Lightbulb moments

An increasingly fearless industry takes action to become more inclusive

Over the past year, The BrandLab has achieved significant growth in partnerships and volunteer engagements, demonstrating that there is a growing awareness and acknowledgment of the need of diverse talent in the industry.

Todd Paulson, Chief Creative Officer and Partner at KNOCK, inc., confirms that the industry is lagging behind in terms of accepting and reacting to the ongoing demographic change.

“At the moment, there is not enough diversity at the leadership level and not enough agencies are making a big enough push,” he says. “The BrandLab really creates a big feeder for young and diverse talent in the industry. We worked with several BrandLab interns in the past and it was really great to see their potential unfold, to see their ‘light bulbs’ go on.”

It is not enough to complain that there is no diversity in the industry -- you have to get active and be part of the change.

- Todd Paulson, CCO at KNOCK, inc.

Conversations as a starting point

In addition to its classroom and internship programs, The BrandLab, through its Fearless initiatives, works in close partnership with the industry to create important change and overcome systemic barriers.

Our annual Fearless Conversation on April 26, 2017 drew its largest audience ever. 346 attendees joined the conversation at the sold-out event at the Walker Art Center, discussing “What is ‘Brand America’?” The panelists included Tom TD Dixon, Chief Marketing Officer of Jack Link’s, Robert Clifton Jr, Chief Creative Officer of Ten35, and Lili Hall, President/CEO of KNOCK, inc., all sharing their insights into the state of diversity in the industry.

This annual event is one of the most impactful opportunities to initiate discussions about race, diversity and inclusion. In order to continue those discussions throughout the year, The Brand Lab created the podcast “3 Fearless Questions.” It’s produced by students, who talk to creative leaders in diverse fields to share their answers to our 3 Fearless Questions:

  1. When was the first time you became aware of your own race?
  2. When was a time that you felt included or excluded?
  3. How have you seen diversity impact your creative process?

Fearless momentum

Lastly, we significantly expanded our Fearless Workshops & Consultancy. The workshops are designed and facilitated by marketing and advertising professionals for marketing and advertising professionals.

One of the volunteers leading the workshops is Nicole Parrott Wilson, Assistant Account Executive at Carmichael Lynch.

Defaulting to ‘white’ is no longer an option and you can either embrace it or get left behind.

– Nicole Parrott Wilson,
Carmichael Lynch & Fearless Volunteer

“One of the most memorable experiences I had with The BrandLab was walking into this room and seeing all these people of color in the industry that somehow were hidden in day-to-day life.” Wilson says. “I felt at home right away. When I held my first Fearless Workshop, I was terrified because the subject is tough and I didn’t know what to expect. But the participants were very receptive and it reinforced my conviction that I can do this work.”

Nicole thinks being part of the Fearless program means being part of ushering in “an era of change,” as she puts it.

“Being part of the Fearless program, being part of something bigger than myself has meant so much to me,” she says. ‘It is an honor to help organizations create environments that are conducive to the growth of different demographics that will be reflected in audience and employees of the future. We need this work, because times are changing. Defaulting to ‘white’ is no longer an option and you can either embrace it or get left behind.”

Using real world examples and case studies, we encourage companies to be self-aware, self-sufficient and self-correcting when it comes to diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Says Todd Paulson from KNOCK, inc., “The Fearless program has been eye-opening. It was especially memorable to see how the workshops impacted people and to listen to their discussions afterwards. It really helped us to start the conversation.”

In 2016-2017, we were able to offer our services to eight clients and facilitated over 30 workshops that resonated deeply with the participants. Plus, we were excited to learn that 100% of the workshops participants that took our feedback survey stated they would recommend our workshops to a friend.