Prada, What Were You Thinking! OR
The Importance of Diverse & Inclusive Input on Marketing & Product Development
Deborah P. Ashton, Ph.D., CDM, Chief Psychologist & Head of Behavioral Practices & Research Diversity MBA
Chinyere Ezie, a civil right attorney, saw the ‘imaginary creature’ keychain and display in the window of the downtown Manhattan PRADA shop. Prada was shocked that people saw the figures as ‘blackface’ because according to Prada, “Prada Group abhors racist imagery. The Pradamalia are fantasy charms composed of elements of the Prada oeuvre.” The beings were “mysterious tiny creatures that are one part biological, one part technological, all parts Prada.” Prada did not learn from H&M’s faux pas. Gucci (sweater) and Katy Perry (shoes) did not learn from Prada’s gaffe. Racism and blackface are not simply a United States legacy; it has permeated globally. Implicit bias is not intentional. That is why it is important to have diverse input in the product development and marketing campaigns to avoid missteps that have negative effect on the company’s brand.
When I headed diversity at a Fortune 500 casual dining company, Marketing partnered with Diversity to head-off unconscious bias before it went public. Marketing leveraged my expertise and I leveraged the Business Resource Groups (BRGs). On more than one occasion, the brand avoided embarrassment from the input of the Black BRG and the Hispanic BRG. For instance, a stereotypical Black image was pulled before the ad went live. Another time, even though a Latino ad firm was hired to capture the gist of an ad that had been developed for consumers, whose primary language was English, and the firm was to develop a comparable ad in Spanish, Diversity and the Hispanic BRG caught an embarrassing gaff. Diverse and inclusive voices see from various perspectives. The diverse and inclusive perspectives are more likely to catch unconscious biases.
Corporations, please stop apologizing after your mistakes have gone viral. Get diverse input when you are developing the product and the marketing campaign. How many times do people have to hear corporations sing Sol Marcus’s lyrics, “[my] intentions are good, Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.”