Corporate Responsibility: Diversity and Inclusion in Influencer Marketing

By Courtney Fantoni


In today’s fast paced, highly evolved, and self-aware digital marketing space, it has never been more important for brands to choose ambassadors and influencers to endorse their products, who are an accurate representation of the Australian public. It is within the brand’s corporate responsibility and commercial interest, to diversify their talent selections and perpetuate ideals of inclusion and solidarity.

The digital media consumer of 2023 is ravenous for engaging and innovative content. You’ve heard the expression, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but just because it isn’t broken, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hit it with a sledgehammer. All too often brands settle for the familiar, whether that be a particular aesthetic or commonality, in an effort to recreate the variables of a successful campaign, which does little to satiate the needs of the consumer. Bringing fresh faces, ideas, and questions to the table, ensures that the brand will infiltrate a new audience, excite their existing one and be the envy of competitors.

The 2022 Census data confirmed that Australia is undergoing a significant generational shift. Our population has just as many Millennials, as we do Baby Boomers, thus brands need to target a younger demographic to cultivate growth. Similarly, brands need to consider and pair with talent that address themes prevalent in contemporary discourse i.e., ethnic and racial diversity, body positivity and agency, the sexuality and gender spectrum, representation of disabilities and mental health.

One such example of a brand that flipped the script to become more inclusive and position themselves as an industry leader is Pantene, who made history in 2021 by introducing model, actor and LGBTQI+ community member, Christian Wilkins, as their first ever male ambassador for Australia. Research conducted by Quantilope (2021) helped to inform this alignment, as it revealed that Gen Z (76%) and Millennials (72%) felt brands should include more diversity in their advertising. 90% of Millennials also said that authenticity was an important factor when choosing a brand and that for the LGBTQI+ community in particular, inclusion in mainstream media was lacking. While some beauty industry competitors had explored diversity in talent before, Pantene was determined to pioneer a campaign that would not only elevate the brand, but would provide commentary on the developing gender and sexuality norms in our society.

As Pantene had traditionally been seen as the go-to product for women aged 40+, the brand risked alienating their loyal customers, who were statistically more conservative, for momentous reward. The campaign achieved 4% penetration growth amongst under 40’s, 200% more than the target, considerable positive earned coverage, and a social media engagement rate of 8.71%. 

Case studies like Pantene (2021) are informative for a myriad of reasons. They encourage us to be self-reflective, think critically and creatively and push the boundaries of traditional brand and talent alignments. The modern digital consumer is intelligent, independent and has high expectations for both brands and agencies to take their responsibility in informing collective consciousness seriously. We are the heads of the household, and it’s our duty to ensure everyone has a seat at the table.

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