Matthew Crabbe
Matthew is Mintel's Regional Trends Director for Asia Pacific. He provides insights and analysis on the latest market developments and consumer trends across the region.

Unilever has laid down the challenge to marketing agencies in China, India and Indonesia to become more inclusive when portraying consumers in advertising campaigns.

Unilever and Ebiquity, a marketing consultancy, together analysed over 500 TV and online ads across China, India and Indonesia, and discovered that very few women are shown as aspirational or feature in leadership positions. Furthermore, there are few men and women over the age of 40, and few men and women are anything other than slim.

To address this, Unilever is now gathering its top six creative agencies in Asia Pacific to address strategies that tackle diversity and inclusion across the company’s campaigns.

Creating an inclusive society

Unilever’s ‘Unstereotype’ initiative was first launched in 2016 with the aim of eliminating harmful and diminishing portrayals of people across advertising. The trend is already happening with other brands and companies as well. For instance, Swiggy, an online food delivery platform based in India, showcases how mothers in India can do more than just cook, through its campaign.

Meanwhile, the latest ad by social and dating application Bumble is promoted with the hashtag #EqualNotLoose, an initiative which aims to fight gender stereotypes along with endorsing women’s empowerment.

The Mintel Trend ‘Serving the Underserved’ describes how consumers who have been underrepresented in the past are getting a greater voice. Younger generations have brought a more tolerant, inclusive mindset to the table. As a result, there’s less of a feeling that being outside the norm is a bad thing—or that underserved or underrepresented consumers need to keep their voices down.

Besides, online platforms have made it easier for niche groups to raise their collective voice. It can translate to more significant opportunities for marketers to connect with consumers and a greater chance for these consumers to complain when they don’t.

The trend can be seen in other markets in the Asia Pacific region as well. For example, Chinese society is becoming increasingly diverse as people enjoy greater freedom to make their own life choices. This is especially relevant for teenage consumers; Mintel research shows that 48% of Chinese teens describe themselves as someone with a strong personality.

This showcases how today’s teenagers want to make their own choices when it comes to their education, career, how they dress, where they go for travel and much more.

What we think

While our society is becoming more diverse, this does not necessarily mean that it has also become more inclusive. It is important for brands in India, and other countries across Asia Pacific, to acknowledge that the populations are now increasingly diverse—and this should be reflected in all their communication efforts to ensure that they are aligned with people’s values.

In the future, the boundaries between ethnic groups will blur and eventually there will be no ethnic majority. It is critical for companies and brands to start building a more inclusive marketing strategy now.