Inclusive Market Research

Episode 3: Inclusive Market Research, with Del Esparza and Dr. Brandale Mills Cox

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Inclusive market research uncovers shifts in consumer behavior and guides brands to align with values through inclusive market research.

Del founded Esparza in 2000 to provide strategic marketing, advertising, and business solutions to a broad range of national public and private clients. A native of Albuquerque, Del acquired his marketing expertise at companies including IBM, DuPont, and Conoco.

Inclusive Market Research Group, LLC, led by Dr. Mills Cox, specializes in multicultural market research. Dr. Mills Cox, a Black American consumer insight expert, explores media representations of communities of color and Black female representation in the media, with a focus on audience engagement. Her current research involves qualitative focus groups, offering valuable insights into multicultural consumer markets. Dr. Mills Cox’s expertise provides cultural insight and guidance for market strategy and planning.

Dr. Mills Cox is also a Communications faculty member at Central New Mexico Community College (CNM) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She also served as an Assistant Professor and Graduate Program Coordinator at Norfolk State University (Norfolk, VA) in the Mass Communications and Journalism department. In this role, she taught communications courses, supervised the graduate program and its students, in addition to coordinating the program’s logistics. As Graduate Program Coordinator, Dr. Mills Cox assisted with developing new course offerings and initiated new curriculum development.


What you will learn in this episode about inclusive market research:

  • What genuinely inclusive market research looks like, how it is conducted, and why it is invaluable for businesses in every industry
  • How the COVID-19 pandemic and the countless social justice movements that have gained momentum over the past few years have left a lasting impact on consumer behavior
  • What recent shifts in consumer behavior mean for businesses, brands, and the expectations held by their audiences
  • Why it is crucial for brands to align their values with their audiences,’ and how they can do so with integrity, responsibility, and authenticity
  • The best way for brands to communicate their commitment to social responsibility with their audiences while keeping themselves accountable
  • How brands should react if and when they take a misstep, and how the right reactions can not only repair but STRENGTHEN your consumer relationships
  • Which brands are currently leading social progress through their commitment to inclusivity and diversity — and what the rest of us can learn from them


Del Esparza:

Dr. Brandale Mills Cox:


Inclusive Market Research: Full Episode Transcript

Welcome to the Sell with Authority podcast; I’m Stephen Woessner, CEO of Predictive ROI, and my team and I created this podcast specifically for you. So if you are an agency owner, a business coach, a strategic consultant, and you’re looking to grow a thriving, profitable business that can weather the constant change that unfortunately seems to be our world’s reality, you’re in the right place. 

Inclusive market research and its importance to a brand? Do you want proven strategies for attracting a steady stream of well-prepared fit prospects into your sales pipeline? Well, we’ll have episodes on that. You want to learn how to step away from the sea of sameness and the sea of competitors so you actually stand out and own the ground that you’re standing on. We’re going to cover that, too. You want to future proof your business so you can navigate the following challenges that we all know are coming our way. 

Of course, we’re covering that as well. I promise you each episode of this podcast will contain valuable insights and tangible examples of best practices, not theory, from thought leaders, experts, and owners who have done exactly what you’re working hard to do. So, I want you to think practical and tactical. No fluff. Each of our guests has built a position of authority and then monetized that position by claiming their ground, growing their audience, nurturing leads, and, of course, converting sales. All the while, they’ve done that by being helpful. So every time someone from their audience turned around there, they were given a helpful answer to an important question. So their prospects never, ever felt like a prospect. And that’s the key. I promise you every strategy we discuss and every tool we recommend, including insights from Inclusive market research, will be shared in complete transparency in each episode so you can double down and roar into 2022.


Learn more about inclusive market research with Dr. Brandale Mills Cox by visiting her website


Inclusive Market Research: Del Esparza and Dr. Brandale Mills Cox’s Introduction

Okay? So I’m excited for you to meet our guest experts, and I say experts because we will be joined by two experts for today’s episode. Del Esparza, who is the founder and CEO of Esparza, and his research partner, Brandale Mills Cox, founder of Inclusive Market Research Group. Now, I asked both Brandale and Del to join me for this episode because through their collaboration, they recently completed a research study to understand better consumer expectations regarding brands they take public positions on social issues, and then, more specifically, how COVID has impacted consumers’ shopping behavior. Amazing. Very detailed, and we’re going to step through that. It’s a worthy goal, indeed, for the research. And we’ll peel back the layers around what they hope to prove or contradict as a result of the study. We’ll also look through how the research is mixed with their point of view, their thoughts around the implications, and what a brand could or should do as a result of the findings.

And then how when they blend all of that together, the research not only obviously becomes helpful for their audience, but it becomes spot leadership for the agency. So Susan Baier, a brilliant guest back in episode three of the podcast, shared a really powerful analogy that I think fits here, too. When she described the research in its data, sort of quote-unquote research in its data, think of it as your cupcake. Then you need a layer on the frosting or think of your frosting as your point of view, the implications, and what your audience should think about as it relates to your thoughts about the learnings and findings so that when the cupcake is fully decorated and presented to your audience well, it’s super helpful. It positions you as a true thought leader with answers and recommendations regarding their business issues and challenges. Incorporating inclusive market research into this process ensures a comprehensive understanding of diverse perspectives and needs, further enhancing the value of your insights. Extremely helpful. Okay. So, without further ado, Brandale, and Del, welcome to the Sell with Authority podcast, my friends, thank you for joining us.


Read about the philosophy of Del Esparza on inclusive market research on his website


Inclusive Market Research: More Background About Del Esparza and Dr. Brandale Mills Cox


You are very welcome. So before we dive in, actually, each of you take us behind the curtain just briefly and give us a little bit more context. and then, you know, there’s, it’ll probably feel like a litany of questions. I’m going to be firing your way about this very interesting research that you did and the very compelling findings. But before we get to that, give us some additional context. So Del, take us behind the curtain, and then we’ll go to brand Delas well.

I own Esparza Digital and Advertising, and we’re a 22-year-old advertising agency. Brandale and I met about a year ago, really kind of when we thought we were in the middle of this pandemic. And as it turns out, this thing has gone on far longer than we thought it would be. But at the time, we saw a significant shift in consumer behaviors as a result of staying at home due to the pandemic. Additionally, we started noticing changes in consumer behaviors and expectations toward brands they align with and their buying patterns. We wanted to dive deeper and understand more about that shift and how brands and companies could capitalize on it. This led us to embark on our journey of inclusive market research. It took about six months for us to gather all the information together, and we’re just now starting to release all the insightful data, which we believe will be incredibly helpful for brands and companies.

Absolutely. So, as principals of an inclusive market research group, we use insights from multicultural audiences to help create culturally inclusive strategies. So from that conversation that Del and I had, I was excited to really kind of delve into, you know, the thought process behind Black and Latinx communities and their consumer engagements, and really kind of bringing in that piece of social justice movements and how that had an impact on buying decisions and how that shaped that behavior. And so, this was a really fun project to start in, it’s still fun in the conversations that we’re having around it. And I’m, I’m just really excited to share what we’ve learned through this research.


Register on our open-mic Q&A for more on inclusive market research


Inclusive Market Research: Gathering Insights From Different Demographics

Yeah, this is going to be great because, one, the research is very meaningful, and it’s going to be very helpful for the intended audience. And then our audience is not only gonna be able to learn about the findings, which is going to be helpful to them, but then also they’re gonna be able to think through the lens of, well, what if I was to do that for my agency or coaching practice or consultancy? What if I were to, you know, go down the path of researching something that would be helpful then to my community or who I serve and, and so forth? So there’s gonna be those, like, the duality of lessons, which I think is gonna be really, really cool. Okay. So Brandale, you started going down the path of talking about black Latinx communities. Let’s talk a bit more about the respondents, and maybe not just as an aggregate, but maybe we can also talk about segmentation. So, who participated in the inclusive market research study so that we have that as an initial context?

This methodology ensures that we not only gather insights from a diverse range of participants but also actively engage with marginalized communities, including black Latinx individuals. By incorporating inclusive practices, we enrich our understanding of the nuances within these communities, thereby fostering more comprehensive and equitable outcomes in our research endeavors.

Well, when Del and I initially, you know, started talking about the foundation of this research, we wanted to be able to do some comparisons between, you know, generations, different racial groups. So, we had a little bit of everyone participating in this survey. We solicited a third-party panel provider and told them the specifications and really kind of highlighted the importance of having diverse representation in the survey respondents. And so we had various demographics, various age groups because again, we wanted to be able to kind of identify what some generational trends might be, what some racial and ethnic trends might be, and really kind of be able to compare that data and make some recommendations from there. Additionally, we ensured that our approach embodied principles of inclusive market research, aiming to gather insights that truly reflect the diversity of perspectives and experiences.

Learn more about inclusive market research with Dr. Brandale Mills Cox by visiting her website

Inclusive Market Research: Aligning Your Agency with Customer Expectations

Okay. So, just to make sure that we’re on the same page terminology-wise, you mentioned the party panel provider. So what is that? Maybe somebody in our audience is thinking, well, conceptually, I think research is really excellent, but who would I send that to? I don’t have a database of 10,000 people that I could send that to. Absolutely. So, tell us about that.

Yes, so there are third-party panel providers whose sole purpose is to collect data from potential survey respondents or focus group participants. And for market researchers like myself, I reach out to them and say, “Hey, I have this study where I’m looking to evaluate shopping trends of, you know, how it’s shifted in the age of COVID. Here is the age range that I would like to target. Here are the ethnic and racial demographics.” Additionally, I emphasize the importance of inclusive market research, ensuring representation from diverse backgrounds. They then go back to their team and see if it’s feasible for them. And, more than likely, depending on the panel provider, they have excellent access to resources, and that’s where the relationship begins.

Okay. Sounds pretty helpful. So Del, again, as we’re just kind of dialing in sort of the characteristics of the study, or I shouldn’t say characteristics, that’s not the right word, sort of methodology, I guess maybe is, is the better way to describe that. Let’s think about maybe the size or industry of brands that would find the data helpful. Is there anything about that as far as brands of specific size and or industry that this was intended to be helpful toward?

Okay. So interesting. So then maybe one of the things that we’ll slice apart as if I’m tracking with you, is that as the brand or as brands are larger, then it sounds like maybe one of the findings is consumers expect more than a brand would be behaving at certain, whatever the, behaviors are that as they get bigger to be more responsible versus maybe smaller brands, not so much. Am I misunderstanding or am I tracking with you? Additionally, conducting inclusive market research could shed further light on these consumer expectations across different brand sizes.

I think, you know, the bigger the company, the broader of a net they have of customers and the more expectations that the customers have of that brand, you know, we are long, long past the day when a consumer just expects a product to be of good quality and a good price. Consumers expect a brand and a company that they follow to have aligned values, with them to have a shared value system. And to openly communicate what that shared value system and value proposition is. Inclusive market research plays a crucial role in understanding and incorporating diverse perspectives to ensure that brands resonate authentically with their customer base. Love that. 


Read about the philosophy of Del Esparza on inclusive market research on his website

Inclusive Market Research: Adapting To Customer Behavior

Okay. So then let’s again, stay kind of high level as we’re thinking about either methodology or maybe in the category of what we hope to learn, but sometimes one of the really cool things about research is we learn some things that either validate and or sometimes contradict, and it’s like, oh, look at that. Well, that was kind of interesting. So let’s think about like, as the two of you were sort of developing the strategy for this, what were some of the things that you were hoping to learn that would either validate some known beliefs or maybe fly in the face of that and, and really help brands say, oh gosh, we had no idea. So what were some of the things that you were hoping to learn?

I know for me, I was certainly drawing from personal experience. I know, prior to COVID-19, I went to the grocery store once a week, but when the pandemic happened and the social distancing ordinances were in place, I started relying heavily on Instacart. In fact, I still rely heavily on Instacart and still don’t go to the grocery store. So, for me, I really wanted to see if that was in part of what my peers were feeling and people in other generations as well because the convenience of being able to shop through an app is just something I absolutely love. This research kind of revealed for me that some people still value and enjoy going to the grocery store. So, we saw in these findings that brick-and-mortar establishments aren’t necessarily going to go away anytime soon, but there’s this hybrid effect that’s happening. This is really an area for organizations and brands to start thinking about how to speak to these audiences who are utilizing both of these mediums to meet their needs, which is especially relevant for inclusive market research.

Yeah. And for sure, Brandale and I were talking, a year ago when we were, you know, at the genesis of this, of this project, and, and I think I even mentioned to Brandalel that, Hey, I think people are like letting other people pick their, their vegetables and get it delivered to their house. Do you think that that’s a real thing? And so that was one of the things that we really wanted to validate, if in fact this was just some fleeting moment or if this was a trend. And, some of the research, and third-party research that I’ve been able to have access to, suggests that ERs are expecting that 35% of their commerce will take place either through delivery or through pickup. That was unheard of pre-pandemic. So that, just that aside, plus the adoption of e-commerce, was accelerated by about four or five years. E-commerce back in 2019 was certainly gaining momentum with, obviously Amazon and the strength of, of Amazon. But the adoption in an older generation certainly was not as accepted as a younger generation, and that was accelerated significantly as a result of the pandemic and certainly the stay home. So buying behaviors significantly shifted. Inclusive market research also indicates this change in consumer behavior, emphasizing the need for businesses to adapt to more inclusive strategies in their market analysis.


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Inclusive Market Research: Understanding The Buying Trend of Every Generation

Wow. Okay. So that’s really powerful and there’s a lot in there that we can peel back and slice apart, especially about the acceleration of e-commerce. That’s really interesting. What were the two of you hoping to learn? And again, not necessarily to prove your belief right or wrong necessarily, but hoping to learn as it relates to, like, public positions on social issues or supportive local businesses. Because I know that you spent a lot of time and a lot of carrot and attention to find out how, again, going back to brand’s earlier, comments about black and Latinx and, and all of that, being able to figure out how yes, trends and, and then in particular how communities were part of those trends. Right? Do I understand correctly?

Absolutely, I think, you know, with the social justice movements of the summer of 2020, we saw the brand responses to that and, you know, Instagram and the Black Squares and, you know, these statements and commitment to diversify their staff and to diversify their, their board members. And we also saw a response, via social media where users and people in the community were, you know, calling out organizations who weren’t diverse and saying that they were no longer spending their money there. And so I really wanted to kind of dive in a little bit deeper and kind of understand what that relationship looks like and what are the factors that people consider when they are deciding, you know, where to purchase their coffee, where to buy apparel, where to, you know, spend those consumer dollars. Inclusive market research can shed light on these dynamics and offer insights into consumer behavior in relation to diversity and inclusion initiatives within businesses.

I think, you know, definitely George Floyd was a catalytic event that took place for sure. That really fostered conversation and dialogue around social injustice. I think that was happening, but it certainly wasn’t at the forefront. And so that event really did bring it to the forefront where consumers started demanding more from the brands that they’re loyal to and the companies that they do commerce with. Inclusive market research has shown that the expectation is there, that brands do speak out, that they have a responsibility to speak out and to be aligned with the values that our country is built on, a mass equality for all.

And is that a, maybe the research touched on this, maybe it didn’t, so that’s what I’m gonna ask ’cause I just don’t know. Do the findings indicate that, that it’s a short-term behavioral change or because of events that both of you are highlighting that that is going to necessitate longer term change in consumer behavior then? So any context around that?

Well, I know when we think about generationally, when we think about millennials and those behind millennials, they have more. Their research found that they have a greater expectation of their brands to align with their personal values. So as these younger generations have more purchasing power and more buying decisions, I think that the expectation of those organizations will grow. So we will see a continuous, I think, trend over the next few years that really align to, you know, these, these demands from younger generations.

Yeah, I think that social justice is not just an event. You know, it, it really, what we saw in 2021 is a movement that gained a lot of momentum and gained some attention from some of the largest brands and some of the largest companies in the world as it should. And we don’t anticipate that slowing down, anytime soon. Precisely for what Brandy just just indicated, the purchasing power and the buying power and the influences of the millennial and Gen Xs that, and Gen Zs that as they become much more valuable in the eyes of companies and brands, they’re gonna be listened to.

Learn more about inclusive market research with Dr. Brandale Mills Cox by visiting her website

Inclusive Market Research: Demonstrate Your Long-Term Commitment

Okay. So before we take a quick break and we come back and, and really get in the granularity of the research findings and so forth, which I think is gonna be really, really helpful to our audience, let’s, again, stay kind of high level and first think about what would you consider to be the biggest surprises and or the biggest ahas I should say? So let’s go with ahas first and then maybe the biggest surprises, and then we’ll take a break and then we’ll come back with some more granularity. So what were the biggest ahas and then the biggest surprises?

Well, for me, the biggest aha and surprises were kind of the one and the same. Okay. On the one side we saw a very specific desire for audience members to see advertisements that reflect diverse cultures, diverse experiences. so that was really enlightening for me, especially in the space of research that I’m in. This is stuff that I’ve, you know, preached to clients, but it’s great to see the research validate that. Hmm. and one of the surprising things is, looking at black millennials specifically, they were about 66% in terms of requiring or demanding that the brands they support speak out against social justice issues. And I myself thought it would be a little bit more. Hmm. but as I started to kind of think about it and unpack the data, I think it might be an issue of just fatigue. you know, black audiences have oftentimes, you know, been promised this and, you know, there’s, oftentimes quotas that organizations and brands meet and it’s not authentic and it’s not genuine. And, you know, black consumers can feel that. And I think it’s a sense of fatigue and, you know, maybe just being disheartened by the entire process

Fatigue, disheartened because skeptical the change would actually be lasting.

Absolutely. That it’s lasting, that it’s genuine, that it moves past just simply trying to check a box and, you know, engage certain communities because you think that it’ll bring a certain amount of dollars in. So yeah, I think it’s probably a variety of factors that contribute to it.

Okay. So big aha when it comes to inclusive market research. Especially as Del was saying a few minutes ago about long lasting change. So I’ll just throw a hypothetical out for the two of you, that if a brand is really, truly serious about this and not doing short term lip service and really wants to demonstrate to this community or communities, I should say, that they’re serious about it, it’s being able to truly not only have that sort of short-term campaign, but also talk about how they’re making a long-term commitment and not saying we’re making a long-term commitment, like being specific about the path and journey and milestones and demonstrating how they’re making a long-term commitment and maybe proactively addressing the fatigue and, and sort of the skepticism. Brandale, what do you think?

I think that’s absolutely what’s necessary and, definitely kind of what we’ve seen in the data, right Del, that there is this desire, but, you know, transparency and accountability also comes with that.

I think, what’s been lacking is the accountability tree, if you will, that that accountability tree needs to be readily available on a brand’s website. they need to be open and candid and transparent about wanting to be held accountable. And it’s not just as, as Brandale it’s said earlier, it’s not just checking a a box, you know, as a person of color, and I, and I think I speak for Brandale as well, many times it feels very patronizing when a company puts a person of color just in an ad or a person in a wheelchair in a commercial, and feel like that that’s, you know, that, that they’re doing their role. in many cases, you know, that that’s probably worse than not doing anything at all. you know, what I think many people of color would like is a steadfast commitment to diversity and an accountability tree of how their consumers can hold them accountable for that.


Read about the philosophy of Del Esparza on inclusive market research on his website


Inclusive Market Research: Create Equitable Brand Experiences Instead

Okay. So that sounds very, and sorry, I have such a lay person obviously ’cause I was not involved in the research, so my perspective as a lay person, but when you said that, that made me think, okay, so during the role, very patronizing, looping back to what Brandale had talked about as a reflect diversity, it’s not just about that, it’s not just about ads that reflect diversity, it’s about the commitment to doing that over a long period of time because you actually believe it, not because it’s trendy or people expect it. Right.

Well, you know, having a few people of color in a television commercial is one thing. Having people of color in your leadership positions is another. Having people of color, and your board of directors is another thing. And if you don’t have it, recognize that you don’t have it, but put together a strategy and openly communicate that to your consumers about how you’re gonna get there and truly embrace the disparity that exists in our country right now.

This is so great. In three powerful words that can be used in inclusive market research that you mentioned when you were talking about accountability, you said open, candid and transparent, and lots of people struggle with those three words, unfortunately, for sure, right?

So, okay. This is probably a good place for us to take a break. We’ll come back and we’ll start digging into, not only the implications that the two of you see, but then how brands get better as a result, like taking this research and then actually applying it. so we’ll be back in just a minute and we’ll start digging down into that. Okay. Everyone, we’re gonna now start and go a little bit deeper into, I shouldn’t say a little bit, we’re gonna go a lot deeper into now the implications and some of the results and findings of the research and why this really matters to brands. As well as we’re gonna talk about the thought leadership pieces too, as we think about that from the point of view of Esparza and inclusive market research group and, and so forth. So big meaty conversation yet to come.

And where I’d like to start with that is really the point of view and the purpose behind it because at our break in sort of the green room here, we’re just having a chat about some of the things that we’re hoping for that we’re going to study. And Del said it was a catalyst for conversation. And that was really telling. And so Del, let’s start going down that path because I think this dips into your point of view of yes, the research findings are important. Yes, they’re going to be helpful to brands who pay attention to it, but then also are going to be a catalyst for conversation and potentially change, right?

Yeah. I think one of the things that was an aha moment for me during the research was the disparity that exists between, and the polarization that exists between, people of color and Caucasian and kind of what they expect of their brands. As Brandale indicated earlier, 66% of black people and Latinx individuals expect a brand to take a position and be open about that position, whereas with Caucasians, that percentage drops to around 30%. I think that gets down into the 30%, where they expect that from their brand of that they support. I think from my perspective, that was an aha moment and that was a disappointing moment, quite frankly. I think what led me to conclude is that this conversation needs to continue. That disparity should not exist. There should be a demand regardless of your skin color or where you live for brands and companies to form an opinion about embracing diversity in a very open manner. And so from my perspective, this research, and why we want to do these podcasts and why we want to do these interviews are not just to talk about what companies and brands can do to help their bottom line, but also to do what’s right and utilize this research to further the conversation, that exists. There’s a huge disparity between races in this country still. Incorporating inclusive market research into this dialogue can enhance our understanding and provide actionable insights for creating more equitable brand experiences.


Register on our open-mic Q&A for more on inclusive market research


Inclusive Market Research: Creating Memorable Engagements Through an Environment of Inclusion

Okay. Big topic. So Brandale, anything to add to that? Just on a kind of personal analysis of that? I think that there is a disconnect between experiences, which is, you know, everyone has their different experiences based on how they were raised, based on, you know, things that impact their I identity and how they see the world. but also that empathy. So if we think of, you know, white individuals who don’t necessarily have any direct contact with social justice issues, they might not know any people directly impacted by that. There’s a disconnect. They don’t really, might not necessarily see the need for a branded organization to speak out against these issues. And so to Del’s point, that’s why these conversations are so important. There’s a need for enlightenment, there’s a need to kind of share these experiences of marginalized communities and how it Im impacts their day-to-day lives. and in turn, and as we see in the research, it impacts what they expect from organizations and brands that they engage with. And so it’s really a continued conversation, a dialogue and a learning process that has to happen, to kind of break that disparity.

This is really so good. Okay. So let’s, how do you want brands to, and I may say this inappropriately, so forgive me, you’ll rephrase this and I’m sure it’ll sound so much better. ’cause I am not a researcher, I’m a lay person, but like, what do you want brands to do with this? Because there will be some candidly that will think, oh, we could really monetize that research and it could just drop to our bottom line. So what’s your point of view around that? Like what brands should be doing in order to be better as a result of the research, but yet also where it’s not just dropping to the bottom line that it’s actually a lasting change.

Del, you wanna take the lead on this one? I’ll take the lead. I think that it is necessary to, again, continue these conversations, but really emphasize the importance of being empathetic, creating an environment of inclusion and belonging where, you know, people feel like they are seen in these advertisements, that they’re seen in your senior level executive, leadership, that they’re seen through your board of directors. And when you are able to connect with different communities, different individuals across different experiences, then yes, it increases your bottom line. And, and everyone wants that, but it also creates more memorable engagements, more memorable experiences. And that’s ultimately what brands want, right? They want to be looked upon as, you know, a leader in their industry, someone who has the ability to connect and engage with different people and different perspectives. Incorporating “Inclusive Market Research” into this process is crucial. And so that’s, I really think, the bottom line of this research. You want to be able to be a, a known brand, that values these things because we see that these are things that are very important to, again, those younger generations. And as they kind of matriculate and get more earning power and more decision power, they will be the ones deciding, you know, what brands and organizations are the leading brands and organizations in whatever industry.

And one of the things that we found out of this, this research and, and Brandale’s absolutely right, another aha moment was how loyalty has really been eroded over the course of the past two years. In many cases, there is a downturn in an economy, it takes a shock, like a pandemic too. Loyalty kind of dissipates some, so across all boards, with the exception of Latinx, there’s a lot less loyalty. So what that means for brands and what that means for companies is brands that take an open, candid, honest stance about social injustice, about diversity, about embracing diversity, about inclusion, and communicate that through their social channels, through, marketing automation, through, through their website, and put together that accountability tree where they can be held accountable to achieving those, those aforementioned, goals. Those brands will be able to take more market share away from brands that are just sticking their heads on the ground, hoping that this will go away. So this is a, we’re in a moment of time where loyalty doesn’t really exist. Market share can be taken for brands that take a well-crafted approach toward addressing some of the issues that we just we’re talking about when it comes to diversity, a lack of inclusion, social injustice, and inclusive market research.

Learn more about inclusive market research with Dr. Brandale Mills Cox by visiting her website


Inclusive Market Research: Admitting Your Mistakes Will Have a Positive Impact

Wow. Okay. Really, really well said. Super compelling when you said how loyalty’s been eroded in the last two years. Conversely, back to the brand’s point where the brand should be wanting to create more memorable experiences, a more engaged audience, those are like two opposite ends of the spectrum, right? No loyalty because it’s been eroded, which is completely opposite of what brands are hoping. There’s this chasm in between. And Del, you just articulated how to close that gap, really well said. Right? So let’s say that a brand makes a misstep because, you know, when I just had kind of a surface view of the research that, and thank you for sharing that with me, but again, lay person, not a researcher, I looked at that and like, well, okay, this is a big topic that they’re, you know, courageously going after and gathering some data around. So from your perspective, what should a brand do when there is a misstep? And what are the expectations in the various groups or communities that participated in the study? And maybe there’s differences.

You know, one of the things that Del and I talked about at, at length and, and I was surprised by this is how forgiving a consumer is. Yeah. If a brand or a company is openly admitting to making that misstep, consumers are forgiving as long as a brand or a company openly admits that they made a mistake and puts together a plan to address the mistake that they made. Consumers are forgiving, and in many cases that conflict, that then is healed, can even strengthen a relationship between a consumer and a company.

Brandale any thoughts on that? And also, were there any differences as far as, racial segmentation, anything different amongst the communities that participated?

Ultimately? to Del’s point, we saw kind of across the board, that audiences are very forgiven. I think the number was about 23% who said that they would not forgive a misstep. And so we see that there is an, an area, a huge area for redemption. And to just kind of emphasize what Delsaid, it just means that accountability, that transparency and, and being willing to learn and grow from, whatever the mistake was.


Read about the philosophy of Del Esparza on inclusive market research on his website


Inclusive Market Research: Examples Of Brands That Made a Misstep

So how does a brand do that? Like, let’s say brand makes a misstep, brand wants to heal and redeem themselves. Was there anything in the study that would say, okay, this is the first step toward doing that?

Incorporating inclusive market research is one of the steps to healing after a misstep? Yep. Yeah, I think what a consumer wants in a brand or a company that they do commerce with is to be able to relate to them and to have a shared, set of values. In many cases, consumers look at brands like they look at people, they’re looking for a brand that’s authentic, a brand that they can relate to, a brand that they like, a brand that has shared values, like I said. So the first thing is to, and you could demonstrate your authenticity by admitting your mistake, admitting that you made a mistake, and then putting a correction in place and being very open and communicating, what that plan of action is.

Awesome. So are there, and I don’t think that this was necessarily part of the study per se as far as the survey and data collection. Maybe it was. so I’m gonna go ahead and ask, because even if it wasn’t, you probably have some context around this. So what might be some examples of brands that in your opinion, are doing this? Well,

There’s some good ones. And Brandale and I talked about that. I know that Brandale, you wanna talk about Dove and how much we love Dove and how fantastic Dove is and, and openly, embracing diversity.

Absolutely. So, you know, we’ve talked about how George Floyd’s murder has been like a catalyst for these discussions and these initiatives, but Dove has been embracing a diversity before, you know, this kind of bandwagon effect, I think of immediately comes to mind the Crown Act, which if you’re not familiar with it, it’s legislation that Dove, kind of pushed to promote natural hair for black women in the workplace. So there’s tons of research that supports that Black women when they show they come to work as their full authentic selves and don’t relax or straighten their hair, that oftentimes they experience workplace discrimination or they’re discriminated against even getting a position. And so Dove led this push of legislation to just really advocate for black women in that space. In addition to that, they’ve recently partnered with Getty Images to make sure that when you go to Google and you, Google Woman, that you are seeing more diverse images of women and that they’re not just, you know, the standard Eurocentric associations to beauty standards, but we’re seeing non-binary individuals. We’re seeing women of all shapes, sizes, colors, and hair textures. And so Dove has just been absolutely fantastic in, in leading these efforts of just being really genuine and authentic with, you know, their commitment to these issues, particularly through inclusive market research.

I think Nike has done an incredible job, and, you know, they were, they’ve been, criticized in the past for how they’ve come out and supportive some, you know, some athletes of, of color, some positions that those athletes made h and m as a stylist, company, came out with a complete unisex clothing, line, which was was unheard of before, one, you know, and as a result, HMH and M are, has really, risen, to the top when it comes to, to, that millennial and Gen Z demographic, embracing them. And of course, Coke, you know, and back in 1971 when, you know, they had the commercial, I’d like to buy the world of Coke and, what a brave move. And, and they continue to really push diversity in all of their advertising, and they’re steadfastly committed to diversity in their leadership ranks and in their board.


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Inclusive Market Research: How Companies Became Stronger After a Misstep

I wanna circle back, I’m sorry, go ahead. Before we move on to two of the examples Del just gave, which illustrate the ability to recover from a public misstep. So if we think about Nike, and I believe about four or five years ago, they received a lot of criticism against the from the female athletes that they sponsored because of their, as it was described, they did not necessarily deport support things like maternity leave, and there were not equitable contracts, as compared to their male counterparts. We saw them kind of take that and go back to the drawing board, and now they are more intentional in, you know, the contracts that they engage with their female athletes. They’re more intentional about their hiring practices as well. And so that’s an excellent example of how, you know, the public and their athletes called them out and they took that feedback, and they made corrections, they, they corrected the mistakes. So an excellent example of that.

Okay, so let’s go back to, and I know that we’re getting close on time here. In fact, I should probably ask, are we okay if we leak a little bit past the top of the hour? Is that okay for both of you? Okay, absolutely, there’s some really tremendous momentum going on in this conversation. So let’s, let’s think about Nike here for just a second, Brandale, and how you mentioned that, and let’s go back to, I think it was Del who said a few minutes ago about not only being able to recover but being stronger through that recovery process. So would you say that that fits Nike? They’ve made a misstep, they worked really hard, and now they’ve not only recovered but gotten stronger in the process.

Definitely. I think that they have been a leading voice, over the past couple of years in their support of social justice issues and, you know, ADE’s point supporting athletes that outwardly support these Jo social justice issues and receiving a lot of backlash from their consumers because of that. But, we see ultimately, and again, getting back to that bottom line, they are at a place financially much better than they were before, they truly started embracing these practices. Yeah,

Yeah, yeah. I mean, it definitely had an effect on their bottom line, 2021 being one of the best years they’ve ever had and truly a market leader. So, it’s a perfect example of how a misstep actually, you know, long-term because of the way they addressed it, made them a stronger company.

Yeah. This is so fantastic. Okay, so let’s pivot just,, a touch here and think about this study through the lens of thought leadership as it relates to Esparza and the inclusive market research group. And let’s think about how the two of you will use this as your thought leadership as a platform for your thought leadership. And my guess is, and so I’ll make an assumption here, and you tell me if I’m right or wrong, is that maybe part of that is, yes, this is excellent research, yes, this is our point of view around it, and then we’re going to use this as part of the catalyst for the conversation. Is that a fair assumption?

I think it’s very well said. You know, and from my perspective, I certainly didn’t expect when Del and I had this conversation a, a year ago, that, that we’d be having this conversation now at the depth that we’re, that, that we’re having, you know, at Esparza with my last name being Esparza, I mean, we’ve celebrated diversity before it was cool to be to celebrate, diversity. So consequently, I think we’ve always, to a certain degree, been an authority in that space, but we’ve really never had this, the forum and indeed now the research, specifically in inclusive market research, to be able to back up that authority with Brandale and Brandale has been an absolute joy to work with, obviously very, very knowledgeable and been a great, great teammate on this, on this path. But utilizing this, as I said earlier, this insight to ensure that there is an ongoing conversation, that there is a dialogue that’s taking place about the disparities that exist and about how companies could take advantage of the landscape that we live in right now, to not only do what’s right but help their bottom line of that.


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Inclusive Market Research: Facilitating Conversations and Embracing Diverse Perspectives

Absolutely. And, for us as a firm that focuses on, you know, multicultural insights, I think that this inclusive market research is invaluable because it really provides perspective as to what drives consumers, what drives their buying decisions, what is important to them, what influences and impacts their decisions. And that’s, like I said, that information is invaluable as I’m having conversations with organizations and brands who are really trying to wrap their minds around, you know, the importance of this and does it really matter? and just being able to support that with, you know, tangible facts and tangible, kind of long-term implications of not embracing true diversity.

So let’s say that someone in our audience now, and, and probably many are thinking about, maybe I’ll do some research and it’ll be part of my thought leadership program here at my agency or consultancy or whatever the context is. So, how do the two of you intend to share it? Like, how do you intend to slice and dice it so that more people can see it and make it more accessible? And so what is the plan? And maybe it’s just very initial, for now, because the study is so new, but how do you intend to share it and help be that catalyst for conversation?

You know, we’re developing a white paper, and, and the last thing we wanna do is keep this insight and this perspective close to our chest. I mean, candidly, we want this to be shared with the world. We want as many people to know about shifting buying behaviors. We want people to know about the demands that segments of consumers have of their companies. And so, you know, we’re excited for the research, we’re excited for the insight we wanna share of as much of this as possible either through podcasts, through interviews, through speaking engagements, through inclusive market research, and obviously through white papers.

And yeah, just to piggyback off of Del’s earlier comment, this is a catalyst for conversation, and it is a necessary ongoing conversation. And that is our goal for this: to help facilitate conversations about this and just really highlight the necessity of embracing diverse perspectives.

Learn more about inclusive market research with Dr. Brandale Mills Cox by visiting her website


Inclusive Market Research: Trust The Process

This is so great. So I, I know we’re, you’ve been so gracious with your time and I know that we’re, taking a lot of it. Two questions left, if you don’t mind. So, Del, you’ve positioned Esparza as delivering certainty, which is a really cool positioning. So is there, when you finish the study, and you gotta look at maybe the raw data and then maybe the visualization of it, were there any of those wow, this really fits with our agency because we’re so committed to delivering certainty? So, is there a connection there?

Yeah, with a, you know, from my perspective, delivering certainty starts off with defining what that certainty is. And so working with our clients on defining what that certainty is, in many cases, it’s, you know, in market share in a particular geographic area. It’s the introduction of a new product, but it’s also to throw out a broader net and gain market share from a competitor or in a new segment that they hadn’t penetrated before. This research really helps in defining what that certainty can be for many of our existing clients and indeed, many prospective clients. Yeah,

That’s awesome. Lastly, I know we covered a lot, so I’m looking forward to getting both of your perspectives on this. I know we covered a lot, but any final insights regarding either findings, recommendations, or any final advice that you’d like to share with our audience? And then please tell our audience the best way to connect with each of you. So, Brandale, if you would mind starting,

I would say for anyone who is hearing this research and thinking that, wow, this is a lot, this might be overwhelming, and it is a lot to kind of break down and understand, but understand that it’s a journey, that it’s a process and that you might not necessarily get it right all the time or get it right the first time. But it’s very important to, as we keep talking about, remain accountable, transparent, and keep an open mind and a learner’s mind and embrace this research, including inclusive market research, and embrace research and really try to embed that in your organizational culture. And I think that ultimately you will reap the benefits both monetarily and with your engagement with different communities.

Inclusive market research doesn’t have to be a lonely road, and it doesn’t have to be, and it really, quite frankly, is a shift that leaves the port and never really reaches that destination. So, this should be ongoing. This is not a plug-and-play, and it’s done. This is something that should take, should be systemic within an organization. But, you know, just as a recap, you know, buying behaviors are, are, have changed significantly. Not just the adoption of e-commerce but also the expectations of brands. Consequently, there’s no better time to plant your flag in the ground and make a strong statement. Loyalty doesn’t exist anymore and market share can be gained as a result of that for those companies that are brave.


Read about the philosophy of Del Esparza on inclusive market research on his website


Inclusive Market Research: Closing Remarks

Ooh, well said, my friend. And when I think it was brand new who said not only to do what’s right or maybe Del, you said this: not only will you help your bottom line, but your audience, your consumers will feel better about it, and you’ll also be doing the right thing. What a wonderful blend, right?

Well, and when we were talking before about, you know, sort of bridging the gap between, in allowing the catalyst of change to do that catalyst for conversation, excuse me. Using your words. Really amazing. So, okay, everyone, no matter how many notes you took or how often you go back and listen to the words of wisdom shared by Brandale and Del, the key is not to let it stop there. And Deljust said this is systemic. 

This isn’t a one-time thing. This is a ship that’s never, or that has left the port, and it’s never going to right. Come back to the destination. This is ongoing. So, take what you learned here today and apply it. Let this actually be a catalyst for conversation within your business. And Brandale, Del, we all have the same 86,400 seconds in a day. And I’m grateful that you were so generous with your time today so that our audience can be better as a result of you sharing your insights, wisdom, and expertise that you learned from this very comprehensive study on inclusive market research. Thank you so much, my friends.


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