Best Practices

Building Brand Through Diversity & Inclusion—Best Practices at Retail Companies

November 2020

This report offers examples of retail companies that have embedded diversity in the brand.

Embedding Diversity in Brand

L’Oreal Launches Fit Culture App

L’Oréal launches HR app to help new hires embrace company culture. L’Oreal’s Fit Culture App is the world’s first mobile application, designed to immediately engage employees and help them understand and navigate company culture. The goal is to take onboarding practices to the next level and to give every employee, from the moment they arrive, the keys to succeed in full alignment with company values such as multiculturalism, diversity, and inclusion.

The app was designed by the L’Oréal culture team, in co-creation with 50 newcomers from over 30 countries around the world. The app complements the organization’s six-month strategic onboarding program for new hires. FIT focuses on the seven most critical parts of L’Oreal culture to master. Positives, challenges and advice for dealing with each of the seven areas are available through videos and written testimonials.

Features of the Fit Culture App Include:
• Bite-sized capsules of content on topics such as entrepreneurship, networking and cooperation.
• Each capsule contains a mixture of text, photos, videos, testimonials, quizzes and mini-games.
• Completing real-life “missions” to put their learning into practice.
• Winning “Insider Secrets” (key events, anecdotes, company myths and legends) to earn points and eventually become true #CultureGurus.

• Newcomers participate in 5 to 10 minute daily sessions to complete their necessary missions.
The Fit Culture App which is specifically created for the younger group of new hires, reaches up to 10,000 newly hired staff per year, and is available in 11 languages. L’Oréal employees can download it for free in the Apple Store and the Play Store.

Fenty Beauty: Products for Everyone

Fenty Beauty, a cosmetics brand founded by Rihanna and claiming to be “the new generation of beauty,” launched 40 shades of foundation for men and women of all complexions.

In the makeup world, a launch this extensive, especially for a new brand, is typically unheard of. In the first month of it’s launch, the brand saw $72 million in earned media value, and over 132 million views on YouTube.
“Fenty Beauty was created for everyone: for women of all shades, personalities, attitudes, cultures and races. I wanted everyone to feel included. That’s the real reason I made this line.” – Rihanna

Lush: Communicating Brand Through Inclusive Advertising

Lush received a huge wave of support for their Valentines Day ad-campaign featuring two gay couples
taking bubble baths.

The normalization and ease with which the couples are portrayed in the ad is perhaps the reason the campaign has garnered so much praise.

LGBTQ communities have been vocal in the past by ‘token’ inclusion of the LGBTQ community in advertisements. However, the couples featured in the Lush campaign are not only integral to marketing the product, they also comprise some of the most humorous and wholesome moments in the advertisement, and refute any ‘tokenistic’ sentiment.

Nike: Promoting Brand Through Social Justice

Analysts and advertising gurus are calling Nike’s campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick a game- changer, one where companies are taking stances on formerly no-go territories, such as politics and social justice.

The risks seem high in a world where brands try to stick with mainstream narratives. Initially, Nike appeared to “take a knee,” and alienated a segment of their customers who took offense to the sports apparel behemoth’s seemingly “political” stance and called for a boycott.

However, data numbers after Nike released the ad show interesting results.
• Within 24 hours of the Colin Kaepernick ad airing, Nike gained $43 million dollars in free media exposure.
• A segment of Nike’s customers reacted by burning their Nike socks and shoes and sharing protest videos on social media, resulting in Nike’s stock stumbling.
• Yet shortly after the immediate negative reactions, Nike’s stock has risen steadily back—rising to its highest stock prices ever, and stimulated a rise in direct digital sales by 36% overall during the quarter.

This calculated risk was based on Nike knowing its market: people who purchase Nike are mostly under 35, and who are ethnically and racially diverse.

Nike’s Lessons for Success

Lesson 1: Know your niche. Nike knew their core consumers were 18- to 29-year-old males, who would naturally fall into a group of Gen Z and millennials who were raised with consumer-activist attitudes.
Lesson 2: Track your data. A company can only know who buys their shoes by collecting laser-sharp data on their consumers. Nike, like Netflix, knows what their consumers value by the data they gather.
Lesson 3: Controversy equals free air time and social media exposure. Nike wins if everyone has Nike on their mind for a long segment of the media cycle.
Lesson 4: Be on the right side of controversy. If you’re a company taking a calculated risk, a stance is likely to pay off if you show that you share values with your consumers.

Nike: Promoting Brand Through Inclusive Design

By creating the Pro Hijab, Nike sends an important message about their brand and encourages a generation of Muslim girls to think of themselves as athletes.

Designers in Nike’s headquarters tackled the challenge of creating a high-performance ‘Pro Hijab’ that would make it easier for millions of Muslim women to participate in sports. The project was both contentious and highly supported, but one that Nike drove relentlessly to production.

Brand ambassadors for the Hijab include figure skater Zahra Lari and triathlete Manal Rostom. The product came on the heels of a surge in spending in the Middle-East which drove new marketing strategies and advertisement spending by international brands.

Amna Al Haddad, the Dubai-based weightlifter who inspired Nike to create the hijab, believes that the 800 million Muslim women around the world are no longer invisible as consumers. It was encouraging to her that large American apparel brands like Nike don’t see hijab-clad women as foreign or strange, but as valuable customers. “There’s a
change happening in the world,” Al Haddad says. “You can see it when a big brand like Nike creates a sports hijab.”

Nike’s N7 Fund

Nike is committed to getting youth in Native American and Indigenous communities in North America moving, so they can lead healthier, happier and more successful lives.

Through Nike’s N7 Fund, we support organizations that provide sport and physical activity programming to youth in these communities.

The N7 Fund helps them reach their greatest potential through play and sport and creates more equal playing fields for all. Since 2009, the N7 Fund has awarded more than $7.5 million in grants to 259 communities and organizations.

Gap Focuses on Inclusive Design

In its “Bridging the Gap” campaign (a punny play on the name), iconic American brand Gap is softly touching on these serious issues by celebrating diversity and championing optimism through a lighthearted song and
dance, directed and styled by British Vogue editor-in- chief Edward Enninful. And he recruited an incredibly diverse 14-person cast of celebrities and models, all of whom he feels embody American culture today, to help drive home the message.

The campaign stars Adwoa Aboah, Maria Borges, Christie Brinkley, Miles Chamley-Watson, Priyanka Chopra, Jonathan Groff, Wiz Khalifa, Fernanda Ly, Casil Mcarthur, Lineisy Montero, Ellen Rosa, Jasmine Sanders, Yara Shahidi, and Alek Wek. And they all came together to sing the 1976 song “Sunny” by Boney M. as a united front, with each wearing Gap’s iconic white tee, styling it to reflect their individuality.

The project is about authenticity and people living their truths.

In 2018, Gap launched The Color Proud Council, the company’s first product inclusion initiative, with the mission of bringing diversity to the bottom line of the business by improving product education and pipeline, as well as talent acquisition and retention.

Color Proud works hand in hand with Gap leadership and key employees to address inclusivity on all fronts—through tackling bias in the way designs are sketched to the creation of actual products in stores.

Separate from the company-sponsored employee resource groups or the D&I team, the council’s first order of business came to life in Banana Republic’s True Hues Line, a collection of nude undergarments and shoes that better represent a range of skin tones, which drove sales by 21%, proving a need for continued diversity and inclusion within the fashion industry.

Macy’s ERG Creates New Market

Following their launch as a employee resource group (ERG), Macy’s La Voz was looking for a positive way to impact the business and drive new sales based on the groups knowledge of Macy’s business and their insight to the shopping needs of the Latina community.

The ERG reached out to the company’s site merchandising partners with idea of establishing a Quinceañerara Registry to promote items the company was already carrying in a way that targeted the Latina consumer. In less than four months since The Registry went live, 158 units were sold with confirmed sales of $55,850.

The project established the start of a potentially much larger business at Macy’s. The company is expanding upon the concept to promote existing product lines around under cultural celebratory events, such as Sweet Sixteen, Cotillion, and Bat Mitzvah.

D&I at Nordstrom

• D&I training begins day one—including for hourly workers. Diversity related retention rates are a primary factor in manager performance evaluations.
• During Black History and Hispanic Heritage months, retail stores display the work of diverse artists from around the country—these events promote public goodwill, create cultural awareness, and enhance company brand.
• The Nordstrom diversity program is dedicated to working with women and minority vendors; 18-24 months before entering a new market or doing a remodel or refit, the company goes into that community and meets with women and minority vendors and suppliers to discuss opportunities to partner.
• Regional directors maintain relationships with diverse vendors and suppliers, and keep the retailer in step with the demographics and needs of the local communities it serves

In 2016, Nordstrom set a bold goal of increasing representation in their leadership to better reflect their consumer base, which is 70 percent women. At the time, a majority of their employees were women, but their leadership was mostly men.

To kick-start the initiative and get senior buy-in, Nordstrom’s leadership took part in a “conscious inclusion” program to better understand how bias plays out in the workplace. They then identified four key “pillars” that drive diversity and inclusion: talent, culture, marketplace, and leadership.

Each pillar was sponsored by a small team of executives who established programs to drive progress—from diverse hiring slates to unconscious bias training—and managed them like a critical part of the business.

From 2016 to 2019, Nordstrom has seen remarkable gains: their efforts increased the share of women in the C-suite from 7 percent to 40 percent, in SVP roles from 49 percent to 63 percent, and on the board from 17 percent to 46 percent.

Dove: Changing Perspectives, Building Self-Esteem

For over ten years, Dove’s Real Beauty initiative has given women positive messages and images about their appearance, demonstrating that changing perceptions can be one of the social responsibility activities of companies in the modern age.

Different Ways to Spread the Message

Dove’s parent company, Unilever, launched Real Beauty in 2004. It grew to include more than just ads. The
campaign uses videos, workshops, and sleepover events to get its message out. There are even a book and a
play associated with Real Beauty. The aim of the campaign is “change the status quo and offer in its place a
broader, healthier, more democratic view of beauty.” Dove also wanted to create “a view of beauty that all
women can own and enjoy every day,” according to marketing materials from the time of release. Dove and
Unilever recognized a serious problem: women and young girls, bombarded every day with images of what society deemed as perfect, beautiful women, were developing body-related self-esteem problems.

How to Measure Impact

Most corporate social responsibilities of companies carry a tangible, measurable result. A company can pledge
to give a million dollars to charity, or build a hundred solar powered homes, or provide clean drinking water for
500 villages. Dove took a bold step with Real Beauty, because the results are not so easy to measure. There is
no conclusive evidence that the Real Beauty campaign has fundamentally altered the way women view
themselves. Women participating in sleepovers, workshops, and other events have certainly enjoyed some
positive energy, but there is no reliable way to measure it.

One definite benefit is that Dove’s sales rose from 2.5 billion in 2004 to over 4 billion in 2014. This shows the
power of emotional marketing. Many people, not just women, are uncomfortable with a part or parts of their
body. Real Beauty appeals to this lack of confidence and tells people they can change their perception with
Dove’s products. The social responsibility activities of companies can tell a story about the brand. What story is
your CSR or emotional marketing telling about you?

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