November 5, 2020

Why diverse casting for your influencer campaign is an absolute non-negotiable

I’m hoping that some people might have clicked away because they already know why (spoiler: the short answer is ‘because, duh) but given the world we find ourselves in, there’s probably some of you still here.
Sophie Crowther
Sophie Crowther

Head of Influencer Talent, Japan & Asia Pacific Region

To which I say a big warm HI! This is a subject I’m incredibly passionate about, so I wanted to write something (hopefully) interesting and contribute a nugget – however small – of use on the subject of diversity and inclusivity in influencer marketing. The below is where my head’s at right now, and am speaking mainly from my own perspective – which, just so you know, is a white, cis-gendered, heterosexual woman (yep, hello privilege) – and BB’s journey as a social content agency. We’ve been casting talent for projects for many years but I’ll say we’ve certainly done a lot of waking up over the last year or so. 

For too long some of us kind of got away with ‘not having to worry’ about diversity and what it really means; perhaps because the majority of those who are in positions of talent casting have never had to think about it very hard. Generally speaking a large proportion of us have come from backgrounds of privilege and, to put it bluntly, have no real idea what it’s like to be a minority or what it might feel like being black, Asian, gay, trans, or bi-sexual and not seeing someone like us in an ad campaign.

It’s no secret that discrimination has been a problem in the modelling world, and those same problems have existed and continue to exist in the influencer world too. I really like what James Scully said about models: “We have to…stop treating them like Tinder swipes” but it’s the same for creator partnerships too. I think the biggest mistake that brands can make is to treat creators like they’re just an Instagram handle and a follower number. The cookie cutter way of partnering with those same familiar, white, creators that fit your beauty standards or aesthetic is tired and ineffectual.

We’ve seen instances of discrimination within influencer campaigns many times, with a particularly memorable one involving L’Oreal and trans activist and model Munroe Bergdorf in 2017 which hit the press again this year when, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd – an unarmed black man who was killed by an armed white police officer in Minneapolis, US – in May, L’Oreal posted on Instagram expressing solidarity with Black Lives Matter. Bergdorf, after having been on the receiving end of discrimnation herself by the brand when she was dropped from a campaign in 2017 after speaking out about black and trans rights, couldn’t let slide and a wave of support for Bergdorf hit the internet.

L’Oreal since re-hired Bergdorf to be part of their diversity and inclusion board; a big sign that giant household names like L’Oreal are finally recognising past inequalities and are making big moves towards positive and inclusive changes in their industries. So, if you’re a brand who posted a black square in May 2020 but you’re not implementing anti-racist practices behind the scenes where it matters, then you’ve missed the point. 

2020 really has been a huge year – Black Lives Matter movement becoming more widespread and recognised, LGBTQIA+ activism, the US election (need I say more), intersectional environmentalism became a phrase heard more and more, to name just a few – and naturally the influencer marketing industry is reacting too. I could well be in my own social media/LinkedIn/industry news bubble, but it does feel like we are making some strides towards a more inclusive set of industry standards and we’re doing what we can to set our own very high standards here at Brave Bison too.  

I promised at least one nugget of useful info earlier, so let’s get into some snackable, easy takeaways. I’ll break it down into some quick WHYs you need to be prioritising diversity in your influencer projects, some HOWs of how to do it and then some WHOs where I’ll share a diverse list of some of our favourite creators that we’re excited by at the moment. So let’s go:

  1. Having a mixture of different perspectives, points of view and experiences is only going to make your content richer, more accessible and, frankly, more interesting. All of which are important for reaching bigger audiences, and potentially audiences you hadn’t previously considered or were able to reach. So it’s not just about doing the right thing, but you’ll make more money. Simply put: it’s good business.
  2. Gen Z are the most racially diverse generation, and diversity in race, gender, identity and orientation matters hugely to them. Gen Z are holding brands up to incredibly high standards right now and if a brand isn’t meeting these standards or upholding their same values, then it’s game over.
  3. Discovering new and diverse talent will keep you and your brand from going stale. No one wants to see the same creators over and over again doing the same sponsored work and engagement is likely to fall as audiences get bored. Find new creators that are untapped that can give your brand a fresh take, new perspective and brand-new audience. 
  • A ‘female aged 18-35’ isn’t, if you really think about it, a one size fits all demographic – though I know it’s easier to think of it as if it is. If you dive a bit deeper you’ll quickly recognise the different types of people that make up this group and how wonderfully diverse they are. So, make sure you’re representing the sub-groups as much as possible so you’re reaching more within this category.
  • As marketers it is our responsibility, and ours alone, to ensure our campaigns are as inclusive and diverse as possible. Our audiences should be able to see themselves represented in an ad; if they don’t, then you are potentially shutting out an entire group or groups of people, which is obviously such an unnecessary, missed opportunity. 
  • Do the work. Do the research. In the same way that you’re doing it already, but just, you know, do it better. There is joy to be found in discovering new creators, it’s like uncovering treasure! (Or maybe that’s just me and I love my job too much?) And there are loads of amazing creators out there who are creating incredible content but who aren’t being recognised properly for it yet. 
  • Whomever is implementing diversity values in your influencer projects needs to believe it, practice it, and evangelise it. Whether this means hiring new talent – and having a diverse talent team behind the project is important – or investing in some training to teach the diversity values, this will ensure you’ve got the best team to lead this.
  • Your talent team’s own social media could be curated to be more diverse too. Who we follow on our personal social media accounts do, consciously or not, affect who we might be putting forward for a project.
  • Ensure talent is paid fairly and equally based on the metrics that matter, not on a subconscious bias. If you are underpaying one creator with more or the same followers as a white peer, then this is discriminatory.
  • Doing it just once for an upcoming campaign so you can ‘tick a box’ is not good enough; it needs to become part of your brand or agency DNA and part of a ‘forever strategy’.
  • Ask yourself if your cast is truly inclusive and diverse by looking at the % split – is it a fair representation? Tokenism is a problem in the industry as well, so make sure you’re not going to be guilty of this and ensure there is a strong but fair split. 
  • If you don’t feel like you have the capabilities in-house to be able to source as diverse a cast as possible, then it’s worth investing in an agency who can (hello! Contact us!)

Here are some amazing creators we’ve recently discovered and love:

Fats Timbo, Wild Gina, Oumi Janta, Nikki Lilly, Fresh Lengths, Jamie Windust, Mikaela Loach, Blu Hydrangea, Paula Sutton, Sophie Butler, Amaka Hamelijnck, Munroe Bergdorf, Domain Esdale, Sukina Pilgrim, Tacha J, Vee Kativhu and Jennie Berrie.

Actively cultivating and celebrating all the wonderful differences in people just absolutely, unequivocally, has to be part of every campaign. As marketers, talent casters, agencies, and brands we have a responsibility to make this an absolute non-negotiable and it’s something that Brave Bison is committed to actioning and championing across the board with all of our creator projects. 

If you’d like to hear more about our values on diversity and inclusion, please do get in touch – we’d love to speak with you and see how we can help you implement these practices in your own projects. 

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