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Put People First: Why Community Input Matters

Nina Perez

Community Involvement

Have you ever noticed how your brain likes to take the fast lane, making snap judgments based on past experiences? Our brains love taking shortcuts to decide who to trust, how to act, and what to say. But here's the thing — those shortcuts aren't always reliable, and stereotypes can do more harm than good.

Do you think your brain has it all figured out? Think again

There’s a science to bias. Navigating bias can feel like a constant uphill battle when it's ingrained into everything around us– from the products we interact with daily and the news we watch to the systems upholding inequities.

The first step in breaking biases is becoming aware that we are even biased in the first place.
Everyone has unconscious biases, whether they want to admit it or not. These biases can be based on gender identity, race, ethnicity, nationality, age, and socioeconomic status.

So, how does this impact advertisers, companies, and brands?

Bias is nothing new in the world of advertising

While the advertising industry has made strides toward inclusivity, bias in advertising goes back to the very beginning and still exists today. Generalized stereotypes continue to appear in various forms of advertising, including social media, streaming ads, and traditional billboards.

Do you remember the viral Pepsi ad that ran during the height of the Black Lives Matter Movement? The 2017 ad featured Kendall Jenner sharing a Pepsi can with a police officer. The ad resulted in a massive hit for Pepsi, including pulling the 5 million dollar ad and issuing an apology.

In a New York Times article, Elle Hearns, the executive director of the Marsha P. Johnson Institute and formerly an organizer for Black Lives Matter, said the ad “plays down the sacrifices people have historically taken in utilizing protests.” The response to this ad drives home the importance of thorough discovery and community input when making advertising decisions.

Dodge's failed attempt at exclusive feminine design

There’s a reason you've probably never heard of the first-ever car designed exclusively for women. In 1955, Dodge introduced the La Femme. The vehicle was covered in pink from bumper to bumper, but Dodge went beyond just the color scheme. They threw in beauty-related accessories like lipstick cases, purses, rain capes, hats, and umbrellas — all in pink. The marketing campaign spotlighted these accessories more than the car itself.

Unsurprisingly, the La Femme didn't fly off the lot. Fewer than 2,000 units were sold in the first year. What caused this to be such a marketing disaster? Dodge didn't include women's input when designing this car. From the marketing team to the executives, everyone who contributed to the failed decision-making was a man.

Dodge La Femme first car designed for women 1950's Ads

What happens when you leave communities out of the conversation?

In the best-case scenario, your profit margins drop, or you don't meet your quarterly goals. In the worst case, the whole brand goes down in flames. Recovering from a PR disaster can take a long time, and some companies never do. It's not just a matter of lost revenue; the breakdown of trust and credibility can really destroy a brand's reputation.

How we use purpose-centered design to break stereotypes

At Vera Creative, we've developed Purpose-Centered Design as our deliberate take on Human-Centered Design. Our approach, the Purpose-Centered Design Process, casts a broader net of perspectives from the project's inception to completion.

We gather essential insights through comprehensive market research, focus groups, and face-to-face outreach. Every stage of our process is customized to understand their needs, address their challenges, and break through any barriers they encounter. Not only can we develop impactful solutions, but we create experiences that deeply connect with communities.

That means the communities we serve aren't just bystanders; they're valued partners. Together, we shape systems, policies, and campaigns that bring about lasting change and benefits for everyone involved.

Open up the conversation and establish credibility with your audience.

Connect with our team to learn more about purpose-centered design for your brand.

Community Involvement
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