Editor’s note: Iris Yim is principal at Sparkle Insights, Chapel Hill, N.C. 

The pandemic has left indelible marks on every aspect of our lives, including the way brands communicate and engage consumers. It has also exposed and exacerbated existing social issues, which during the good times are easy to sweep under the rug. 

BLM, Stop AAPI Hate and the pandemic's disproportionate impact on minority consumers have given rise to increased attention and discussion to diversity and inclusion. Consumers expect brands to take a stand on social issues that are important to them. As a result, multicultural marketing has evolved from engaging consumers on products and services to embracing diversity and inclusion and addressing social issues. In addition to showing solidarity to various movements, brands also created initiatives to strengthen diversity and inclusion both internally and externally. These include engaging employee resource groups, increasing diversity hiring and implementing guidelines for the inclusion of minority-owned suppliers in their supply chain. 

The intersection between social issues and marketing has led to a greater need for research on minority consumers for corporate decision makers to better understand their customers’ preferences and expectations for brands when it comes to diversity and inclusion. This is different from DEI research conducted by HR departments for internal DEI initiatives. Rather, it's consumer research conducted with cultural empathy and sensitivity. It's similar to multicultural market research that seeks to understand minority consumers' brand perception, emotional drivers and purchase behaviors, and overlay the findings with cultural insights, only it requires more delicate handling of sensitive topics. There are no established DEI research practices in this regard, but most practices in multicultural research still apply. 

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