Researchers Eye Diversity in a Diverse Marketplace

GERALDINE ROSA HENDERSON and JEROME D. WILLIAMS
Academic
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Diversity and Inclusion in the Marketplace
Key Takeaways
  • Marketplace diversity involves studying the impact of socio-demographic identities and influences in business-to-consumer, business-to-business, consumer-to-consumer and supply chain management.
  • Increasing connectivity and diversity has led to a need for research to better understand the global marketplace.​​​​​​
  • Traditional diversity policies aim to include underrepresented groups but often overlook disadvantaged groups such as black women and gays with disabilities​.

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Selections from

Journal of Public Policy & Marketing

November 2014 | Diversity in the Marketplace


Research on marketplace diversity involves studying the impact of socio-demographic identities and influences in business-to-consumer, business-to-business, consumer-to-consumer and supply chain management. These socio-demographic identities include those based on race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, physical differences, religion and other socio-cultural differences, as we noted in “From Exclusion to Inclusion: An Introduction to the Special Issue on Marketplace Diversity and Inclusion,” published in 2013 in the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing

As the global marketplace becomes increasingly connected and diverse, there has been an expanding need for research to better understand how firms can effectively tap into this trend, and to connect this research to public policy. Firms must identify ways to increase opportunities for the pursuit of emerging markets both locally (for example, multi-ethnic marketing) and abroad (for example, cross-cultural marketing). Yet, looking just at the racial/ethnic dimension of diversity, fewer than 3% of all subjects in research studies published in the major marketing and consumer behavior journals represent research participants from diverse backgrounds. Therefore, attention should be given to these overlooked and undervalued consumers. It is high time for the private and public sectors to enact policies to ensure active interest in, and respect for, diverse marketplaces throughout the globe.  

Each article in this collection from the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing begins to fill the gap in conducting the much-needed research in this domain. These articles provide insight on marketplace diversity and inclusion by extending research across a broad range of domains, including a framework for intercultural competency, consumer vulnerability as it relates to the visually impaired, racial/ethnic marketplace discrimination, factors influencing the gay consumer market, measuring diversity, public housing stereotypes, and exploring the concept of “intersectionality.” 

In a 2013 article entitled “Toward Intercultural Competency in Multicultural Marketplaces,” a team of 12 authors takes consumers, marketers, community groups, NGOs and policymakers toward business success through a “framework for intercultural competency development” in multicultural marketplaces. The framework consists of three phases: “discovery,” “resiliency” and the last, or highest, phase of development, “competency.” This article tackles a critical issue in our multicultural world, where increasing marketplace diversity heightens the danger of consumers being harmed or treated unfairly. Conversely, intercultural incompetence places marketers at risk of reputation loss or litigation. Extending recent work on consumer vulnerability and resilience, the article proposes specific, concrete actions that multicultural marketplace actors can take to ensure that all consumers can pursue their universal economic, social and cultural rights.

In “Marketplace Experiences of Consumers with Visual Impairments: Beyond the Americans with Disabilities Act,” Stacey Menzel Baker, Debra Lynn Stephens and Ronald Paul Hill explore how consumers with a variety of visual impairments handle day-to-day interactions with service providers, products and services. Based on interviews with people with visual impairments, their study reveals that there are considerable individual differences in adaptation strategies, including the degree of independence desired and achieved. Their research suggests that independence and dependence are not mere opposites on a single dimension. Rather, they are domain-specific and complex, and are determined by both environmental factors and personal characteristics. 

Through an examination of 81 federal court decisions made between 1990 and 2002 involving customers’ allegations of race and ethnic discrimination, we uncover along with our co-author, Anne-Marie Harris, three emergent dimensions of discrimination: 1) the type of alleged discrimination (subtle or overt), 2) the level of service (degradation or denial), and, 3) the existence of criminal suspicion in the alleged discriminatory conduct (present or absent). In our 2005 article entitled “Courting Consumers: Assessing Consumer Racial Profiling and Other Marketplace Discrimination,” we introduce a framework that enables the categorization and aggregation of cases with common themes. We also demonstrate that real and perceived consumer discrimination remains a problem in the U.S. marketplace, and conclude that further research is necessary for marketers to address the issue effectively.

According to Gillian Oakenfull in “What Matters: Factors Influencing Gay Consumers’ Evaluations of ‘Gay-Friendly’ Corporate Activities,” gay men and women place different levels of importance on gay-oriented marketing activities. The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) consumer market is estimated to have buying power of more than $835 billion. LGBT people are vulnerable to pervasive discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodation, education and medical care due to a lack of legal protection. Oakenfull’s research identifies important market differences between gay males and lesbians based on demographics and social identity, which can better inform corporations’ promotional expenditure and segmentation decisions when approaching the gay consumer market. The findings of this research suggest that it is important that companies avoid treating gay consumers as a group with monolithic preferences and perceptions. An individual’s sex and identity with the gay community have a significant impact on perceptions of the gay-friendliness of various corporate activities. 

Anne M. Brumbaugh and Sonya A. Grier develop and validate a new marketing scale in “Agents of Change: A Scale to Identify Diversity Seekers,” to identify people who have a high propensity to seek out cultural diversity in products, services and experiences, and show how this broadens, rather than narrows, marketplace diversity and cross-cultural consumption. The authors develop a seven-item scale to measure this diversity-seeking trait and show how it influences diversity-related consumer behaviors. Their results indicate that high diversity seekers are more likely to travel internationally, vote democratic, purchase products from other cultures, live in diverse neighborhoods and champion diversity-related causes than people who are low on the scale. Brumbaugh and Grier refer to high-diversity individuals as “positive deviants” who will lead a charge against fragmented and insular “marketspaces” and contribute to a more diverse and inclusive marketplace.

Carol M. Motley and Vanessa Gail Perry’s findings suggest that public housing stereotypes are a function of prior knowledge and diversity-seeking tendencies, and that consumers’ diversity-seeking tendencies can be altered in response to external stimuli. They examined the individual characteristics that could influence the degree to which one would hold negative stereotypes about public housing residents, and they examined the perceptions of public housing residents and found that prior knowledge and diversity-seeking tendencies impact the degree to which negative stereotypes about public housing residents are held. They developed a conceptual model that examines the stereotypes of public housing residents based on the perceivers’ prior knowledge, propensity to seek out cultural diversity, and demographics. Their findings underscore the importance of diversity-seeking tendencies and external stimuli in the formation of attitudes and stereotypes. That is, they find that attitudes toward public housing were related to familiarity with public housing and diversity-seeking tendencies.  

Traditional diversity policies aim to include underrepresented groups such as women, blacks, gays and people with disabilities but often overlook multiplicatively disadvantaged groups such as black women and gays with disabilities. The increasingly popular concept of “intersectionality” refers to the interactivity of social identity structures such as race, class, gender and sexuality in fostering life experiences, especially experiences of privilege and oppression. The concept of intersectionality shifts the emphasis of public policy from the broad categorizations to the multiplicatively disadvantaged groups, who often face unique legal and cultural hurdles. “To render any group of people invisible in the media is to deny them fundamental human needs such as recognition, acceptance and respect,” says Ahir Gopaldas, regarding his article “Intersectionality 101.” If the goal of an organization is to employ, represent and serve the full spectrum of people, and lend recognition, acceptance and respect to every human being, diversity policies must pay more attention to multiplicatively disadvantaged groups.

A collection on marketplace diversity and inclusion naturally should capture a diversity of approaches in examining this topic. Appropriately, this collection reports on research covering a diverse array of topics and methods, including conceptual, empirical and theoretical pieces. In addition, the articles cover topics related to qualitative and quantitative research, scales, race/ethnicity, class, sexual orientation and global/international considerations, just to name a few. They also address various dimensions of the marketplace interactions of B-to-C, C-to-B and C-to-C. This collection is a step for marketing and public policy scholars to start filling the gap by conducting much-needed research in this domain.     

Articles Featured in This Collection

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Baker, Stacey Menzel, Debra Lynn Stephens, and Ronald Paul Hill (2001), “Marketplace Experiences of Consumers with Visual Impairments: Beyond the Americans with Disabilities Act,” Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 20 (2), Fall, 215-224.      

Brumbaugh, Anne M. and Sonya A. Grier (2013), “Agents of Change: A Scale to Identify Diversity Seekers,”  Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 32, Special Issue, 144-155.      

Demangeot, Catherine, Natalie Ross Adkins, Rene Dentiste Mueller, Geraldine Rosa Henderson, Nakeisha S. Ferguson, James M. Mandiberg, Abhijit Roy, Guillaume D. Johnson, Eva Kipnis, Chris Pullig, Amanda J. Broderick, and Miguel Angel Zúñiga (2013), “Toward Intercultural Competency in Multicultural Marketplaces,” Journal of Public Policy & Marketing​, 32, Special Issue, 156-164.      

Gopaldas, Ahir (2013), “Intersectionality 101,” Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 32, Special Issue, 90-94.      

Harris, Anne-Marie, Geraldine R. Henderson, and Jerome D Williams (2005), “Courting Consumers: Assessing Consumer Racial Profiling and Other Marketplace Discrimination,”  Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 24 (1) Spring, 163-171. 

Henderson, Geraldine Rosa and Jerome D. Williams (2013), “From Exclusion to Inclusion: An Introduction to the Special Issue on Marketplace Diversity and Inclusion,” Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 32, Special Issue, 1-5.      

Motley, Carol M. and Vanessa Gail Perry (2013), “Living on the Other Side of the Tracks: An Investigation of Public Housing Stereotypes,” Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 32, Special Issue, 48-58.      


Other Sources:

Williams, Jerome D., Wei-Na Lee, and Geraldine R. Henderson (2008), "Diversity Issues in Consumer Psychology," in Handbook of Consumer Psychology, Curtis P. Haugtvedt and Paul M. Herr and Frank R. Kardes, eds. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.
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Author Bio:

Geraldine Rosa Henderson and Jerome D. Williams
GERALDINE ROSA HENDERSON and JEROME D. WILLIAMS
Geraldine Rosa Henderson is an associate professor in the department of marketing at the Quinlan School of Business at Loyola University Chicago. Her research is on global marketplace diversity and inclusion, and consumer well-being. She is a co-author of the forthcoming book, Consumer Equality: Race and the American Marketplace. Jerome D. Williams is Distinguished Professor and the Prudential Chair in Business in the department of marketing at Rutgers Business School-Newark and New Brunswick (RBS). He also is director of the RBS Ph.D. program and a fellow in the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship & Economic Development in the RBS management and global business department. He has conducted research on consumer racial profiling in retail environments, marketing and communication strategies targeting multicultural market segments, and consumer behavior of multicultural market segments related to public health communication issues. He is co-author of the forthcoming book, Consumer Equality: Race and the American Marketplace.
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