Devin: How would you describe your superpower?
Lisette: I would say it's two things, but those two things have to be combined. It's determination making the impossible possible. It's about progress, not about perfection. And you mentioned progress before. And I think that so many people sometimes are scared of not getting it right that they don't move forward. So it's about progress, not perfection. And I think that that determination gets you one step further every day. But it's also about empathy, and it's putting yourself in the shoes of another person.
Lisette Arsuaga has worked for more than a decade to help companies increase their marketing inclusion and diversity. Five years ago, after repeatedly experiencing setbacks, she and her business partners helped the Association of National Advertisers launch the Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing or AIMM.
She had been seeing that changes in leadership within a company often led organizations to abandon efforts at multicultural marketing, leaving the people involved frustrated and discouraged. She described it as “two steps forward, three steps back.”
“We realized that we were never going to be able to move the industry and, for that matter, our members and companies that we were doing work for unless the industry was moving forward exponentially faster,” Lisette says.
To get the ball rolling, Lisette and her partners organized 36 corporations to join the membership organization. Today, AIMM has 200 members.
The effort is paying off. “We have changed the direction of the industry,” Lisette says. “We have been able to prioritize multicultural, inclusive marketing to the point that today it is an important topic and it is a priority for many, if not most companies out there.”
“We certainly have a lot more to do,” she adds. “Our research shows that 60 percent of individuals still feel invisible or ill-represented when they're multicultural versus white non-Hispanics who are very pleased with the way that they're being represented.”
Furthermore, Lisette says, “Sixty percent of our population believes that there are stereotypes still happening in our advertising today.”
The Academy Awards
Lisette was frustrated by the slap heard ‘round the world. Will Smith’s behavior toward Chris Rock at the academy awards distracted from the story that should have made headlines. The academy chose remarkably diverse and multicultural winners.
The slate of nominees was, on balance, not impressive according to the Cultural Insights Impact Measure or CIIM, a proprietary algorithm used by AIMM to measure audience reactions to ads, television and movies.
“We had we tested 33 Oscar-nominated movies, out of which only five of those resonated strongly with five or more diverse segments,” Lisette says. “Our screens are not reflective of the streets and the society in which we live, whether it's advertising, whether it's programming or whether it's film.”
While the nominated films were not notably diverse in their representation, the winners selected from that group were. “That was the best Oscar as far as diversity that we've seen.”
Lisette uses a social media story that went viral to make a point.
We saw that in the movie Encanto, where the little boy that went viral was so excited to see himself. He's like, ‘Oh my gosh, that's me.’ It's sad that that would create such excitement for a little boy because for white little boys and girls, they see that every day and they don't need to get excited about finally seeing themselves on screen portrayed accurately because they see that every day.
Accurate, thoughtful representation is essential.
The CIIM tool AIMM uses to measure resonance is impressive.
“We have done over 500,000 ad evaluations of spots for the last two years,” Lisette says. AIMM runs every spot by 450 people.
“We give companies scores, individual scores for how that spot did with Black, Hispanic, Asian, LGBTQ and people with disabilities,” she says. “And then in the total group, we also have indigenous populations and others counted. It's the first time that there is an industry metric that can tell marketers how well they're doing with each segment.”
Lisette attributes her success in part to her twin superpowers: empathy and determination.
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How to Develop Empathy and Determination As Superpowers:
Lisette explains the power of empathy:
Empathy has to be present because you have to get yourself out of your own place, out of your own shoes, and be able to see the world from a different perspective and realize that, yes, there are challenges that are affecting the segment that I represent as a Hispanic woman. But there are also many challenges that are as important, that are affecting other segments that we have to work together on. And we're going to get there faster if we do it together rather than in silos, each one working on our own.
She adds, “I am a Hispanic woman who is an ally to the LGBTQ segment and every other human being who's out there. At the end of the day, we are all human.”
Lisette shared a fresh example of how she used determination with her empathy to make a difference following the Academy Awards. We recorded our conversation just a few days after the awards.
This week, we saw that the conversation was centered around the slap and not centered around the diversity and the highlight and of diversity and consideration of what that meant. Right?
By not talking about it, it means that we don't give the individuals the opportunity to process how that was different from any other year. So, day before yesterday, within 24 hours, we had a conversation internally and said, what if we put out a message and send a message that '“let's switch the conversation around.”
The AIMM team got together. We called a publicist, who's one of our AIMM members and a great partner, and said to them, “Can you can you find us a spot so we can do a one-page ad in a Variety magazine?”
Variety did an amazing thing for us. They gave us an incredibly discounted rate so that we could do that. And we focused and we sent a message saying, you know, let's focus on what's important. Let's talk about this.
From the moment the team had the idea to the ad running was less than 24 hours. Moving fast helped shift the dialog away from the slap to something more substantial.
Lisette offered some advice for developing empathy.
Education is important. She says, “It's reading about the circumstances that other people face, not from a judgmental position when you're looking at it, but understanding what that means and placing yourself in a different situation.”
She then suggests applying determination to your empathy. “Believe that you're able to change no matter how old you are, what race you are, what religion you are. Believe that the impossible is possible and that you are able to see people from an understanding perspective.”
By following Lisette’s example and advice, you can develop determination and empathy as superpowers that will enable you to do more good.