By Deborah Hudson, ABC
Vice President, Member Retention; Past President

IABCLA’s second ZOOM webinar on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) – “It’s Not a Marketing Exercise: Understanding Privilege’s Impact ​on Inclusive Brand Campaigns” – on October 21 continued the association’s journey by looking at how to unpack privilege and build inclusive branding that reaches customers. 

The presentation and discussion was an eye-opener, once again led by Farida Habeeb, Ph.D. and Beverly Durham. They were joined by Karen Trachtenberg, a member of the IABCLA executive board and a marketing copywriter.

The trio made a persuasive case for unpacking white privilege as a foundation of inclusive marketing – a brand can realize its full potential by reading the diverse communities it serves.

Unpacking White Privilege

To begin the unpacking process, the talk kicked off with a recap of the dimensions of inclusivity:

  • Race
  • Ethnicity
  • Gender identity
  • Sexual orientation
  • Ability
  • Age
  • Religion
  • Language

But what is privilege and how does it blind people?

Privilege is the advantage people have, that they don’t think about, because these characteristics don’t exclude them from seats at the table – in fact, the characteristics bring them to the table of power where the seats are filled by people that look the same as they do. For most of American history, privilege was the province of white, straight, Christian, English-speaking men – White Anglo Saxon Protestants (WASPS, as they were once called).

Privilege can amount to blindness – because we don’t have to think about it. We don’t look beyond our narrow circle. Or it can be tone-deafness. For instance, the presenters mentioned a letter issued by the NFL on the need to address racism. Though signed by league president Roger Goddell, the document was condescending in tone and inauthentic – it put forth abstractions, not actions. The document also failed to admit the NFL’s debacle in the way it handled Colin Kaepernick’s protest on behalf of Black Lives Matter.

Opening Your Eyes To Your Privilege

The presenters challenged participants to unpack their own privilege with a series of pointed questions: 

  • If you ask to see the person in charge at a store, are you likely to see someone of your own race? 
  • Do “flesh” color bandages match your skin?
  • If you voice issues of racism, are you seen as self-interested or self-serving?

The challenge to communicators is substantial. As Deborah Kaufman, participant and principal of Healthcare Recruiting Inc., summed up: “How do we help our companies and our clients understand privilege, dismantle racism, and move towards authentic change? How can we start to move from ‘just talk?’ One step forward can include what IABC presenters unpacked today — from looking at case studies of what’s working and not working in marketing campaigns to making the case of starting DEI at our own workspaces. Together, by sharing best practices and our shared experiences/struggles, we can work to become more aware, and to do the slow, ongoing, hard, and important work of change.”

We encourage you to review the presentation – it can be accessed at

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