Should white boaters be replaced in our ads?


One of the major topics at last month’s first-ever boating summit in Chicago was the need to reach minorities with our boating lifestyle message as a path to growth. So, it might seem that all we need to do is replace some white people in our ads with minorities, right? Well, it’s a start but it’s not that simple.

While diversity in appearance in ads is important, new research is revealing that alone won’t get the job done. “One thing we heard is not to just take an ad that has white people in it and replace them with an Asian family,” said Lauren Weinberg, vice president of strategic insights and research at Yahoo!, whose group conducted the study with Mindshare and Added Value. ���They said brands are picking people who may look like me, but they are not speaking to concepts that are relatable to me. Respondents said they would prefer to see ‘someone who is not famous, but who is authentic’ as a spokesperson for a brand, not just ‘white-washed celebrities'."

What it really means is that ads should reflect some core values and interests of the specific minority. For example, only 25 percent of white respondents indicated food was a cultural “driver” for them, but 59 percent of Hispanics cited food as a big “driver.” So, showing a white family eating on board will have minimum impact while seeing a Hispanic family enjoying a meal on the back deck would strongly resonate. That’s because Hispanics say an ad with a Hispanic family sitting down and enjoying a meal together shows that the brand knows what is important to that group, Weinberg explained.

Another example of notable cultural “drivers” for us in the boating industry is parenting/family. While 23 percent of whites indicated parenting/family was a “driver,” 45 percent of Asians cited it and 54 percent of Hispanics noted it as a big “driver.” The high marks for parenting/family by these minorities plays right into the boating lifestyle. But, of course, our ads, digital and otherwise, must show it. We must come to understand what ethnic authenticity is for various minorities and incorporate it in our ads.
It’s been a long time coming but there now seems to be growing agreement we’ve been missing the boat when it comes to appealing to ethnic minorities. That’s not really a revelation, I know, but it is an undeniable path to growth. Industry leaders like Thom Dammrich, NMMA president, and top marine marketing veterans like Wanda Kenton Smith have been pointing it out for years. But now, ethnics are also acknowledging that advertising, especially digital, is failing to engage them.

In the study, Asian-Americans, blacks and Hispanics agreed they don’t see themselves in ads. While the study did not specifically address marine products, or any specific products for that matter, the results are telling and clearly document what Dammrich and Smith have been saying. When asked for three brands doing a good job reaching them, most respondents said they couldn’t name even one!

In the study, 78 percent of blacks, 74 percent of Hispanics and 72 percent of Asians agreed that diversity in ads is the best reflection of the real world and, therefore, ads should show more of that diversity. Has the time finally come when boating will begin navigating in the abundant waters of diversity?


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