Diversity Matters Because Marketing is a Team Sport

This past week, my company, SAP, launched its sixth annual Global Diversity Days program to promote the importance of inclusion and respecting the differences of others.

You might be asking yourself, “what does the issue of diversity have to do with marketing?”

Everything!

Marketing is a “team sport.” We are at our best when we share our ideas and collaborate as a marketing team. That’s when the most creative and effective marketing and strategies are produced.

But that ideal is not always put into practice. How many times have you been in a marketing or strategy brainstorming session and were reluctant to share your ideas or opinions for fear that co-workers or a manager might ridicule, ignore or dismiss them?

Is there anything more demeaning or demoralizing when someone slashes your idea to ribbons? You look across the room and your colleagues are either too scared to stand up in your defense; or even worse- they’re indifferent and they just don’t care.

That’s what happens when a work environment lacks inclusion. It stifles collaboration and suffocates work creativity.

It has happened to everyone. I have experienced it in my career more times than I care to remember. There’s nothing worse than feeling your ideas and viewpoints do not have the respect of your colleagues.

Do you think those situations produce the best marketing brainstorming? Absolutely not.

You can’t create a truly collaborative marketing environment when people exhibit intolerance to the differences of others.

Do you want to produce creative, compelling marketing campaigns? You won’t be able to do that if you have assembled a team of lemmings that disrespect different ideas.

When I ran agencies, I deliberately looked to build teams that were not just diverse in the typical categories, but brought different experiences, different ideas and different ways of thinking to the company. I did not want “groupthink” marketing; my goal was to let employees this was an environment that would nurture and support individual creativity. When employees know that their manager and their co-workers “have their back,” they’re more engaged and their self-confidence shows in their work.

Work is a Team Sport

I made a decision very early in my career that I wanted to see the world and work internationally. I’ve been fortunate to work in seven different countries. It’s given me a first-hand education in diversity.

As my career took me to various places around the world, I realized that it was more than just learning the language and the customs; it was about accepting and respecting their culture and the people.

If you’re a Creative Director, an Account Manager or an in-house marketing manager, if you lead and manage people, diversity and inclusion are essential for creating high-performing marketing teams.

But respect for people, their backgrounds and their differences cannot be practiced occasionally or selectively. You have to be “all in” and set the example and insist that your employees live up to that standard.

It Gets Better Video

During SAP’s Global Diversity Days program, one of the most impactful highlights was the screening of an SAP-produced video called It Gets Better. The video features SAP employees from around the world sharing their personal stories about acceptance, inclusion and respecting differences of all kinds. It is incredibly moving and powerful, and I encourage you to view it here.

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