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NEW Diversity Forum focuses on consumers and talent

Monday, March 12, 2012  
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Marketing experts and cpg/retail industry leaders offered advice on connecting to multicultural consumers and cultivating an inclusive corporate culture at the NEW CPG Retail Diversity Forum 2012, March 6-8 in Dallas.

In featured remarks March 8, Lynn Fantom, chairman and CEO of Interpublic Group’s ID Media, shared how her agency is using new media to connect with multicultural consumers. She put multicultural marketers in four categories: "Excluders” who say they are not targeting multicultural groups; "Includers,” who are relying on one-size-fits-all marketing; "Adapters,” who are modifying their mainstream marketing for multicultural audiences; and "Progressives,” who Fantom described as multicultural marketers who have their multicultural marketing aligned with human resources, employee resource groups and marketing communications.

"If you don’t have diverse people in your organization you are guessing” at multicultural marketing, Fantom said. "There’s no way to ‘get it’ without having the right people.”

To better connect with Hispanic consumers, Fantom advised attendees to take advantage of the high rate of smart phone use by Hispanics, especially through "text-to-respond” strategies. Mobile click-to-call technologies that allow mobile users to click on a phone number in an ad, for instance, is a "great way to get around the marketing budget because you don’t have to build out websites,” she noted. She also suggested advertising ooVoo and Skype video chat services, which accept ads in their chat screens and allow marketers to inject themselves into conversations.

Workplace to marketplace

A panel of diversity experts, including Maria Campbell, director of diversity for SC Johnson; Diane Cooke, vice president, human resources for Schwan's Consumer Brands; and Armando Martín, president, CEO and co-founder of XL Edge/XL Alliance, discussed ways to connect the dots between the workplace and the marketplace by building strong cultural competencies throughout an organization.

Martín described the consumer marketplace as a complex cultural matrix with numerous factors and countless combinations at work. America wants multiculturalism, Martín said, but "convention” -- a code word for bias -- keeps us in these narrow boxes.”

To strengthen the D&I message, company leaders must act as change agents and cultural stewards, Cooke noted, saying they must encourage "difficult conversations” about diversity and inclusion. "Companies need to hold their [managers] accountable for not using people who are not like them,” she said.

Frank discussions about diversity and inclusion will pay dividends in the long run Campbell added, noting leaders must become comfortable with the D&I conversation. "It’s about getting them comfortable with being uncomfortable,” she said.

Closing keynote speaker Sharon Orlopp, global chief diversity officer and senior vice president, corporate people, for Walmart Stores Inc., shared her experiences managing the industry’s largest retail workforce. She spoke about the retailer’s "immersion” activities, where employees take a deep dive into a different culture. The first was a trip to Alabama, where Walmart team members viewed historic sites from the civil rights movement, including the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, where four young girls were killed in a 1963 bombing. Another immersion trip took team members to San Antonio, Texas, and included a trip across the border to Mexico.

"When people come back from these trips it’s all they talk about for two or three days,” Orlopp said. "Something changes in them. If you touch the heart, you change behaviors.”

Orlopp said diversity has to do with metrics or "being invited to the dance and counting heads.” Inclusion is what the metrics feel like, "getting out on the dance floor and making heads count.”

To move from talking about D&I to cultivating it, Orlopp advised cpg/retail leaders to evaluate their human resource practices, identify and remove the obstacles to D&I success, measure results and hold people accountable. "Create public champions,” she said. "Be bold!”

NEW Diversity Forum Co-Chairs Eva Kohn, senior vice president of strategic sales for Valassis, and Subriana Pierce, senior vice president of sales and merchandising for SUPERVALU, closed the event with a reminder about the Network’s new D&IQ initiative, a strategic benchmarking tool designed to help select NEW sponsors identify diversity strengths and opportunities.

NEW D&IQ will provide analysis and recommendations to companies looking to leverage and advance diversity and inclusion throughout their organizations and embed D&I into cross-functional strategic planning. D&IQ will help companies develop critical business processes that will help them recruit, retain and advance top talent; develop leaders who can raise employee engagement; reach multicultural consumers; and tap into the influence of diverse suppliers. Beta testing begins this spring.

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NEW Diversity Forum, March 6 and March 7 sessions

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