Find Your People: Developing a Brand for Diverse Audiences

How to create a brand that speaks to a segmented population

Whether you’re a skilled marketer or new to the game, you’ve probably been taught the art and science of the “4 Ps”: Product, Price, Promotion, and Place

There’s only one problem when it comes to developing a brand for diverse audiences. It’s what is missing from your important equation: People. 

It’s easy to nail down your products and value proposition. But identifying your target audiences? That’s a whole other story. Lots of organizations try to do one of two things:

1.) Invite anyone and everyone to the table

2.) Focus on one niche audience while they isolate everyone else.  

Neither of these strategies work well for your civic branding. That’s OK. Let’s look at the positives: your audience pool has gotten deeper, wider, and more diverse, giving civic and other place-based brands a tremendous opportunity. But you can’t create a brand that casts a super wide net, otherwise, it looks like you stand for nothing. You have to put your stake in the ground when it comes to your mission, values, and programs. 

So how do you win over audiences that might not all share the same demographics?

By working directly with your community (your audiences) to create a brand that reflects the people you represent, while creating tailored messages and programs that speak to specific audiences.

Creating authentic brand diversity 

While the majority of cities and communities represent people from all walks of life, meaningful engagement doesn’t happen until you connect with them in authentic ways. The key word there: Authentic. You cannot tout diversity and inclusion as important brand values unless you’re actively implementing programs and initiatives that demonstrate this commitment. 

For example, the City of South Euclid communicates that they are a “diverse community” on their website and within their mission statement and values. They also back these statements up with programs that support minorities. They’ve even passed monumental anti-discrimination laws.

The point is you can’t just talk the talk. You have to walk the talk, too.

Communities and organizations that represent a group of people need to build authentic, diverse brands from the inside-out. Here’s how we do it.

1. Establish diversity from within

Creating a brand that speaks authentically starts with bringing together a steering committee that is made up of diverse members of your community. And we don’t just mean diverse in terms of race, religious beliefs or gender, even though that helps, too. We mean finding people who represent various institutions and groups that make up the fabric of your community – your schools, parent groups, chamber of commerce, neighborhood associations, public safety, government officials and more. 

By doing so, you’re bringing different viewpoints to the table for a dialogue about what the community brand means to them.

2. Identify your core audiences

Here are a few smart ways to determine who makes up your audiences:

  • Leverage U.S. Census data reports to help you gather a baseline understanding of your key demographics like age, gender, race, household income, etc. 
  • Scan your channels – newsletters, social media pages, group forums, etc. – and see if you notice any trends in terms of which people are actively engaged in community issues and events.
  • Engage your steering committee or stakeholders to excavate insight on your most crucial audience groups and demographics.

This information can make all the difference when it comes to creating a tone-deaf brand and one that resonates with your people.

3. Create realistic values

Your values are the strength – the foundation – behind your brand. Sure, your logo is important. But your values communicate who you are and how you act, which is what your logo ultimately stands for. 

Not only do your values need to be real and true, but they should influence decisions. Back to  the City of South Euclid, if inclusion is an important value, your laws, incentives, events and programs need to reflect this promise. With a diverse steering committee in place, you’re in a position to identify the values that are common demonitors across various segments of your audience. 

4. Tailor messages to the right audiences

Sorry to burst your bubble, but the days of creating one newsletter, one big event, etc. are over. You have to create targeted messages for each audience and distribute them through the right channels. Some groups prefer to hear from you in-person or through a direct mail piece, while others, like millennials, look only to social media or mobile alerts for important updates. 

Now, this doesn’t mean you have to create dozens of communication channels for each audience. That’s beyond unmanageable, even for big-time corporate brands. You simply need to be mindful of the best ways to communicate with each segment and ensure your message speaks more directly to their needs. 

5. Find your brand champions

Just like you need to foster diversity on the inside with your steering committee, you need to cultivate relationships with important stakeholders on the outside of your organization like residents, business owners, minority groups, moms, young professionals, etc. to help your brand flourish. 

We call these people your brand champions. They’re folks who are invested in the success of your community and can influence others to feel the same way. Empower them with toolkits and talking points that enable them to represent your brand in positive ways. But also remember to let them create their own culturally-nuanced content so it resonates with their specific group.

Keep it going

It’s not a box to check off during brand development or implementation – as your audiences evolve, so must your brand and messaging. It’s an ongoing, long-term effort that ensures diverse groups are included and valued throughout important decision-making. This is the epitome of authentic brands that spark genuine engagement with a diverse population. 

Hopefully, you find it to be a worthwhile process that brings everyone in your community a little closer together in the process.