unBoxed 2021: The importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in brand storytelling

October 27, 2021

Stories can have the power to shape the world around us. That’s the idea with which Latasha Gillespie—the Head of Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for Amazon Studios, Prime Video and IMDb—opened her keynote at unBoxed 2021.

“As brand storytellers, our campaigns and creatives can challenge traditional ways of seeing the world, and allow us to imagine new possibilities for ourselves and others,” Gillespie said. “They can help make our world more equitable and inclusive.”

Connecting with audiences through shared social values like Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) was an important topic during day two of unBoxed 2021, where leaders from Amazon and beyond discussed new and emerging trends in marketing and advertising. One important takeaway for brands from the two-day conference, which was held October 26 through October 27, is that many consumers today want to engage with brands that have an authentic voice and share consumer values. According to a study from Environics Research and Amazon Ads, 90% of consumers in both the U.S. and Europe say they appreciate when a brand is a responsible corporate citizen.1 Additionally, 60% of consumers in both regions are willing to pay more for a brand that stands for a social issue that they consider important.2

These insights inspired leaders at unBoxed to demonstrate how brands can connect with consumers through shared values, and also explain why it’s important.

quoteUpAs brand storytellers, our campaigns and creatives can challenge traditional ways of seeing the world, and allow us to imagine new possibilities for ourselves and others. They can help make our world more equitable and inclusive.quoteDown
– Latasha Gillespie, Head of Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for Amazon Studios, Prime Video and IMDb

Philippe Krakowsky, the President and CEO of ad agency Interpublic Group (IPG), which Amazon works with, joined Amazon’s VP of Global Brand and Marketing Claudine Cheever at unBoxed to discuss ways in which his team has helped brands build authenticity through storytelling and shared values.

“People want to engage with purpose-driven brands, and I think they’re willing to pay more to do so,” Krakowsky said. “There’s really no trade-off when it comes to terrific creativity and authenticity. Brand purpose doesn’t just help you differentiate your brand. I also think it’s an important way to connect with your own employees and to motivate them as well.”

Krakowsky highlighted a campaign that won McCann (which is part of Interpublic Group) a Grand Prix in brand experience and activation at 2021 Cannes International Festival of Creativity. This was the “True Name” campaign for Mastercard, which empowers transgender and non-binary cardholders to use their true name when using their credit card.

quoteUpBrand purpose doesn’t just help you differentiate your brand. I also think it’s an important way to connect with your own employees and to motivate them as well.quoteDown
– Philippe Krakowsky, President and CEO, Interpublic Group (IPG)

“That work really kind of brought to life that the most important part of authenticity is how we identify and how you empower people to do that,” Krakowsky said. “It connects organically to a brand that has been a long-standing supporter of the LTBTQ community. Challenging convention and having the courage to take the stand clearly is a door that’s available to you. And right now-when you think about folks in that community, particularly those who are part of other marginalized communities, they’re so vulnerable at the moment, that it took a level of saying is this consistent with who we are.”

Krakowsky also highlighted another campaign called “Dear White Parents” from one of IPG’s companies Margenett Moore-Roberts. Working with We Are, the Ad Council, and the Anti-Defamation League, this campaign was launched to encourage white parents to have conversations with their own children about racism. As Krakowsky explained, the campaign included an unscripted film showing real conversations white families had about racism. It also included an online hub that provided parents with talking guides and resources to teach kids about racism.

“It’s courageous work, and it really stops you and makes you think, and at the same time, we knew that they were going to clearly question the fact that we’ve been putting the focus just on white parents specifically. But given the times we live in, it was too important an issue not to address directly,” Krakowsky said. “While we did hear from some people who felt singled out, for the vast majority of our employees, seeing us as a company use our unique skillsets and put resources against making a concrete contribution to dealing with this very, very pressing issue for society was really, really rewarding.”

Register now to watch all of the unBoxed sessions, and follow our full coverage to learn more about our new advertising and marketing tools and dig into the main ideas discussed at Amazon Ads’ annual conference.

1-2 Environics Research, Social Values Global Consumer Themes, USA/Europe, 2021