with influencers of all ethnicities, genders, sizes, and perspectives. She explains:
“We are on the front lines of showing brands the value of working with diverse, everyday people who are actually the brand's consumers. Millennials and Gen Z are actively looking for brands to represent people who look like them and share their values, and this is a major shift in how "influence" is perceived.
Sometimes, when we go to a brand to talk to them about influencer marketing, they are looking for a cookie-cutter influencer, many of whom represent traditional standards of beauty. However, we have to sit the brands down and tell them that working with real people, serving their actual demographic, is much better for their brand. It's been an uphill battle, but we're making progress. Plus, the data in terms of our campaign results speaks for itself.”
Influencer Marketing Takeaway: Influencer marketplaces and agencies need to be at the forefront of leading the charge in providing a diverse array of influencers to their clients. By showing data points and leveraging insider knowledge they can help to create impactful campaigns that transcend the traditional standards of beauty.