How Marketing can Change the World with Lola Bakare

May 18, 2022

Podcast Episode 12: How Marketing can Change the World with Lola Bakare

Lola Bakare is an inclusive marketing strategist and adviser to CMOs. After over a decade of success in the corporate world working with top global brands, Lola started be/co, a consultancy that focuses on helping marketing leaders reach the highest levels of success through training workshops and client engagements.

She is all about unleashing marketing magic – helping leaders maximize their impact, unlock their excellence, and imagine a new world into existence.  

“Inclusive marketing is the idea that a brand should be going to market with a purpose and a mission based on the world that it wants to create.”

“[Marketing] reflects a world in its most unified form. [We can] bring that into existence by showing people the possibilities of what that world could look like. Nobody has more power to change the way people see the world than marketers.”  –  Lola Bakare

Highlights from the podcast episode: 

Summary of what We Talked About in this Episode

We discussed:

[03:33] What Lola grew through to become the guide she is today

[08:47] What is inclusive marketing? 

[17:28] Dealing with haters and the contractions of birthing a new world 

[19:51] Lola’s 3-Step Framework on Inclusive Marketing (and moving past the performative)  

[29:50] Using LinkedIn for inclusive personal branding and marketing  

[36:49] The Professional Women of Color (PWoC) Clubhouse Community 

[42:30] Lola’s big, dreamy vision for the world

Note: this is a transcription of the episode so there may be small variances. 

[03:33] What Lola grew through to become the guide she is today

You know, it’s always the hardest thing for people who spend all day giving others advice to turn the camera inward and talk about oneself. How did I become the guide?  I would say two things. 

During the pandemic, I had the pleasure of spending 18 months back at home with my parents. It was really special. I got to ask them a lot of questions about what I was like growing up, especially as I was building some new elements into my business that had a lot to do with new ways of self-expression. 

I asked my mom, “Have I always been the sort of person who gives people advice, maybe even unsolicited advice? She was like, “Yes. Literally, since you were in kindergarten, you have been this way. Like, you’ve always been the leader: the person who comes and kind of decides what happens next.” 

So, in a strange way, just following my institution and destiny, there’s always been this part of me that did that in organizations. It just became a natural progression into what it would look like to create a business of my own. Long story short, it’s always been part of my essence to be an advisor.

Any job, whether it’s one that you created for yourself or one that you got hired to do, involves some level of role creation. 

  • How are you going to show up? 
  • What are you going to be known for? 
  • What’s your true value proposition? 

One of the best ways that I found to combat self-doubt is to have conversations with people who knew you before [your professional career.] Then you start to see that you’re not doing anything different – you’re just turning that into something you get to do all day. Then, it’s not as scary.

[08:47] What is inclusive marketing?

The way that I see it, it’s about a marketer not just focusing on equitable representation, but fully disrupting the idea that we need to segment people demographically in order to engage with them. 

This dichotomy between general marketing and multicultural marketing is extremely outdated. That line sometimes organizes our systems, the way that we buy media, and the way that we organize teams but if you really think about how people make decisions and see the world, the stratification is so much more nuanced than that.

Inclusive marketing is the idea that a brand should be going to market with a purpose and a mission based on the world that it wants to create, not to create separation between demographic groups. 

There’s another segment of inclusive marketing that I call social impact marketing. That’s even more clearly defined as marketing that makes a social impact that also drives the bottom line more effectively than anything else. 

The idea is that as a marketer, you can get business value out of authentically embracing cultural and social movements that the world is really focused on today, and will be for the foreseeable future. 

It’s really thinking about “How do I speak to my audience, holistically? And in doing so, how do I create a more holistic world?” It’s the idea of including all of the relevant contexts in how you take a product or brand to market and engage with the people that you want to be in love with it. 

I watched the Abercrombie documentary this weekend. This idea of only representing upper crust, WASP-y, white America as like the norm that all young people should aspire to was not only wrong, but it made most people feel excluded. Not only was it wrong, but it was also pretty dumb because like they could have made a lot more money if they thought about a broader spectrum of people as relevant to that product. 

The next frontier of both social impact and inclusive marketing is going to be about disrupting the idea that there’s even a right way to talk to a Latina audience or a Black audience or a white audience that’s different. It’s more about, “What are the mindset segments that you want to appeal to? And what stories are you telling to make an impact not necessarily based on what they believe today? 

Even from a product standpoint, we know that the most successful products aren’t about giving people what they want. It’s about giving people what they didn’t know they want. And similarly, when you think about inclusive marketing, it’s like don’t reflect the world in its segregated form, but reflect a world in its most unified form and bring that into existence by showing people the possibilities of what that world could look. Nobody has more power to change the way people see the world than marketers.

[17:28] Dealing with haters and the contractions of birthing a new world

Embrace [the haters] and thank them for giving you insight into the part of your customer base that really is not your ideal target. It’s okay to not be speaking to everyone. 

When people have visceral negative reactions to messages around human rights, inclusivity, and championing the lives of a particular ethnicity of people (which is what Nike did in the Colin Kaepernick example), then I’m not sure you really want to appeal to them. The idea is not to try to talk to everyone as a brand. As Seth Godin famously said, when you think about your brand strategy, the key question to ask is, “Who is it for? And what’s it for?” 

I encourage people to think about the blowback as clarity. You have a better understanding of who you are for and who you are not with. On the other side of that coin, chances are a lot of the people who express that visceral hate for what you’re doing, they might be closer to coming along to a better way of looking at the world than we think. But we can’t get them there if we almost enable and pander to their limiting beliefs. So those moments of negative reaction aren’t always actually things that brands should look to avoid, in my opinion.

[19:51] Lola’s 3-Step Framework on Inclusive Marketing (and moving past the performative)

I call this the RSR framework and it stands for Revenue impact, Social impact, and Reputational impact. The idea is that your strategy, your campaign, your initiative, whatever it is, if it checks all three of those boxes, then you’re on your way to doing something that isn’t going to be deemed as performative in the long term. It will have the opportunity to change the way people see and experience the world. 

From a revenue standpoint, at the end of the day, marketers are employed to elevate the business impact of their brands. And that involves making more money, right? So, whether it’s sales or customer acquisition, you look at that bottom line impact. This protects brands from doing stuff like the black square. I call it black square-mageddon. If people were thinking about activities that actually moved their business forward, we wouldn’t have seen any of those black squares. There’s no business impact, there’s no revenue impact. And that leads to not having any investment. 

I know, some people have this sort of icky reaction, like “If you’re doing social impact anything, it shouldn’t be about making money.” But no, sometimes it has to be about driving the business in order for it to actually be real. 

Second, it’s really important to assess, “Are you meaningfully and measurably creating long term impact towards furthering equity, supporting diversity and fostering inclusion?” And if the answer is, “We’re not really sure”, then it’s not really dialed in enough. 

An example of something that didn’t check this box, which came out that same summer of 2020, was Uber’s. campaign. It was a billboard and, you know, a full splashy campaign or something like, “If you believe in racism, delete your Uber account” or something like that. I forget what the exact language was. But it was really just a glorified black square, because, okay, great. You’ve said this nice thing. But how is this actually changing the way black people exist in the world? How is this actually changing the instances of racism that we know have happened, even in your own company? Like, how is this actually doing anything that you can be held accountable to? 

An example that I like to counter that one with is what Airbnb has done to counter the way that certain hosts screen their guests in ways that aren’t inclusive, right? You feel like you’re gonna get the house and then all of a sudden, they see your name. And it’s like, all of a sudden, they ghost. Airbnb created a mechanism where now as a host, you have to actually physically check the box and say that you’re not going to do that. It’s a small thing, but they productize the impact in a way that it can be measured and quantified. And Ubers campaign didn’t really do that. It was just a platitude. So being able as a marketer to measure the success, or lack thereof, of your social impact or inclusive marketing initiative is really key. 

The third one is your reputation. So again, can you measure the way that it increase your brand sentiment to lead to earned media impressions? Is there an upside for you, that’s about your brand being known for something better? If not, if you really think about it, things like the black square and billboards with platitudes will actually lead to you losing sentiment points or reputation points. 

So, if you think through those three lenses – revenue, social impact, and reputation, and make sure you’re constantly assessing each part of your campaign or strategy, then you’re going to be set up for success.

[29:50] Using LinkedIn for inclusive personal branding and marketing

I’m part of the Black Marketers Association of America. This year, instead of just buying my membership, I bought five additional memberships to give out to people throughout the year so more people can be a part of the organization who otherwise may not have been able to afford it. 

When I post on LinkedIn about giving out those memberships, I get exposure, I get new followers, and it might sound icky but there’s a business upside of that sort of activity. But at the end of the day, what’s wrong with a win win, as long as the win to the person who’s meant to be the recipient of the impact is real?  It actually supports the Black Marketers Association of America, which is a nonprofit I really care about, it actually supports that individual who’s going to get the membership, and it actually has an exposure upside for me. Like, there’s nothing bad about that. And it would be weird if I gave out those memberships without talking about it. 

Social impact and inclusive marketing for small businesses is just doing something for good on both sides. It really is that simple. When you start to think about this way, there’s so many examples of things we can do. But we miss one of the links (like we do something that’s philanthropic, but we never talk about, or we have the opportunity to do something in a way that moves the needle, but we just kind of don’t, because we weren’t really thinking about it) it doesn’t work. 

As far as my every day on LinkedIn, just that action of seeing somebody who is a person of color, and specifically, a women of color and stopping my scroll to celebrate them, be the first person to comment, and make them feel seen. I could just as easily not, right? But I just as easily can. 

That’s probably the most consistent daily practice on LinkedIn that I hold myself accountable to. That is a place I want to show up and celebrate you. It takes ten seconds, you know?

[36:49] The Professional Women of Color (PWoC) Clubhouse Community

[Creating this] was purely spontaneous. It wasn’t a moment of inspiration; it wasn’t a burst of creativity. And then we just created something real. Again, it’s always about: “What’s the unmet need, and what’s the spark to address that?” 

We wanted a space where we could celebrate voices of color, and show up to say things that might be a little uncomfortable to say but in a safe place. One of the amazing women who just showed up in the room had the idea to turn this into a weekly space to share one scary thing we did that past week. 

The consistency was amazing. That project taught me that you can be the spark person, and structure in a way that you have enough people surrounding the effort to keep it going. You can design it in a way that’s lightweight enough to consistently show up for it. 

It was amazing because I needed that outlet too. I was growing into some new areas of service and I know you were kind of at that starting point of entrepreneurship. I needed that motivation to say yes to myself. 

We haven’t had rooms this year consistently, but we’re trying to stay open to that natural next extension of what the group becomes without any pressure. I know even if we are done with it as a project, the project was a success. It served so many people in a really impactful way. That’s another piece of advice I would have for folks – be okay with letting things evolve, and sometimes that involves a project having a beginning, a middle and an end. And that’s okay. Being able to naturally flow with where things are taking you in your entrepreneurial journey is important to staying open to the right opportunities.

[42:30] Lola’s big, dreamy vision for the world

A world where more marketers (and people) have control of how people see and experience the world vs. just the fortune 500’s.  To create worlds with our businesses that make everybody feel more seen and included and using that to have business impact. I want a world where no young girl has to feel like because she didn’t fit into the tiny size large Abercrombie shirt in high school, like she wasn’t good enough. I want a world where the people who create the cultural zeitgeist, if you will, are held accountable to higher standards, across the entire business landscape, and it becomes something that we all are motivated to do, because we see the impact of it for our bottom line goals. So, we embrace the possibility of us being the ones who make it better for everyone, and in turn, make it better for ourselves.

Connect with Lola

Website: www.makeitbe.co 

LinkedIn:  Lola Bakare

Instagram: @makeitbe.co

Connect with Tania Bhattacharyya

Linkedin: Tania Bhattacharyya

Website: lumosmarketing.co

Resources from this episode

14 LinkedIn Content Prompts: Build your personal brand and thought leadership, show up for your target audience and grow your know-like-trust factor with your LinkedIn audience to drive change and raise revenue. 

Demystify LinkedIn and Thought Leadership with Tania

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