Secret Sauce for Mind-Blowing Marketing? Be Normal.

8 min readMar 23, 2017


Author’s note: I meet a surprising number of people leading consumer-oriented products and causes who don’t know these data, even though some reports are years old. So I’m writing this post as a resource for anyone making inclusivity and diversity a priority in marketing, leadership and customer relationship management. By inclusivity I mean everybody: Gender, people of color, LGBTQIA, religious, ethnic, socio-economic, ambulatory, age, neuro-diverse, and beyond. As I write, I’m wary of two things: Every kind of –splaining (I’m white, cis, straight), and the importance of marketing with a nuanced appreciation of user aspiration and technology. But this good news deserves a wider audience, so here goes. I hope you’ll consider adding comments and links to improve this resource as further proof that the wider we all cast our nets, the richer the insights we can collect and leverage to create great companies and jobs. Thanks — LS

Good news: There’s growing body of evidence that your enterprise will perform better if your product, marketing, leadership and CRM is normal. What’s “normal”?

“I am making TV look like the world looks. Women, people of color, LGBTQ people equal WAY more than 50% of the population. Which means it ain’t out of the ordinary. I am making the world of television look NORMAL.”

~ Shonda Rhimes, American screenwriter, director, and producer

Since 1997, (when I was first told women like me would never go online in large numbers), and 2005, (“Where are the women who blog? Here!”), I’ve used data and user feedback to build huge communities of 25–127+ million and to prove Ms. Rhimes right. Normalizing your enterprise is not only the right thing to do — it is critical for building superb, robust, revenue-generating consumer businesses. Especially today, where there is no media or marketing without social media.

That’s why I love — puffy-pink-heart-exploding-kitten-heart-eyeballs-rainbow-barfing-LOVE — the landslide of expensive new research that started emerging a few years ago on the value of being normal. These data show:

1. Normal Audiences Outperform In Social Media

2. Normal Teams Outperform Financially

3. Normal Customers Outspend the Average

Here are some of my favorites:

1. Normal Audiences Outperform In Social Media

Pew Research Center, “The Demographics of Social Media Users,” 8.19.15. Emphasis mine.

Women are the power users of social platforms. While men have nearly caught up to women in overall usage of social media, Pew reports that women are the power users of most social platforms and e-commerce sites (my fave writing on the topic is still aileenlee’s 2011 post). Women dominate Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. The genders are at a par on Twitter and Tumblr, slightly more men than women use professional networking site LinkedIn, and men dominate the use of online forums Reddit and Slashdot.

Women wield the wallet. The social muscle women flex is significant for marketers, given that American women also control and/or influence 70–85% of household spending, including automotive and electronics. Women, on average, dependably spend 2x what an average man spends at the drugstore, and close to that at the grocery store. Globally women control and/or influence 64% of household spending, which is expected to accelerate in coming years.

People of color are the mega-power-users of most social platforms. But let’s dig deeper, as Pew did in August, 2015 with The Demographics of Social Media Users. According to this report, people of color exceed and/or match usage by White users on every one of these platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.

Case study: Latinos on Facebook. Here’s how that plays out on Facebook: At the #WeAllGrow Summit 2016 in Long Beach, California, Keynoter Heather Conneelly, Facebook US Industry Manager, shared that Latinos use Facebook for one out of every four minutes spent in social media, compared to the average user, who is on Facebook one out of every five minutes.

Women of color #WOC are the super-mega-power-users of social platforms. While gender and race are just a few of the data points influencing consumer spending, these data above pretty quickly inspire an idea: If your market-testing indicates that Instagram is fertile territory for you to get the word out about your brand, product, or cause, This slide indicates to me that you should consider hiring Instagram influencers who are expert in your enterprise’s area of focus and who also are women (the primary consumers) and African-American or Latina or both (the super-users).

How to recruit talent. Don’t know any? Consider attending these conferences and/or reviewing their speaking rosters: Afrotech16 by Blavity, Blogalicious, #WeAllGrowLatina, BlogHer.

2. Normal Teams Outperform Financially

McKinsey and Company, “Why Diversity Matters” 1.15

McKinsey is investing money in recommending normal boards. Recent analysis of 366 public companies in the U.S., Canada, U.K. and Latin America by McKinsey and Company “finds that companies in the top quartile for gender or racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians. Companies in the bottom quartile in these dimensions are statistically less likely to achieve above-average returns. And diversity is probably a competitive differentiator that shifts market share toward more diverse companies over time.”

Why do normal teams perform better? Check out “Why Some Teams Are Smarter Than Others,” in The New York Times, coverage of a 12.14 study sponsored by Cisco Systems through the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence.

Normal teams crush start-up valuations. These results also are true for start-ups. According to Babson College’s Women Entrepreneurs 2014: Bridging the Gender Gap in Venture Capital, businesses with a woman on the executive team are more likely to have higher valuations at both first and last funding (64 percent higher and 49 percent higher, respectively).

“Enormous untapped investment opportunity exists for venture capitalists smart enough to look at the numbers and fund women entrepreneurs.”

~ Babson Professor Candida G. Brush

The Real Unicorns of Tech. Indeed: The single biggest ROI opportunity is likely with startups founded and led by Black and Latina women. I recommend investing $49 in this Digital Undivided study: The #ProjectDiane Report: The Real Unicorns of Tech: Black Women. Inside, Founder and Author Kathryn Finney with Marlo Rencher demonstrates profoundly the excruciating problem Black women have in gaining access to the tech economy, starting with jobs, and the resulting lack of access to venture capital. #ProjectDiane also is a treasure map for VCs — those who develop relationships with the growing community of Black women entrepreneurs stand to recognize excellent returns on the right ideas.

The po$itive result$ created by normal teams (am I being too obviou$$$?) become even more pronounced when a company operates with a normal board of directors. Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, creator of #TheBoardList, a leading Silicon Valley marketplace for female board talent, regularly cites Catalyst’s “Bottom Line” reports dating from 2004 forward that companies with the most women board directors outperform those companies with the fewest women on their boards. By how much? Companies with the most women on their board drive higher return on sales — by 16 percent — and higher return on investment capital — by 26 percent.

Don’t know where to turn? If you want to help normalize your team and don’t know where to turn, and you have a technology company or start-up, consider reaching out to one of these organizations: The Anita Borg Institute, Breaking Glass Institute, Code2040, Digital Undivided, Project Include, #TheBoardlist, or The National Black MBA Association, Stanford University’s Clayman Institute for Gender Research just to name a few. I’ve found their leadership, databases and events are superb resources for participants and allies seeking to listen, learn and act.

3. Normal Customers Outspend


A superficial starter-kit. This slide speaks for itself, as a superficial starter-kit for the never-ending investigation marketers must do into consumer behaviors.

Question to ask yourself: How do we transform these superficial data into powerful storytelling to successfully attract and retain normal (read: huge and powerful) consumers with these spending habits?

Answer: See above, 1. Normal Audiences Outperform In Social Media. You need a normal team to compete for and grow your business from normal consumers year over year. You will fail or shoot yourself in the foot without normal colleagues and leadership.

For example, if you want to market personal care to Latino audiences, consider this data point from the Nielsen report Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder: Hispanic consumers are driving 3.5 times more beauty and personal care purchases than non-Hispanics.

Immediately following these data, Nielsen emphasizes, in a one-paragraph sentence, “But this isn’t the full story.” In partnership with Culturati Research, a cross-cultural marketing firm with expertise on U.S. Hispanics, Nielsen goes on to unpack very different market segments. Read it.

The report goes on to reveal that the primary driver of personal care purchasing is a young, savvy, second or third generation Latino or Latina who speaks perfect English, may speak perfect Spanish whether s/he chooses to or not, and will not forgive inauthentic marketing. Translation: Consider designing and testing a modern, Apple esthetic to convert this valuable consumer.

For Normal Marketers: How Does This Affect Your Inner Game?

Ignore the commentary. So, what do these data reveal about the dismissive, disparaging comments some venture capitalists, engineers, and entrepreneurs have made about the value of normalizing their leadership teams, colleagues and customers? (Nope, I’m not promoting any of these comments with links.)

Great news. For me, it feels great to read these data, above, and see validation of the value and power of an inclusive set of consumers, influencers and leaders. These reports reveal dismissive, disparaging responses about inclusivity and diversity for what they are: Emotional responses. These emotional responses lack the simple mechanics of good business analysis — as in “do your research.” Only personal bias, unconscious or conscious, would allow for this kind of assertion in the face of so much data.

Moving on. These responses actually save me time: I know immediately I don’t want to work with this person because I insist on higher standards from the people with whom I do business. You should too.

Millennials tend to agree. Getting normal will win not just consumers but precious talent, reports Deloitte University. Millennials stay with companies that practice “cognitive inclusivity.” If you’re trying to recruit, hire and retain people this age, who will make up nearly 75 percent of the workforce by 2025, read The Radical Transformation of Diversity and Inclusion by Christie Smith and Stephanie Turner. Bottomline: A normal workplace and leadership will help you attract — and keep! — a great team that wins customers and influences your business outcomes.

Shondaland’s “How To Get Away With Murder” Cast via Fashion & Style

So — can a company change? Yes! If I were at brand, company or cause headquarters that needed to get normal to win, there are some very specific first steps I’d take to broadcast to consumers that our organization was serious about normalizing our organization and its services.

Thanks for reading — per my Author’s note, I look forward to updating this list with new resources and recommendations. Thanks — LS




Investor, co-founder, c-level entrepreneur. #blacklivesmatter.