Diversity. It’s arguably become one of the most courted buzzwords in recent years. With the Black Lives Matter and Me Too movement at its height, both the fashion and beauty industry seem to have widened their views on what’s deemed ‘beautiful’ and ‘marketable’.
Western brands are finally coming to terms with the fact that in order to truly make authentic connections with consumers, appeasing the demands of a changing zeitgeist to promote inclusivity (without the tokenism) is the way forward.
But championing diversity and inclusion doesn’t mean creating a marketing campaign akin to a United Colours of Benetton ad from the 1990s, and then watching the money roll in.
It requires serious thought; a clear and holistic understanding of your customers and target audience, due diligence, the ability to learn from mistakes quickly and taking bold risks.
While brands such as Maybelline and L’Oreal seem to get off to good start on the surface, only to stumble and fall short, ASOS has taken a unique and fearless approach to diversity in order to engage with its customers.
Everyone is normal
Celebrating company achievements and promoting the latest ‘face of the brand’ through social media channels is a common practice in the fashion and beauty industry – especially when it comes to hiring BAME models or partnering with high-profile LGBTQ+ influencers.
But ASOS takes a subtle but highly effective approach. It simply gets on with the job of reflecting the realities of our society. We come in all shapes and sizes, ethnicities, genders, sexualities and backgrounds – ASOS merely gets on with representing that fact.
Earlier this year, ASOS launched its first athleisure ad campaign, More Reasons to Move, to promote its new activewear line, ASOS 4505. The campaign featured an array of models from different ethnic backgrounds and various body shapes (you don’t need to be slender and toned to be active).
Gone are the clichéd sporting tropes of running through the street with determined faces or getting through a gym session with choreographed poise.
Some of the main activities featured in the new campaign include various forms of dance and contemporary movement, boxing represented by a female plus-sized model and classic inner city sports, including parkour and basketball.
A personal favourite of mine was seeing Mama Cāx, a black, dark-skinned, amputee model who lost her right leg to cancer, perform gravity-defying yoga poses. Cāx not only featured in the campaign video, the brand’s website and social media channels, but was also featured on billboards across London.
Naturally, the campaign received rave reviews from customers on social media. But surprisingly, when questioned by the press about the campaign, ASOS decided not to divulge as to why its ad featured all-encompassing inclusion.
ASOS simply walk the walk without the online performative discourse most brands traditionally go through when promoting a new marketing campaign.
ASOS has long used models of various skin colours and hair textures for a number of years now. But it’s the inclusion of various male and female body types, plus size, in particular, that’s really ushering the brand into the realm of body positivity.
And again, just like its activewear campaign, ASOS refrained from calling an audience via social media to communicate this new approach to showcasing its products online. The brand let its website speak for itself by adding an extensive range of plus-sized product lines, include plus-sized male and female models and extended the size range of its core products.
Furthermore, it recently decided to stop editing out models stretch marks, cellulite and other so-called ‘imperfections’ on models wearing swimwear.
What followed was a foray of comments on social media by customers thanking the online fashion brand for breaking down stereotypes of what was considered ‘beautiful’ and reflecting a true representation of body types in our society.
In an age where the concept of brand loyalty seems to be shifting, this all-encompassing approach to body positivity is a very astute and effortless way to engage with consumers with authenticity and creates a genuine relationship between both ASOS and its customers.
And when you’re customers are promoting your own positive marketing efforts for you, you’re clearly winning the marketing game.
What I get from ASOS in 2018 is that this new focus on inclusion is clearly a decision bourne from it’s growing dynamic workforce – which clearly has its ears on the ground when it comes to fashion, technology and most importantly, culture.
The move is bold, fearless and unapologetic. One could arguably say that this new approach could only be pulled off with such nonchalance by a brand with a workforce that’s just as diverse as the brand says it is.
With new sleek website featuring relatable imagery, gender-neutral colours, a young, playful tone of voice and the ability to authentically connect with its target market, it’s no wonder why ASOS is currently the UK’s leading online fashion retailer.
Header image credit: Asos.com