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You Can't Be What You Can't See


As marketers, we have responsibilities. To our clients. To their customers. To our agency colleagues.

You're thinking "Duh."

But, we also have responsibilities because what we say and show goes out into the world, affects how people think about things, and becomes part of a larger communications conversation. Can we make the world a better, more inclusive, and welcoming place through the decisions we make as marketers?

We say, "Yes."

Here's an example. The Queen B belongs to a local gym, where she works out at least a few times each week on resistance equipment, takes yoga classes, and dances. They recently decided to upgrade the fitness floor, which meant that the gym would be closed for a little over a week.

This was not particularly upsetting for the Queen B.

However, it was very upsetting for many members who are more ... shall we say ... committed about their workouts.

So, the gym put up notices everywhere. On the fitness floor, in the studios, on every door and window, in the locker rooms, even in the restrooms. "We heard you!" they announced. "We're making improvements for you!" "Your gym is getting better than ever!" Blah blah blah. Solid, member-centric, benefits-driven messaging.

BUT ... (You knew there was a "but," right?)

The stock photos on all of the flyers (even the flyers in the women's restroom stalls) showed middle-aged white men. No women. No children. No seniors. No people of color.


For the record, the gym in question has many members who can check off those diverse boxes. But, apparently no one told the person who designed the flyers.

Not a big deal? Maybe. But, it becomes a big deal when art directors choose photos of business boardrooms, or models meant to be politicians, bosses, pilots, judges, doctors, police officers, or other figures of success and authority. If all we put out there are pictures of white men, how do girls or non-white boys feel about themselves and the options they have for the future?

There's a saying, "You can't be what you can't see."

So, the next time you're choosing (or shooting, lucky you) photography, think about everyone who may see your marketing campaign. The real world has a long way to go where diversity and inclusion are concerned.

But, as marketers, we can help do our part today.



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