It’s not quite up there with Glasto but MRS Impact – the Market Research Society’s annual conference – is often a highlight in the calendar for researchers, advertisers and brands alike.

This year was no exception. Themed around ‘Innovation, Inspiration and Integration’, there was an emphasis on the importance of diversity and inclusion in the big business agenda. This made a welcome change from last year’s fascination with Brexit.

The financial services sector, for one, demonstrated a clear concern with everything from the gender pay gap to the representation of minorities within advertising.

Ros King, Director of Marketing Innovation and Communications at Lloyds Banking Group was particularly articulate on the subject, sharing with the audience the process behind the successful ‘By Your Side’ campaign – a 60-second ad spot, running on TV alongside digital, print and outdoor, reiterating the group’s support for British people and communities.

She also shared the business rigour behind what could be otherwise viewed as an advertising ploy. Her advice?

Expect backlash – but know you’re doing the right thing.

One anecdote involved a far right group threatening to boycott Lloyds as a result of their advertising showing a man proposing to his (male) partner. Their response was to give full and clear details to the customer on the steps they needed to take to close their accounts.

Another brand which showcased an interesting use of ‘real people’ was BT Group. They outlined how the use of ethnographic research amongst the ‘fringes’ of modern Britain allowed them to create a storybook based on real events, from the Muslim family’s Eid trip a funfair through to a grandad who spent his entire day Skyping his grandson. These heart-warming stories are the basis for their new brand creatives, and are ultimately driving the brand back into the nation’s affections.

Be authentic – and tell a story.

This was also the approach Lucozade took with their Anthony Joshua creative back in 2017 ahead of his Klitschko fight. Rather than use their sponsorship in a traditional sense they spent a weekend in Dubai with AJ and his family, and realised that his story was not just his success as an athlete but the relationship he has with his mother, and how that has shaped him as a man.

The execution was a roaring success, earning the creative team two Cannes Lion awards and boosting sales of Lucozade Sport significantly.

Great brands focus on product benefits not human deficits.

This came from a participant in Flamingo & The Age of No Retirement’s study into the relationship between age and design principles. While attitude still overrides demographic, the idea that brands should direct their attention to what they can give the world (rather than negatively framing their audience as needing improving) was an interesting sentiment.

One thing is certain. Diversity is an agenda which isn’t going away. From levelling the gender playing field to representing all walks of life in communications, it is no longer a token effort – but a business and brand imperative.