Branding , Yes& General , Associations , Non Profit , Culture

DEI in Focus: Show Us, Don’t Tell Us

Jonah Malin

Forrest Mars Sr. came up with the idea for M&M’s after observing soldiers eating chocolate during the 1930s Spanish Civil War. As you know, heat liquefies chocolate like butter in a frying pan, making your fingers sticky.

So, the concept of wrapping chocolate in a hard candy shell was born. With it, came an immortal tagline:

Melts in your mouth, not in your hands.

M&M’s are practical. They’re colorful. The characters are fun.

Did we need them to be anything more?

This was the question raised after Mars announced M&M’s refresh emphasizing inclusivity and togetherness.

Basically, the green M&M is going to be less flirty. The orange one will now have its shoes tied. And, the red M&M won’t be so bossy.

The announcement fell short of expectations. Of course, we want brands to reflect diverse and inclusive causes. But it goes beyond updating your mascot and making a public pledge.

So, how can you make DEI an organic part of your brand’s identity? We’ll tell you.

Representation starts internally.

If you have a group of sixty-five-year-old white males shouting around a boardroom about diversity, it’s likely the principles laid out won’t resonate with your diverse audience.

Run focus groups, survey different communities, and give underrepresented voices a chance to share their authentic, unedited stories. Partner with freelancers and media companies that align with your target audience's values.

Reducing the demographic distance between your team and your audience will naturally support an organization's transformation to be more equitable, diverse, and inclusive.

Establish internal and external messaging guidelines.

Investing in your messaging only works if your internal team is bought in and excited to make DEI a larger part of your organization.

Once you establish your position internally, messaging gives your position energy and direction. This includes your website, social media, email marketing, and more.

The single best piece of messaging advice we can give you is to invest in the process.

Do your due diligence and find an agency partner you trust. Be patient and understand it’s not going to happen overnight. Clearly communicate to your internal teams why messaging updates are being made and how they will support your position.

Make your commitments measurable.

Hold your organization accountable by setting specific goals tied to DEI.


- Offering employees paid time to do good in their community
- Supporting minority-owned businesses
- Building a DEI committee
- Developing a diverse recruitment pipeline
- Surveying your internal team

These actions should authentically become a natural part of your organization.

Ask, why are we publicizing this shift rather than just doing it?

There is something suspicious about brands pushing their goodness. It invites us to wonder if there was a moment where the brand behaved poorly.

Before announcing your shift in values, ask your team: why are we publicizing this instead of doing it? Is our goal to legitimately evolve our organization and be better or tell people how great we are?

Even if it’s unintentional, over-promoting your virtues and values can appear as an effort to increase social capital and sales, not devotion to a cause.

To recap.
Build an internal team with diverse perspectives, experiences, and stories. Establish messaging guidelines to make sure the right message is hitting the right people. Make your DEI goals measurable. Ask the hard questions.

Don’t tell us how inclusive your organization is. Show us.

Yes& is the Washington, DC-based marketing agency that brings commercial, association, and government clients the unlimited power of “&” – using a full suite of branding, digital, event, marketing, public relations, and creative capabilities to deliver meaningful and measurable results.

Let’s talk about what the power of "&" can do for you.

Jonah Malin
Jonah Malin
Content Strategist & Writer