When Nikon released their D850 camera they decided to partner with 32 professional photographers for the launch campaign. What seems like great marketing had one critical problem: all of the photographers were men. From a purely communication perspective, ignoring the fact that there are amazing female professional photographers, why would this obviously flawed campaign move forward? The answer is two-fold: No one making the final decision was female, and no one in the room, or involved in the campaign, spoke up against the lack of diversity.
I can’t talk to the specific decision makers at Nikon, but I can state that the majority of senior marketing and communications professionals are male (here, here, and here). This gender disparity matters because it influences what kind of campaigns move forward. A campaign like Nikon’s, for example, would raise concern for any female communications professional. However, due to the inequity at senior levels of marketing and communications, women often aren’t in the room.
Secondarily, if anyone noticed the lack of diversity in Nikon’s campaign, they didn’t step up and say anything. There are many reasons for this: it might be that the person who notices is a junior staffer who feels they don’t have the right to speak up; It might be that the person who notices fears that they will be labeled as “the social justice person”; Or it might be that the culture of the organization does not allow them to speak up. Whatever the reason, not challenging an obviously flawed campaign like Nikon’s allows it to move forward. Not only does this create a crisis for the brand, but it continues to perpetuate stereotypes and marginalize already disenfranchised communities.
Nikon isn’t the only brand that runs marketing campaigns that ignore diversity. Just last week Dove released a racist ad that made it through multiple layers of approvals, and earlier this year SheaMoisture faced customer blowback for “marginalizing their loyal black buyers in an effort to attract white women”. While I’d like to think that the industry will learn from these examples, until marketing and communications leaders are actually representative, we can expect to see more campaigns like these.
The Japan-based company recently came under fire for promoting their new D850 camera in a campaign that lacked female representation. In an advertisement released on their Instagram that featured 32 professional male photographers across the Asia-Pacific, Nikon wrote under the photo: