Why we should be reaching all streams not just ’mainstream’ media

Christopher Kenna is CEO and Co-Founder of  Brand Advance, and NDA’s new monthly columnist. He is also the  Director of Diversity and  Inclusion  at OUTvertising, the Advertising industry Lobbying Group.

There has been a recurring phrase over the last couple of weeks that I feel is a little misplaced. Speaking to friends and colleagues across agency and media owners, the same phrase keeps coming up.

“We are just looking for Mass Reach right now, not diversity in media. We will however revisit when things get better”.  

Rather than my normal gobby response, I’m going to tackle this with some facts and figures that hopefully give you a different perspective on this phrase and give both marketeers and brand managers some food for thought!

The ethnic majority

The Ethnic population of the UK is around 9.3m which is larger than the population of Scotland and Wales combined! Also around 28% of the UK’s 16-34 year olds come from an ethnic background.

We can also break this down a little further across religious groups, Christian (includes Anglican, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist) 59.5%, Muslim 4.4%, Hindu 1.3%. 

Now, no one is disputing that people identifying as White are the biggest ethnicity within the UK, although the next census is due for 2022, and you can bet your bottom dollar that these ethnic numbers will rise dramatically. 

Should ‘MAINSTREAM’ not include ‘ALL STREAMS’

Media in all its forms has one wish – to be seen by as many eyeballs as possible. Therefore the self-titled ‘mainstream media’ has predominantly geared itself for consumption amongst the biggest ethnic group within the UK.

Obviously, I’m not saying that some of the biggest media outlets within the UK do not reach ethnic groups, but I’m sure we can agree it’s not the main focus – outside perhaps the BBC which has elements aimed solely at different communities. However, you can’t advertise with the BBC….

These are statistics that clearly demonstrate that a ‘mainstream’ focus could mean your brand message missing out on a majority of the 9.3m I mentioned earlier.  Around 50% of ethnic minority households are consumers of media aimed at their ethnicity – mix this with 77% of British Asians that do not feel mainstream media is aimed at them and you have a large swathe of the UK already not classing the current ‘mainstream as ‘their-stream!’.

If you have ever visited an Asian household you will more often than not find the parents and grandparents watching channels such as ZeeTV or reading the latest Eastern Eye article.

We should also mention LGBTQ+ media. There are an estimated 4m+ LGBT people living in the UK, alongside 46% of the GenZ population not identifying as heterosexual.  Mix that with LGBT media such as Attitude, Gay Times, DIVA and the newly relaunched GSN alongside many others and this is another large section of UK society also deemed outside ‘mainstream’!

I could go on and on with facts and figures. However, I’m making this point to demonstrate that marketers and brands do need to rethink their perception of what is ‘mainstream’ and include these demographics in each and every media plan.

Context is everything

As we are all too aware, the world is a very different place to a few weeks ago. I write this as I enter my 4th week in isolation.

Rightfully brands are looking to us marketers to guide them through these difficult times,

looking for a way through, looking to grab market capital without being insensitive to the current hardship and struggles that every household in the country is currently going through, irrespective of race, religion or sexual orientation. 

Brands are looking to be helpful – helpful in their message – helpful in the products they are pushing. As Edward Cotton, a Creative Strategist, recently posted to his LinkedIn  “I don’t want to buy a toothbrush from you, I want to learn how to look after my teeth when there are no dentists available.” 

Mix this messaging with contextually relevant media and you are on the right track. Pair this all with the fact that your brand spend can keep the voices of communities alive. The publications that speak to these communities and are trusted by these communities can give you a contextual environment to reach a potential audience of 10m+ that your brand may never have reached before in its marketing strategy or media plans.

Leading the way

Many Brands and their agencies are already doing this, which gives me hope that the mindset of media and marketing as a whole is changing.

It gives me hope that my constant ‘gobbing off’ on stage and in articles like this must be resonating with some of you, and the results achieved are ensuring you make this a mainstay of your media plan moving forward.

The next time you hear someone, even yourself, say something close too   “We are JUST looking to reach the ‘Mainstream’ during these unprecedented times”, please pause. Take a breath and think about what message your brand is trying to portray and is it a message just for straight, white people.  

If the answer at all is ‘No’ then please continue to consider and explore the fantastic and ‘mass-reaching’ diversity media landscape in the UK.

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