Culture 16 March 2017
Whether you're a man, woman, black, white, asian, gay, straight, transgender, disabled, unusual - you have probably experienced varying levels of discrimination throughout your life, and more specifically, in the workplace.
Needless to say, there are some jobs, some industries out there that just aren't inclusive - whether it's their hiring standards, product development, or their advertizing, many people can find themselves alienated by certain brands because of who their target audience is and consequently who their target workforce is. It's natural in life to feel left out - to know a product isn't meant or designed for you, but to feel aggrieved nonetheless.
However, there are also those times when brands, or indeed entire industries have made egregious errors in judgement by excluding, deluding or discriminating against specific sections of the society. These companies below represent a core group that are focused on diversity and inclusion across the board and have gone out of their way to make sure nobody is left behind.
Target's multicultural business empire and attitude is widely recognized and easily recognized in every one of its stores. Diversity Inc had Target positioned at number 22 on its top 50 most diverse firms for reasons such as its willingness to promote Latinos at a much higher level than even those in the top 10 rankings. In terms of product - Target has never shied away from stocking brands that also celebrate and highlight diversity. It's a retailer that has consistently - through advertisements, merchandising and employment, continues to prove its ability to diversify.
Their hiring pledge is one you don't see on many company websites, and consequently, one worth mentioning:
“We believe diversity and inclusivity make teams and Target better. And we'll live that belief as champions of a more inclusive society by creating a diverse and inclusive work environment, cultivating an inclusive guest experience, and fostering equality in society." - Target
Product development and innovation have run Nike for the past fifty years. Having branded themselves the frontrunners in new sports' produce and discoveries, with the latest addition to their lines, they are certainly surpassing expectations.
This week saw the release of test shots for their new 'Pro Hijab' for Muslim women - a contentious and hotly-anticipated product, but one that Nike drove relentlessly to get into production. Brand ambassadors for the Hijab include figure skater Zahra Lari and triathlete Manal Rostom. The product comes after an explosion of spending in the Middle-East caused a shift in marketing strategies and advertisement spending by international brands.
The wealth of the region can no longer be ignored and neither can the consumer base. The 'Pro Hijab' is the first of many products I would imagine that will target this specific area for its wealth of resources and diverse culture.
Starbucks CEO caused ructions in the wake of Trump's immigration enforcement on Muslim- majority countries, after he pledged to hire '10,000 refugees' to the dismay and furore of much of the president's supporters. The announcement that came on January 29th aims to extend a hadn't to those displaced throughout the world in Starbucks locations from all 75 countries they operate in.
The pledge, and its meaning however are not revolutionary within the company. Starbucks hiring policies are perhaps some of the most inclusive and broad in the U.S. They continue to strive to hire as many veterans as they can, while also having a stellar reputation for hiring those with disabilities.
Executives from the company were also among those last year who came out vociferously against a radical anti-LGBTQ bill in North Carolina.
Lush received a huge wave of support in recent weeks for their Valentines Day ad-campaign which featured two gay couples taking bubble baths. The normalization and ease with which the couples mesh into the ad is perhaps the reason its garnered so very much support. LGBTQ communities have been angered previously by 'token' inclusion of the LGBTQ community in ads. However, the couples featured in the Valentines campaign are not only integral to the reel but made up some of the funnest and most wholesome moments, and refute any 'tokenistic' sentiment.
Photo: Lush Cosmetics
The iconic brand hired its first 'Coverboy' at the end of last year when James Charles, make-up artist extraordinaire headlined their lash equality campaign.
It wasn't just Charles however who caused a bit of a rouse in the campaign. A model wearing a hijab is also featured - highlighting again the need for further Muslim representation in ads like these. For too long the growing chunk of the beauty market being consumed by Muslim women and women in the middle-east as a whole has been ignored and its only in recent months that we are beginning to see western advertizing move on this front.
Ben & Jerry's
It's only in the last few years that social media has become a marketing force to be reckoned with, contending heavily with TV advertisements and direct marketing. Building a brand now relies on what you're tweeting, who you're retweeting, what your Instagram looks like and if your Facebook is allowed to remain idle for more than a week.
The Black Lives Matter Campaign was left very much out in the wind by brands across the board, whether it was to remain apolitical or because it was they were too lazy, very, very few brands get involved and needless to say it didn't go unnoticed.
Black Lives Matter. Choosing to be silent in the face of such injustice is not an option. https://t.co/6Vy0KHJeKU #BlackLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/pK96teLRhd
— Ben & Jerry's (@benandjerrys) October 6, 2016
The eponymous ice-cream giant Ben & Jerry's however refused to remain silent and tweeted about the lack of response from their fellow retailers. The politically active brand does not typically shy away from controversial social issues.
The tweet resounded heavily with a community that felt particularly aggrieved by the lack of movement from brands who are quick to get involved in other political movements - take for example the huge response from those that are currently dropping Ivanka Trump's clothing lines. Had the Black Lives Matter movement received as much attention as the #grabyourwallet campaign perhaps we'd be looking at a different political climate currently. For the most part part unfortunately it remained in the back seat in relation to other perhaps less important issues.
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It seemed like everything happened overnight because, well… it did.
One moment, my team and I were business as usual, running a multi-million-dollar edible cookie dough company I built from scratch in my at-home kitchen five years ago and the next we were sitting in an emergency management team meeting asking ourselves, "What do we do now?" Things had escalated in New York, and we were all called to do our part in "flattening the curve" and "slowing the spread."
The governor had declared that all restaurants immediately close to the public. All non-essential businesses were also closed, and 8.7 million New Yorkers were quarantined to their tiny apartments for the foreseeable future. Things like "social distancing" and "quarantine" were our new 2020 vernacular — and reality.
What did that mean for us? Our main revenue source was the retail part of the business. Sure, we offered delivery and take-out, but that was such a small portion of our sales. I had built a retail experience where people from near and far came to eat edible cookie dough exactly how they craved it. We had two stores, one in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn, which employed over 55 people. We have two production facilities; an online business shipping cookie dough nationwide; a wholesale arm that supplies stores, restaurants, and other retail establishments with treats; and a catering vertical for customizable treats for celebrations of all sizes. And while business and sales were nearly at a complete halt, we still had bills. We had payroll to pay, vendors we owed, services we were contractually obligated to continue, rent, utilities, insurance, and none of that was stopping.
How were we going to do this? And for how long will this go on? No one knew.
As an entrepreneur, this certainly wasn't my first-time facing challenges. But this was unprecedented. Unimaginable. Unbelievable. Certainly unplanned. This control-freak type-A gal was unraveling. I had to make decisions quickly. What was best for my team? For my business? For the safety of my staff? For the city? For my family and unborn baby (oh, yeah, throw being 28 weeks pregnant and all those fun hormones in there, it's real interesting!). Everything was spiraling out of control.
I decided to take the advice I had given to many people over the years — focus on the things you can control. There's no point worrying about all the things you have no control over. If you focus there, you'll just continue spiraling into a deeper, darker hole. Let it go. Once you shift your perspective, you can move forward. It's not going to be easy; the challenges still exist. But you can control certain things, so focus your energy and attention on those.
So that's what I did. I chose, for the safety of staff and customers, to close the retail portion completely — it wasn't worth the take-out and delivery volume to staff the store, open ourselves up to more germs and human contact than absolutely necessary.
I went back to our mission and the reason I started the business in the first place — to spread joy. How could we continue to bring happiness to people during this uncertain time? That's our purpose. With millions of people across the globe stuck inside, working from home, quarantined with their families, how can we reach them since they can't come to us? So I thought back to how and why we got started.
Baking, for me, has always been a type of therapy. I could get lost in the mixing bowl and forget about everything else for a moment in time. Sure, I have a huge sweet tooth, but it's about the process. It's about taking all of these different ingredients and mixing them together to create something magically sweet and special. It's about creating and being creative with the simple things. It's about allowing people to indulge in something that brings them joy — a lick from the spatula or a big batch of cookies.
It's about joy in the moment and sharing that joy with others. So my focus is back on that, and it feels good.
We could still ship nationwide, straight to people's doorstep. So we are making it easier and less expensive to send the ultimate comfort food (edible cookie dough) by introducing a reduced shipping rate, and deals on some of our best-selling packages.
In a way for us, it feels like we are going back in time… back to our roots. When I first started the business, we were only shipping nationwide. There were no stores, no big team, no wholesale. It was just me, a small crew juggling it all, and we made it work then. And we'll make it work again. We have to leverage our online business and hope it floats us through this time.
We are focusing our digital content strategy on sharing recipes, activities, and at-home treats with our engaged, amazing social following so they bake with their families and stay busy at-home. We started live baking tutorials where our fans can bake-along with me and I can share all the tips and tricks I've learned over the years with them.
I've leveraged the cookbook I published last year, Hello, Cookie Dough: 110 Doughlicious Confections to Eat, Bake & Share, to come up with fun content and additional things to do at home. We started shipping it and our at-home baking mixes for free to encourage people to get busy in their kitchens!
And as a business, we will continue to connect with our community to bring them joy and focus on what we can control, including our attitude and outlook first.
During times of uncertainty, which this certainly is, you should do the same. Identify the things you can control and focus your time and energy on those things. Distract yourself with the positive. Force yourself to stop asking and worrying about all the what-ifs. Do what you can for the moment and then the next moment. Make a list, and take it day-by-day.
It's going to be okay. You will be okay. We will all be okay.