How food brands win with positive portrayals of people of color
There are big benefits for food and beverage brands that depict people of color positively in ads – but the sector lags others.
At Ipsos, we have a mission to vocally and visibly fight against systemic racism and its causal effects through our thought leadership series exposing truths in our society and offering tips for a better path forward. To assist companies attempting to navigate today’s uncertainty, our latest Diversity & Inclusion paper features a recent analysis of Ipsos’ Racial Equality Measure (REM) and shows how inclusive advertising provides a competitive advantage for businesses and brands that get it right.
Other key findings in this paper:
- When it comes to food and beverage brands, advertising is a critical variable in establishing and maintaining a strong connection with BIPOC groups.
- Food and beverage ads lag behind other categories when it comes to REM performance.
- To effectively reach underrepresented communities, brands need to build their strategy around a foundational understanding of these communities and portray them in an authentic way.
For more research from this series, please click here.
What we eat plays an important role in our lives beyond the necessity for survival. In fact, what and how we eat plays a major role in how we identify individually and collectively. It serves as a gateway by which we share our cultures with one another and invite others to know and understand us at a deeper level. That’s why it’s so important for brands to get it right when marketing to food and beverage products—and so rewarding when they do.
Three-quarters (75%) of American adults enjoy cooking family recipes that have been passed down through generations, an Ipsos poll from May found. Another 69% indicate that food is a way to share their culture with those they love, and 61% of Americans say they express themselves and their individuality through food.
The physical and emotional function of food creates a unique responsibility for the food and beverage industry to fulfill, and food plays a special role in the lives of all Americans—but Asian, Black and Hispanic Americans are more likely than white ones to express themselves and their individuality through food. Compared to white Americans, more Black and Asian Americans consider food a way to share their culture with those they love.
Given this, food and beverage companies should be working to truly understand the role their products play in diverse consumers’ lives and to authentically communicate with traditionally underrepresented communities.
Advertising is a critical way to establish and maintain a strong connection with people of color—one reason that Ipsos created the Racial Equity Measure (REM) in its Creative Spark ad-testing platform. A first-of-its-kind analysis of REM data shows that inclusive advertising provides a competitive advantage for businesses and brands that get it right. But it also shows that the food and beverage sector has much room for improvement.
REM: What is it?
Ipsos’ Creative Spark evaluates ads in a number of ways, including racial equity through a quantitative index called REM. Brands can use the measure to benchmark their performance in inclusion and to guide the positive depiction of racial and ethnic minorities with any and all audiences.
We ask respondents to rate ads across key pillars of racial equity, those that are important to positive representation and associated with authenticity, stereotyping, respect and role modeling. To evaluate the dataset, we divided the REM database into terciles and identified how ads performed by analyzing cases that were in the top third of the REM index versus those in the bottom third of REM.
REM: The current ad landscape with a focus on food and beverage
An analysis of food and beverage ads tested by Ipsos found that 70% include a person of color. However, far fewer (45%) place a person of color in a primary role and just 1% place a person in a primary role defying stereotypes.
To be clear, this is just one element—simply having a diverse cast of people in advertisements is not enough. To effectively reach underrepresented communities, brands need to build their strategy around a foundational understanding of these communities and portray them in an authentic way.
This is why REM uses a combination of measures to construct an index that extends beyond the most basic form of representation. While slightly above average, food and beverage ads lag behind other categories when it comes to REM performance. Two in five (39%) food and beverage ads tested for REM landed into the top third of REM scores (those that are strong performers). However, this trails well behind other leading sectors, like cosmetics and beauty, where more than two-thirds (67%) of ads tested with REM fall into the top category. Many advertisers in the beauty sector are responsive to the importance of reflecting beauty as a form of cultural identity. Given the deep cultural identity also associated with food, closing this gap could provide significant leverage for brands.
REM: It’s good for business
Diversity in advertising can be leveraged as a competitive advantage. Ipsos has two measures—Choice Intent and Brand Relationship—that allow us to take the next step and evaluate how REM scores affect relationship with a brand over time. Choice Intent helps us understand the impact the ad has on short-term behavior change or intention for choosing the brand at the point of purchase. Brand Relationship measures the net effect of the ad on perception that the brand meets functional and emotional needs, suggesting it is a good long-term choice.
Ads in the top third of REM score 26% higher on Choice Intent and 19% higher on Brand Relationship than those in the bottom third. This means that advertisements that portray people of color as role models in a respectful, authentic, non-stereotypical way translate into both improved short-term sales and long-term relationship building for brands.
Advertising has long held the power to influence and shape cultural perceptions. As consumers’ awareness and expectations of diversity grows, it is important for brands of all sectors to approach advertising from the viewpoint of cultural fluency. That said, food and beverage companies play a unique role in consumers’ lives, so they have a heightened responsibility—with plenty of room for improvement.
Beyond robust representation, brands need to deliver authentic communications to diverse communities and ultimately, strategically build campaigns around these groups. From REM to cultural fluency and beyond, Ipsos is committed to helping brands advance their advertising’s performance against diversity and inclusion goals.