The Inclusion Opportunity continues to grow
The topic of diversity, equity, and inclusion in research continues to gain the attention of brand and insights professionals. In our previous look at inclusive insights, we explored what we mean by inclusive insights and why they are critically important for insights professionals who are seeking to understand the rise of the intrinsically Inclusive Consumer (typically Millennials and Gen Z+), who support brands that are aligned with their inclusive values and beliefs. They expect brands to act for inclusion, providing equitable, relevant, and accessible products and service experiences, speak up by authentically representing diverse life experiences in their content and communications, and stand up with a visible and positive stance on societal and social justice issues.
Alongside this, there is a trillion-dollar opportunity for brands that can generate the rich, authentic insights that help them build relevant, compelling products, services, experiences, and connections with diverse populations across the full spectrum of identities (i.e., gender, race and ethnicity, [dis]ability, mental health, sexual orientation, etc.).
The Inclusion Opportunity is upon us… and it is a key source of future growth for brands.
Missed voices = missed opportunities
Agencies and client teams that are themselves diverse and inclusive are best positioned to take advantage of the Inclusion Opportunity. Diverse teams don’t just understand the diverse consumer’s experience; they live it. Diverse representation brings a fresh perspective and nuanced understanding that significantly improves accuracy, authenticity, and effectiveness across the entire research and insight-generation process—and, in turn, in the brand work driven by these insights. There is no substitute for having diverse representation amongst our teams and the wisdom, context, and authenticity that these voices bring to the work.
Agency and client teams that lack diversity can be positioned for missteps, from mediocre messaging to missed opportunities and, at times, to viral catastrophe. We’ve all seen the tone-deaf and offensive ads, shallow Juneteenth and Pride campaigns, and the like.
The challenge for the insights industry is that diverse talent is underrepresented at all levels. For example, as reported by the Insights Association, professionals of colour (in the US) are underrepresented across the board, but most especially in long-tenured, high-salaried positions with oversight and influence. The salary figures by race and ethnicity paint a stark picture of who is thriving in the industry. And while women are actually overrepresented here, compared to the general workforce, there is an observed cap on their career growth; women hold the overwhelming majority of hourly-paid roles, compared to men, while men hold the most senior positions, especially on Boards of Directors. One can infer where the ultimate decision-making, course-steering power lies in the current makeup of the industry.
Without even touching on diverse identities in sexual orientation, ability, religion, socioeconomic background, neurodiversity, and beyond, we can already observe that we, as an industry, face limitations across the entire globe.
It's time for the STTAR researcher to shine
It’s clear that we need to increase diverse representation, from team level to industry level—and this diverse talent must have a real voice and a real power. However, while representation is a goal to work towards, for reasons we have covered, it must be understood that inclusive insights are the responsibility of all market researchers, not just an expectation to be placed upon diverse talent.
In our future world, all insights will be inclusive insights, which means that we must all:
Become adept at identifying and eliminating bias and inequity across the research and insights process and /or in the technologies that enable and empower our work.
Build our core competency of inclusive research & insight generation—that is, the ability to understand and express the lived experiences of minorities and marginalised groups in their life’s context in a way that brings a more authentic, compassionate, positive, equitable view of these groups into focus. These insights translate into potent, culturally rich, contextual, and actionable stories that help brands unlock the Inclusion Opportunity.
Market researchers must play a central role in shaping and guiding the inclusive insights agenda and what this represents in terms of opportunity for current and future growth.
It is time for the rise of the STTAR researcher.
But what is a STTAR researcher?
A STTAR researcher operates in an orbit of inclusion. Inclusive insights are the North Star of all work. STARR researchers have an “inclusion antennae” and the full range of skills and competencies needed to generate the insights that will unlock the Inclusion Opportunity.
In practice, this means that the STARR researcher successfully combines a unique set of skills, mindsets, and behaviours.