Marketing’s lack of socio-economic diversity

8th July 2022

‘What are you doing to make a difference?’ We all often ponder this question and usually end up with some philosophical dribble that we intend to put into practice; rarely do we end up doing so. This question was put out to the marketing industry in M&S and Unilever address marketing’s lack of socio-economic diversity as a challenge by Sharry Cramond, Marks & Spencer Food Marketing Director, to help inspire a new generation of marketers. As an industry we are focusing on how to diversify, however, most conversations are around ethnicity, let’s focus on a different form of diversity…socio-economic diversity. Within this blog we will discuss what is socio-economic diversity and what it means for the industry, how inclusion will benefit the industry, and what we can do to make it more inclusive. 

What is Socio-economic diversity? 

Socio-economic is ‘used to describe the differences between groups of people relating to their social class and financial situation,’ according to the Cambridge Dictionary. Those that are in low-income households are heavily impacted by this form of bias. According to Magnus Djaba, Global President and UK CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, in the article, The lack of socio-economic diversity in marketing is a ‘fundamental danger’ said ‘the problem is trying to apply yesterday’s logic rather than fostering new ideas and fresh thinking that challenges the status quo.’ The issue is in the current work environment there is a financial barrier for the generations entering the workforce as to be successful they must come from a certain background to be able to afford to start in the industry. Ann Francke said in UK social background remains a barrier to reaching top jobs ‘Socio economic background is definitely a factor in your ability to advance and it also definitely makes it more difficult to get hired in the first place. It’s really quite staggering that so few employers even have this on their radar.’ It was mentioned earlier this year about making the socio-economic background a mandatory reporting similar to data on gender. 

What socio-economic diversity means for the industry?

At M&S Sharry Cramond mentors a group of 15 year old girls with potential from a school in an underprivileged community in Scotland, as mentioned in M&S and Unilever address marketing’s lack of socio-economic diversity. Having this experience opened these students’ eyes to what possibilities their future could hold and how there is no right or wrong path to get there. Marketing is a very broad word for what our industry does; we cover print and digital, you can work for a brand or for an agency or with a celebrity to market them; we market products or services, etc. however this knowledge isn’t being shared with students and those entering the workforce. ‘Marketing is misunderstood by many young people and teachers, which is hardly surprising given how diverse our job descriptions can be. 

We also suffer from a lack of diversity in our profession. Last year, a survey found that 88% of marketers were white, while the percentage of women in senior roles was well behind other industry benchmarks,’ said Nick Fuller, President of EVERFI International, in  Four things marketers can do to help disadvantaged young people right now. To change this, we must market the profession and industry to young people who might not hear about it; this may mean going into schools and speaking to the pupils about the day-to-day work that you are involved in plus (if viable) inviting them to your office and meeting your team. They will feel connected and inspired. 

Research has found that ‘when young people meet employees from a wide range of backgrounds who are in jobs from across the world of work, they broaden their horizons, increase their motivation to learn and become more informed about the career paths most suited to them,’ as mentioned in Four things marketers can do to help disadvantaged young people right now

How the inclusion of socio-economic diversity will benefit the industry?

A person’s background shouldn’t be a deciding factor in their hiring. This has an adverse effect on those that haven’t had the right opportunities as they are from a low-income background where the opportunities didn’t exist. The concern with not having socio-economic diversity is that you run the risk of group thought and lacking creativity. Catherine McGuinness, Policy Chair at the City of London Corporation said in Helping employers increase socio-economic diversity and inclusion ‘When employees are drawn from a small talent pool, it can result in less innovation, more ‘groupthink’ and reactive rather than proactive problem-solving.’

This is seen throughout the industry at all levels as well. ‘Analysis shows that despite only representing a combined 15.4% of respondents, marketers from upper-middle-class and upper-class backgrounds are more likely than their middle-class or working-class peers to rise to positions of seniority with higher earning potential,’ according to A marketer’s socio-economic background dictates their earning potential, study finds. This data shows that a person’s background influences their career. 

What can we do to make it more inclusive from a socio-economic perspective?

While a person’s background does impact the opportunities, they have had it shouldn’t be a limiting factor. As an industry, we should be opening opportunities up to school leavers and recent graduates to explore the field. A way to do this is through apprenticeships with your company. 

We as an industry are talking about the plans we have in place to ensure diversity and yet according to Apprenticeships: A fifth of marketers admit their business ‘doesn’t see value’ ‘more than half (57.9%) of marketers work for a brand with no marketing apprenticeship. Of the 4,463 marketers surveyed, 21.2% say the company does not currently see the value in it. A further 10.4% say it is too complicated to develop a programme…’ There are reasons why a brand doesn’t want to take on an apprenticeship programme the business may be too small or they may have an academy in place for uni students. 

Some businesses are implementing programmes to see how apprenticeship will help their business while others feel that there is no value to be gained. ‘From small businesses to global multinationals, if issues surrounding the appreciation and perception of marketing apprenticeships persist it is inevitable the industry will miss out on a vast array of diverse talent’ as mentioned in Apprenticeships: A fifth of marketers admit their business ‘doesn’t see value’

At GottaBe marketing we see the potential to grow and develop all aspects of the marketing industry. We are more than a multi-cultural marketing firm and will continue to adapt to the changing environment. Tomasz Dyl, our managing director has instilled us with this philosophy. As he is a professor at two local universities, we have the ability to collaborate with students from all backgrounds who will be entering the workforce soon to provide them with real-world experiences and knowledge. 

Let's see how we can work together