Individuals have built, and are building, significant brands that embrace community and diversity. So why, ask Jay Richards and Cat Agostinho, aren’t more established brands doing the same?

Back in 2006, Cristal was the champagne of choice for most rappers, meaning it was the champagne of choice for anyone that loved hip-hop. When Roederer Managing Director Frédéric Rouzaud was asked whether the association would harm the Cristal brand, he replied, “That’s a good question, but what can we do? We can’t forbid people from buying it. I’m sure Dom Pérignon or Krug would be delighted to have their business.”

Jay-Z responded, “It has come to my attention that the managing director of Cristal, Frédéric Rouzaud, views the ‘hip-hop’ culture as ‘unwelcome attention’. I view his comments as racist and will no longer support any of his products through any of my various brands, including the 40/40 Club, nor in my personal life.”

Jay Z took that offence and turned it into a $630m champagne brand, Armand de Brignac. (He just sold a 50% stake to LVMH for a healthy little sum.)

Stories like this challenge and inspire us. Jay Z saw that his community wasn't welcome at the table and instead of trying to force his way into the room, he built his own. 

More recently, Rihanna launched Savage X Fenty, a lingerie brand that “celebrates fearlessness, confidence and inclusivity”. It delivered $600m of sales in 2019 and is tipped to continue this growth over the next decade with the help of $115m from LVMH to expand into retail stores. 

On the other side of the coin is Victoria’s Secret, which has had to shut over 200 stores as sales began to stagnate (it has also been accused of being the exact opposite of diverse in regard to the body types and ethnicity of its models). 

How can such similar brands be having such wildly different experiences? Does it boil down to Rihanna understanding the concept of serving her community and understanding that being a diverse brand is Savage X Fenty’s superpower? 

It’s not only celebrities that are realising the power of their community. When UK social influencer Grace Beverley launched her Tala brand in 2019, the debut collection sold out in just 20 minutes.

Beverley started Tala as a complete outsider to the industry but she had the foundation of believing that, in order to make the business scalable, she needed a diverse community to encourage diverse customers; the brand boasts sustainable activewear for all sizes. One look at the website and you can see the differences in the models that feature.

Her bet on creating a diverse brand centred around its community has paid off and Tala continues to grow with the brand amassing sales of £6.2m in its first year of trading. 

We constantly hear talk about the advertising industry’s lack of diversity and the apparent lack of interest in diverse talent but we believe the talent is out there and we at Imagen are proving it every day.

We have built our business with a diverse workforce at the helm which enables us to build a diverse community. While we appreciate established businesses have to start somewhere, having the right attitude to change is where it needs to begin. Choosing this path enables us to show brands the colossal benefits there are from having diverse voices in the room when gaining insights. 

And you can’t build the brands of the future without all the voices in the room being accounted for.