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DEI + Culture

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The importance of DEI testing for campaigns that resonate with consumers

DEI + Culture / 10.25.23 / By Josh Nebeker

What you'll learn:

  • Consumers are keeping DEI top of mind when considering products and brands, making it increasingly important for businesses to create inclusive marketing campaigns.
  • DEI testing can have a variety of benefits for brands, like increased customer loyalty, higher ad recall and stronger growth.
  • DS+CO has an IDEA Panel, made up of external DEI experts who provide real-time feedback on our campaigns, to ensure our marketing work is inclusive and authentic.
  • Our IDEA Panel has helped us improve by critiquing our campaigns—making them more inclusive and diverse.

Marketers are determined to reach and influence as many consumers as possible, and with this great power comes great responsibility.

The material we create can have large and lasting impacts on society, making it even more important to be mindful of the weight it carries. That’s why it’s crucial that we, as marketers, ensure our work has a positive influence and creates a diverse space that makes everyone feel a sense of inclusion and belonging.

Consumers are keeping DEI top of mind now more than ever

It’s no surprise that diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is increasingly top of mind for consumers when considering products and brands. Deloitte found that more than half (57%) of consumers surveyed say they’re more loyal to brands that demonstrate commitment to addressing social inequities in all their actions.

This movement isn’t just a passing trend, but a permanent shift that will continue to grow—and marketers need to take note.

Keeping DEI top of mind has shown a variety of benefits for business, as well as society at large. From the undeniable impact when a child sees themselves authentically represented in an advertisement to the myriad business impacts that result from incorporating a DEI perspective:

  • 36% of consumers say they’re more likely to buy a product based on a brand’s commitment to DEI.
  • Online campaigns with more diverse representation have higher ad recall.
  • High-growth brands are 1.9 times more likely to have DEI-related talent objectives than negative-growth brands.

How to immerse DEI into your work and culture

DS+CO recognizes the importance of integrating diversity and inclusion initiatives into marketing and continues to seek ways to thread DEI into everything we do. This starts internally by intertwining DEI into our strategic pillars and providing our teams with DEI-related training and education.

DEI has become a foundational element of client work through what we call our Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Action (IDEA) Panel.

The IDEA panel is a group of external DEI professionals, experts and marketers who represent intercultural, diverse perspectives. Through a focus group or survey format, the IDEA Panel evaluates our work and provides real-time inclusion and diversity feedback on common pitfalls like inauthentic representation or unconscious bias.

Each panel is a collaborative process between DEI experts and our internal team. However, we let the panelists take center stage while DS+CO team members observe and learn.

It’s become a standard part of our process, as seen below:

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As an example, an IDEA Panel evaluated initial concepts for a client’s brand campaign. After viewing campaign imagery, panelists expressed that, although there were numerous groups represented, there was still a need for greater diversity. Based on that feedback, our teams expanded representation in the imagery before engaging in creative testing. After testing, the final concept was brought to market with DEI-vetted material.

“The review panel empowers us to break down barriers, open minds and create deeper connections to diverse perspectives.” —Ann McAllister, Creative Director and internal DEI workgroup member

Additionally, we collaborate with our IDEA Panel experts on ad-hoc projects. As an example, our internal DEI workgroup collaborates with external experts to ensure the agency-wide education we provide is culturally sensitive and accurate.

There are also important methodological standards that ensure equitable feedback and lessen bias in each panel, such as:

  • Incorporating panelists from a variety of diverse backgrounds
  • Avoiding including any panelists who have a stake in the project
  • Using a panel guide that provides structure but does not stifle open feedback
  • Creating and setting the stage for safe and open feedback
  • Guaranteeing materials used are accessible to all
  • Ensuring all panelists see all aspects of a campaign
  • Allowing panelists to provide open feedback while the internal team listens and probes for deeper understanding
  • Recording the discussion and sharing detailed notes with team members to ensure they receive and understand feedback—we also share results companywide for broader educational opportunities

Diversity and inclusion initiatives aren’t a nice-to-have—they’re a must-have.

We’re committed to incorporating diverse perspectives into every stage of our work. The IDEA Panel has become a standard part of that process, allowing us to create more intentional work and provide success stories for our clients.

Each IDEA Panel has provided me with an opportunity to learn something new, and I’m always proud to see it elevate our work—from learning to craft accessible messaging to adjusting imagery to avoid stereotypes.

We understand the DEI challenges faced by CMOs and their teams. And while we don’t have all the answers, it’s our top priority to continue educating ourselves and strengthening our work to be authentically inclusive.

We’ve seen significant growth among our team and their DEI preparedness and look forward to expanding our DEI perspectives in 2024 and beyond. There’s an endless amount of work to be done in the DEI space, but we believe that every small step matters as we move to provoke progress for all.

Connect with us to learn more about how our IDEA Panel can help your company with more inclusive marketing in a way that authentically represents your brand.

If you have experience in the DEI space and would like to become a panelist, please reach out to the DS+CO research team at


Josh Nebeker

Josh is DS+CO's Market Research Associate and internal DEI workgroup member.