BRIDGE, the only independent DEI trade organization to serve the global marketing industry, today unveiled its Inclusion Maturity Assessment and Capability Building Program – IMAX – a pioneering framework for brands to operationalize inclusion as a business practice for growth.
IMAX is the result of a cross-sector research partnership between industry leaders and academics. The program reveals 72 business practices across 5 dimensions of the workplace and marketplace and measures inclusion maturity at both the brand and company level, giving leaders a concrete assessment of where the gaps exist, a process to prioritize the gaps and the capabilities required to bridge the gaps. IMAX is currently being piloted by Campbell’s, Sephora and others.
“With IMAX, we are laser-focused on moving DEI from the dependency on one to the responsibility of many, from being philosophical to being practice-driven, and from being performative to being intentional around building the inclusion capabilities needed to deliver sustainable growth,” said Sheryl Daija, BRIDGE founder and CEO. “BRIDGE’s IMAX provides an actionable mechanism for C-level executives and their teams to clearly quantify where they are on the maturity scale of inclusion and in particular helps CMOs focus their efforts as a growth driver.”
IMAX was developed in a way that Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) can apply the same kind of rigor they demand from other parts of the business to achieve their inclusion and equity efforts, which have historically proven to be challenging even for the most well-intentioned organizations. It also unlocks a powerful collaboration between Chief Diversity Officers (CDOs) and Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) by allowing them to co-architect the building of inclusive brands/companies to drive business impact.
“I am incredibly excited about IMAX, as it strategically elevates the already important role of CDOs to maximize the value of DEI beyond the workplace to contribute directly to the impact of business across all functional areas in the organization,” said Jonita Wilson, Chief Diversity Officer for Discover Financial and Chair of Bridge’s Board of Directors.
The Origin of IMAX
The research and development of IMAX was led by an academic team including Omar Rodríguez Vilá, PhD., Professor in the Practice of Marketing and the Director of Education / Business & Society Institute at Goizueta Business School, Emory University, Sundar Bharadwaj Ph.D., Professor of Marketing, Terry College, University of Georgia and Dionne Nickerson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Marketing, Indiana University and developed in collaboration with BRIDGE’s Board of Directors and Research Steering Committee. Dr. Rodríguez Vilá was the principal investigator in the study.
“We specifically focused on the marketplace because this space has received less academic and managerial attention,” said Dr. Rodríguez Vilá. “And, while our investigation was on the marketplace, we also knew we would discover workplace behaviors and dependencies critical for the marketplace to succeed.”
Components of the study included:
- Voices of Inclusion Research, an interview series with close to 50 Chief Diversity Officers (CDOs), Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) and Chief Executive Officers (CEOs).
- A review of existing research literature, consumer research and social media analysis.
“IMAX is a historic win for inclusion, business and the communities we serve,” said Leslie Waller of Campbell’s. “It is also an inherent unifier because it gives executive teams and practitioners across our organizations the collaborative means to see where our gaps are and close them together.”
According to Dr. Rodríguez Vilá, four areas of inquiry guided the research.
- Provide a clear definition for what an inclusive brand is.
- Understand the role that inclusion might play in the ability of brands to compete.
- Measure the current level of inclusion by brands in the marketplace.
- Identify the capabilities required for systemic brand inclusion.
In a complementary effort, the research team, with the support of BRIDGE, embarked on a social media analysis that measures the representation of skin tone, body type, hair type, ability and other criteria across the top 200 brands in the US. This proprietary methodology which combines AI and human coders, provides an objective view of the current levels of inclusion in the marketplace and serves as the first step toward establishing inclusion as a visible metric for the industry.
Analysis has been completed on the top 50 brands and reveals on average, the brands are an alarming 23 years behind in reflecting the actual racial diversity of the United States based on US Census data. It also helped identify brands that have become true pioneers in marketplace inclusion, with Unilever’s Dove rising to the top as the most inclusive brand in the analysis.
“I am impressed by how insightful and actionable the social media analysis is and how it works in tandem with IMAX,” said Tish Archie Oliver, Head of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging, Unilever US and BRIDGE Board member. “I receive a lot of data in my role, but I have never seen data of this nature that allows us to understand inclusion as a metric and helps us identify which practices we can share across brands to create and accelerate even further impact.”
Daija guided, “Together with IMAX and the social media marketing analysis, we can finally provide real data to brands on their inclusion marketing practices and beyond to drive and measure change and bring a greater awareness to what it really takes to build an inclusive brand.”
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