of Americans say
DE&I is important


of US consumers want brands to be authentic

Let’s be honest, it’s been a rough ride for Americans over the past few years. The murder of George Floyd, the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the spiraling cost of living are just some of the major social and political events that have really taken their toll.

No wonder people are feeling overwhelmed; with interest in social justice/equality down 7% since Q3 2022, and the number of Americans who say diversity and inclusion is important to them also down 8%, social justice fatigue is setting in. But diversity still matters.

40% of Americans who say DE&I is important have educated themselves to support DE&I issues in the last six months

Right now, there’s a real opportunity to put these learnings into action.

Missing the mark can damage consumer confidence and, in some cases, spark a major PR backlash. Brands must be authentic in their approach and let consumers lead the conversation. 

Here are 5 DE&I insights all brands need to know:

  • DE&I means different things to different people

  • Americans have different reasons for prioritizing some social issues over others

  • Some industries are seen to be doing a much better job than others

  • Focusing on real people brings authenticity to inclusive advertising

  • The inclusive products consumers crave change over time


DE&I means different things to different people

81% of Americans who think DE&I is important say it matters to them because it helps to provide fair and equal opportunities. But when it comes to what consumers think of when they hear DE&I, there are some notable differences between groups:

  • For Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, and White/Caucasian Americans, “reducing discrimination” is the top answer 
  • 50% of Black/African Americans say “providing equal opportunity for marginalized communities”
  • 43% of Asian Americans say “valuing the differences between people”

When it comes to crafting a powerful message that will resonate with your audience, stay close to the data on what DE&I means to them if you want to speak their language.

Understanding the ‘why’ behind DE&I can help you connect with consumers in a more meaningful way.

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Americans have different reasons for prioritizing some social issues over others

Whether you’re launching a new product range, looking to take a stance as a brand on an important social issue, or devising an awareness campaign to attract new customers, getting to the crux of what issues matter most to your audience is critical.

Something you think may resonate could be wildly off the mark depending on who you’re talking to, so be sure to compare the nuances between audiences early on in the planning process.

Most distinctive social issues by generation

Index score of the social issues important to each generation (1.0 represents the average American)

When looking at the issues that stand out per generation, the correlation between age and key cultural moments paints an interesting picture.

Take Gen Z for instance. This is a generation who are championing inclusivity, and redefining what DE&I means for traditional gender norms. The effects of the #MeToo movement against sexual violence are being felt by millennials, too. It’s no surprise that reducing/ending sexual harassment/abuse are among the top three social issues that this generation deem most important.

On the flip side, ageism is one of the most distinctive social issues for baby boomers and the silent generation when compared to the average American, showing how personal circumstances and concerns for the future can play into the causes different generations deem most important. 

Digging deeper into why some issues are more prevalent than others for your target audience will bring further context that can help you to validate and strengthen your approach.

There’s no room for broad brush strokes; know who you’re talking to and tune into what matters to them most.

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Some industries are seen to be doing a much better job than others

Some industries are getting it right with American consumers, while others are perceived to be doing very little to boost DE&I. Beauty, fashion, and entertainment come out on top, with initiatives that are recognized by US consumers as having a positive impact. 

Which industries are perceived to be doing a good job with their DE&I initiatives? 


say that the beauty industry is, by offering inclusive products


say that the fashion industry is, by offering inclusive products and services


say that the entertainment industry is, by talking about DE&I issues

When it comes to offering inclusive products, there might be no better example than Fenty Beauty – a brand that lives and breathes its marketing mission of “Beauty for all.” They hit the ground running with their launch in 2017 with 40 foundation shades, (which was subsequently updated to 50), to match every skin tone. It was disruptive, it was authentic, and consumers loved it. Dubbed “The Fenty Effect”, the brand changed the game for inclusive makeup, leaving competitors scrambling to expand their own shade ranges.

Our approach to inclusion marketing has always been about “showing, not telling.” Never once did we use the word “inclusive” in our messaging.

Sando Saputo, Chief Marketing Officer Kendo Brands (the owner of Fenty Beauty)

In contrast, sports, finance, gaming, pharma, and tech/electronics are all industries failing to make an impression on Americans. “Don’t know/no opinion” was Americans’ top answer when asked what these industries were doing to support DE&I. This is particularly interesting when you consider that some brands within these industries have made very public efforts to promote DE&I. 

The sports industry is a great example of this. Despite there being no shortage of DE&I initiatives and campaigns in the sector, (the Anti-Racist Project (ARP), Nike’s campaign #UntilWeAllWin, and annual diversity reports by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport are just a handful), there’s an obvious disconnect with consumers. 31% answered “don’t know/no opinion” when asked what the sports industry is doing to improve DE&I, which suggests the messaging and positioning of these campaigns are failing to resonate with Americans.

The key takeaway for brands? Learn from the sectors that are doing it well.


Focusing on real people brings authenticity to inclusive advertising

Understanding which groups are underrepresented in ads, and more importantly, paying attention to how they want to be portrayed is essential for creating authentic advertising that sticks.

There’s a significant disparity between different groups that say they feel represented in advertising

% of Americans that say they see people that look like them in ads

Hispanic and Asian Americans are the most likely to say they rarely see people who look like them in ads, and 14% of Black/African Americans say the same. So what does this mean for brands, and what do consumers want to see in inclusive advertising?

Across all generations, “better portrayal of diverse groups” is what Americans want most, followed by “ensuring diverse voices are represented.” They want to see real people and role models that inspire them. In ads that focus on diverse representation: 

  • Asian Americans are 32% more likely than the average American to say they want to see artists/musicians and athletes/sports professionals. They’re also 29% more likely to say that they want to see actors/actresses/TV stars 
  • Hispanic Americans are 32% more likely than the average American to say that they want to see activists
  • Black/African Americans are 71% more likely to say that they want to see social media influencers

Drawing a distinction between being seen to be representative, (e.g. including a diverse model in your campaign or jumping on a hashtag), versus actually representing the values and experiences of the consumers you wish to engage, (e.g. giving under-represented groups a platform and a voice) is key to creating ads that resonate.

To be meaningful and truly representative, inclusive ads should speak to the real stories and experiences of diverse groups.


The inclusive products consumers crave change over time

Similar to how Americans’ personal circumstances play a role in the social issues they deem most important, cultural relevance feeds into the type of products different generations want from brands.

Looking at younger generations, they’re most likely to say they want brands to offer products that are inclusive of all hair types (66% of Gen Z and 50% of millennials say this), and inclusive of all skin colors (52% of Gen Z say this, and 51% of millennials).

As we look to other generations, there’s a noticeable shift in the types of products they want from brands. Age and size inclusivity become two of the top categories, while hair and skin-inclusive products fall down the priority list.

Gen Z’s desire for gender-neutral products is just one example of the gender fluidity of this group. More than any other generation, Gen Z are shaking off gender binaries, and adopting unisex styles over traditionally categorized “feminine” or “masculine” options.

Again, this ties back to understanding your consumers’ reality and how this impacts their purchase behavior. Stay close to real consumer insights to get a window into your audience’s world, so you can strike the right chord, every time.

Gen Z are 62% more likely than the average American to want brands to offer gender-neutral product ranges; it’s the most distinctive DE&I product desire across all generations.

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