Perspective change: showcasing diverse people and abilities matters

Updated: Jan 18, 2020

Whether you’re a child, teenager, or adult you’ll often look to the media for people like you, people you can relate to. Whether it be race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or physicality we image those like us will understand us, encounter the same struggles and relate to the world in a similar way. When we don’t see anyone like us or people like us represented in only one way, we may start feeling invisible and like we don’t belong. At its most basic that is what we are talking about, feeling you belong and not feeling you’re the odd one out. In this post, we will discuss this issue of media representation using a case study, the Toni and Guy ‘Women of Substance’ ad campaign featuring artist, activist and UN goodwill ambassador, Muniba Mazari. To find out more just keep reading.

The case study

Brand: Toni & Guy Ad descriptive: Women of Substance

Figure: Toni & Guy, Inspiring Women: Muniba,

Article: Ford, JB, Mueller, B, & Taylor, CR 2011, 'The Tension between Strategy and Execution: Challenges for International Advertising Research', Journal of Advertising Research, vol. 51, March Supplement, pp. 27-36, viewed 26 July 2017,

Analytical critique: Snapshot

Criteria Analysis in Brief Objective To connect with an under-represented and/or marginalised audience; to celebrate women of substance; to develop a global appeal Intended Audience Women; Women who are differently abled; Women of colour Effectiveness Change perceptions of those who are differently abled; Focuses the attention on something other than appearance; Features a non-traditional model Room for Improvement?

Analytical critique: In full

The advertisement The aim of any advertisement is to make a connection with a targeted audience, to engage them fully and make them feel included in the marketing experience. Interactivity not passivity is the aim of the experience. In doing so the brand becomes more noteworthy and is better able to develop customer loyalty. In this example, we see that the brand which is known worldwide has chosen a campaign that focuses not on the superficial aspects of its model but rather her intellectual triumphs. It is her substance, her character which is the focus rather than what the brands' products can do to her hair. The ad shifts the focus from the models’ paraplegia to that of her considerable achievements. Consumers relate to the fact that the model is a singer, artist, motivational speaker, and activist. She challenges perceptions and demonstrates to consumers the universality of human experience. Her gender, culture and physical ability are not what consumers notice foremost. What customers notice is that she is a woman of substance that likes to have great hair too.

The article With many products being sold worldwide and not just in their countries of origin it has become necessary to tackle the subject of universal branding, of standardised global marketing messages and consistent strategy worldwide. It is critical in order to for global advertising to be successful that advertisements provide “culturally normative advertising content and product information (Ford, Mueller, Taylor & Brown, 2011, p. 29). In doing so they augment the chance that consumers will remember and easily identify the brand (Ford et al., 2011, p. 29). Our appearances, our sustenance choices, how we choose to connect to others, how we spend our free time all have been informed by brands and many of those aren’t local (Ford et al., 2011, p. 29). This process of influence inevitably leads to more porous economic and cultural boundaries. Consumers identify themselves according to “global consumer culture” (Waters, 1995; Steenkamp, Batra & Aden, 2003 in Ford et al., 2011, p. 30) and react to “perceived brand globalness” (Waters, 1995; Steenkamp, Batra & Aden, 2003 in Ford et al., 2011, p. 30) in order to determine the “global belongingness” (Waters, 1995; Steenkamp, Batra & Aden, 2003 in Ford et al., 2011, p. 30) of a brand. Others argue that it’s not simply a question of copying and pasting a strategy, a message or a culture but rather a combination of “homogenisation (convergence) and heterogeneity (divergence)” (Hermans &Kempen, 1998 in Ford et al., 2011, p31). It requires a mix of international, domestic, past and present and general demographic influences to construct ones’ global cultural identity as a consumer (Ger & Belk, 1996 in Ford et al., 2011, p. 31). It is for this reason that a unicultural approach to “planning, decision making, execution and evaluation” (Ricks, Arpan & Yu, 1974 in Ford et al., 2011, p. 33) of marketing efforts will always end in failure. Using a multicultural approach allows the possibility of identifying global cultural parameters that may assist in crafting marketing messages and developing marketing strategies. These parameters “gender egalitarianism, future orientation, assertiveness, institutional collectivism, in-group collectivism, uncertainty avoidance, and power distance” (House et al., 2004 in Ford et al., 2011, p. 34). Your face, your body, your skills

Seeing ourselves represented in magazines, movies and the media gives us the feeling that we belong but also that we matter as consumers. It makes us feel that our needs, requirements as consumers and feedback will be heard and acted upon. Being excluded often gives the impression that a brand is racist, sexist, classist, homophobic or ableist and that they believe they can continue to be successful by ignoring the marketing dollar certain consumers can bring. By ignoring certain market segments brands may in fact not be retaining their exclusive prestige but rather demonstrating an inability to evolve over time. Consumers are wiser, more well informed than ever before and few are willing to put up with excuses for product development, promotion or distribution slip-ups.

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#businessadvertising #inclusivity #mediarepresentation #differentlyabled #plussize #adcampaign #marginalisedgroups #pocwomen #MarketingCollectiveInsights

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