Inclusive marketing—with Michelle Ngome

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Diversity Marketing and Business Consultant Michelle Ngome has seen an increase in business this last year as companies are being thoughtful about how they reflect the world they want to live in and the organizations they want to be.

In this first of our three-part discussion with Michelle, she explains what Diversity Marketing is and outlines important points to consider when creating an inclusive marketing presence.

Read the interview

Jill McKenna: Hi, everyone. Thanks for joining us here. My name is Jill McKenna. I’m the campaign marketing manager at Ruby, and I’m joined today by Michelle Ngome. I’m deeply excited to have you here, thanks for being here. Michelle is a diversity and inclusion marketing consultant, the founder of the African American Marketing Association, author and podcaster, wearing many hats. Michelle, thank you for being here. Can you explain a little bit more about your work for our audience?

Michelle Ngome:
Yes, thanks for having me. I help large organizations look at diversity and inclusion from a marketing perspective. Everyone’s doing marketing in some capacity, I’m making sure that your content and your visuals show diversity and inclusion in all of your marketing material for your campaigns.

Jill McKenna:
I imagine that your work has really changed in the last year with shifts to social awareness, social justice, initiatives that have happened as a culture. Can you explain a little bit more about how you are seeing companies embracing inclusive marketing now?

Michelle Ngome:
Yeah, I think the companies have definitely become a lot more aware since June 1st. I think it’s always been affirmative action/diversity, equity and inclusion, or diversity, inclusion and belonging, each company has their own name for it. I think it’s always been a component, but since June 1st it’s definitely gone in hyper-awareness mode. I definitely see companies making strides as far as galvanizing their own employees to say like, “Hey, what are we doing? What are we doing wrong? How can we do better?” And then, of course, hiring experts to come in and assess what that process.

Jill McKenna:
Yeah, I can see how you would have amplified your business because those are a lot of questions in a lot of areas that that companies need to cover.

Michelle Ngome:
Yeah. I think the unique thing about me, I say that I look at diversity and inclusion from a marketing perspective. I don’t have an HR background, I haven’t done talent recruiting and all that kind of stuff, but I have expertise in finance and marketing that overlaps when it comes to trends, reading reports and stuff like that. But I realized that the marketing department wasn’t talking to the HR department. In order for you to have an inclusive campaign, I think it starts from the inside of the organization, so that’s how I go in and help teams. I prefer working with the marketing team, but I’m like, “Hey, now that we’ve got this together, we need to work with the HR team.” That’s what I assist with.

Jill McKenna:
To that point, if people are wondering, is this for me, is this something I need, what is this exactly, can you explain a little bit more about inclusive marketing and exactly what it is for those who aren’t sure of the definition?

Michelle Ngome:
Yeah. Inclusive marketing is about creating an internal environment that’s going to allow for you to have a successful marketing campaign, because the marketing campaign is the external output that you’re promoting your company, brand awareness, sales, whatever the objective may be. What I realized is that there was a lack of representation or misrepresentation when it comes to Blacks and other minorities, but I feel that if you’re creating the environment where Black and Brown people are in the process, the decision making process of your campaign, that would help with the inclusiveness.

Jill McKenna:
That makes a lot of sense. I think it’s something that we see a lot as consumers too. A different example is I remember I used to watch really heavy gaming, like people win millions of dollars playing video games, and I noticed that all that was happening was this was being marketed to men. I was like, “You’re missing 50% of your customer base,” and so it’s only logical to think about not only doing it for the right reasons because we want to be inclusive, but you’re also cutting yourself off at the knees if you’re not thinking about the wider audience. Do you run into that a lot?

Michelle Ngome:
Oh yeah, absolutely. I think it’s one of those things, for so long it’s been the white audience is the mainstream audience, it’s mainstream America. I think most companies have looked at it just very broad and people are going to fall in where they fall in, if they like the product, they like the product, but lately we’ve been seeing where representation matters. Also, with that representation, you have a large number of Black and Brown people that are wealthy, that have disposable income. Nelson Media reports when you look at Black consumers, Latinx consumers, Asians, and even people with disabilities, each of those groups spend a trillion dollars in consumer spending. Your brand, your product caters to them, but they want to see themselves in their marketing because then it’s like, “Oh, I need that. I relate to him, her,” or whatever. Then, “I want to buy a house. I need to sell a house,” it’s like, “I see myself driving that car or wearing that makeup. All of those things are important and I just want to encourage individuals, even small business owners as well as the larger companies, that let’s be mindful of that moving forward.

Jill McKenna:
Are there other fundamentals of inclusive marketing that people should be keeping in mind when they’re doing this work or starting to look at themselves through this lens?

Michelle Ngome:
I think that’s why it’s important to create your team. I think diversity comes in an array of ways, diversity of thought, experience, socioeconomic, education, location. Diversity goes beyond race, we have religion, we have culture, and so many things. You want to bring those people to the table. You need to create that environment where individuals on your team feel like they can contribute, they can speak up when it comes to creating these marketing campaigns or even these job descriptions, that you, once again, hire the right people. That way, anything that goes out, it’s like your team has some input and it’s a representation of your company, of your work culture. I feel like for the longest we have lost sight of that, so I’m always encouraging people to be mindful of that.

Jill McKenna:
For marketing, beyond using stock photos of Black, Indigenous, and people of color, what can marketing teams do to also be creating that reach?

Michelle Ngome:
Yeah. Let me say this with the stock photos, because that is tricky, because the stock photo platforms are not that diverse in itself so that can be a challenge. If you’re able to create original photos, the best way possible during this time, I would definitely encourage you to do that. Some other ways, there’s actually a company in Portland right now, Intuitive Digital, I think they’re doing a great job. They’re a great example, where they did hire a consultant. They have this on their website and I think that’s what I loved about it. You see how they’re doing the work and they’re tracking it. They did hire a consultant, resources that they tapped into, they started a scholarship, an essay scholarship specifically for minority candidates. Those are the three things that I can remember right now. I think that’s the start. Once again, if you’re in Timbuktu, North Carolina, if you’re not in a major city where maybe there’s not a large Black population or a Black marketing population, you’ve got to get creative. You’ve got to find other ways to support the Black Lives Matter movement or just minorities in general.

Jill McKenna:
Thank you so much. I have just enjoyed myself so much. I’m really appreciative of your time. If people want to find out more about you, where can they go?

Michelle Ngome:
Yes., is my company. You can pretty much find me, first and last name, Michelle Ngome, N-G-O-M-E. I’ll say follow me on Instagram for the cool stuff, Facebook for the real stuff, and LinkedIn for the professional stuff.

Jill McKenna:
Perfect. Thank you so much, thanks for your time.

Michelle Ngome:
You’re welcome.

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