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Ep. 105 Transcript: How The Home Depot does inclusive marketing


So we are continuing along with my quest to share with you more details about how brands today are incorporating inclusive marketing into the way they show up on a day-to-day basis and into their marketing on a day-to-day basis.

So today, I am so excited to bring to you a conversation that I had with Chantee Lagon from The Home Depot. The Home Depot has been doing some really great things in the world of inclusive marketing and winning some awards that you’re gonna hear more about.

So I was really excited to dig into just exactly the way they think about inclusive marketing, the way they’re practicing it, and how it is infused into what it is that they do.

So after this short break, you’re gonna hear my conversation with Shauntae from the Home Depot, and it’s a really, really great one.

Sonia: Hey, Chantay. Thank you so much for joining me today. How are you?

Chantee: I’m doing well. Thank you so much for having me, and I’m really looking forward to this conversation.

Sonia: Me too. Alright. Well, before we get too far into it, tell the people who are you and what you do.

Chantee: Yes. My name is Chantay Legan, and I am the senior manager of multicultural marketing at The Home Depot.

Sonia: Okay. I’m starting to hear more and more about this title. Like, we’ve got positions that are specific to multicultural marketing, and positions that are specific to inclusive marketing.

Is this a newer thing that you’re seeing pop up, or is it that have people been performing the function and we now just have a different name for them?

Chantee: I think they’ve been performing the function for a few years now, actually. I think that what’s happening, though, is that our multicultural customers are becoming more important, and more visible. And that’s a great thing.

So I think even though the roles may have existed, we’re seeing a little bit more exposure for the work that these teams are doing. I really think that’s what’s happening.

Sonia: Yeah. Okay. Here’s what it’s already starting what I knew was gonna happen with this interview. I have some questions I wanna ask you, but you’re gonna say something that I wanna dig into. You just mentioned that the multicultural customer is becoming more visible.

I have a theory that we have been there all along, but our expectations have changed the brands that we work with. I wanna hear, like, what your thoughts are on why the multicultural customer is more visible from your perspective.

Chantee: Yeah. I think you’re right that it is a function of us having been there all along, and I say us as a black woman. We are certainly customers with buying power. We are customers that are loyal in very many cases.

And I would say that’s the same for some of my other multicultural customers who companies like Home Depot and others are certainly servicing day in and day out. So I do think that we have been here all along, but it’s a matter of our relationships changing and our expectations.

I think you’re exactly right about needing to be seen, needing to be, reflected, and being served in a way that makes us feel like we are seen and heard.

Sonia: Absolutely. Okay. So I’m curious. What does inclusive marketing mean to you whenever you hear that term?

Chantee: To me, it means making sure that you are bringing a customer’s heart into the situation just like you might their wallet. And so we do think about this continuum of being able to reach people on an emotional level.

And there’s a certain inclusivity that you’ve got to make sure that you are practicing if you’re going to reach someone on an inclusive level, on an emotional level. At the same time, there are transactions that we all have to make. There are certain expectations that we might have in terms of, say, delivery options or delivering value when it comes to our products.

So I think inclusivity really does speak to the heart of the matter and make sure that we’re serving our customers in a way that makes them feel connected to.

Sonia:  One of the things that I was excited to chat with you about is that Home Depot won an award recently from the A and A, and they named you the most culturally inclusive brand. And first of all, congratulations.

That’s a wonderful feat, and I’m just so excited to hear about more brands doing things like that, especially big brands like Home Depot, and the Home Depot.

So I’m curious, what does inclusive marketing and multicultural marketing mean at the Home Depot that has enabled you to operate at this level?

Chantee: I think, really, it hearkens back to what we were just saying. There’s this idea and this element of connection and making sure that our customers who visit our stores day in and day out feel like they’re being served, making sure that we’re understanding what our customers’ needs are and reflecting that in everything that we do, whether it’s inside our store support building, which is kind of our corporate headquarters, where we have associate resource groups that are inclusive, that are making sure that our associates who are diverse feel like they have a connection point.

Or whether it’s out in the field in our stores, making sure, again, that we are servicing our customers in a way that makes them feel like we’re seeing and literally hearing them. We have associates who speak Spanish and who proudly recognize that on their aprons.

And I think that’s a part of that, making sure that you are literally being heard and that you feel like you can be communicated with in just one example.

Sonia: For sure. Alright. So Molly Batten, and hopefully I’m saying her name correctly, she

Chantee: You are. Yes.

Sonia: She’s, your chief marketing officer, and she said this, and this is her response to, you all winning this award. She says we believe that we make meaningful connections by serving our communities, understanding our customers, and reflecting them in everything we do and in all of our communications, both inside and outside our stores.

And I love the quote. I love the reflection, and I’m curious, Is this commitment, is an extension of the overall brand values that you all have?

Chantee: Absolutely. And I’m glad that you, you know, kind of naturally brought that into the conversation because it is. When I think about programs like Retool Your School, which is a program that aims to upgrade and uplift HBCU campuses, historically black colleges, and universities.

It is a values-based program. And when I think about the fact that one of our values is giving back or building strong relationships, In that particular case, that is exactly what we’re doing.

Sonia: Yeah.

Chantee: And so most of the things that we do from a brand perspective and business decisions from the top down do tend to be these values-based kinds of decisions and these values-based kinds of initiatives.

And so you’re right, Molly’s quote is right in line with what we believe in as a brand. And then when you think about programs like Retool Your School, celebrating 15 years, I will say, also, having done this for quite some time now, it’s because the brand does believe in things like giving back and building strong relationships and doing the right thing for these HBCUs.

Sonia: Yeah. Shout out to Reed’s Whalier School. I am a FAMU grad. FAMU is an HBCU for those who might not be aware. And I remember, like, several campaigns that I would get were like, vote for FAMU. We vote for FAMU. So, yes, very much, remember and very much appreciated.

Chantee: Well, listen. I have to say, I did my first, tour, if you will. Few stops. FAMU had to be my favorite, and I can’t say that too loud. Right, because I’m sure there were other listeners.

But of the places that I was able to visit as part of the Retool Your School campaign, I did feel welcomed by the FAMU Rattlers and all the family and friends who were there. It was fun.

Sonia: Yes. Well, I mean, I’m not gonna go into it because I would just say, oh, you would hear the fam you love all coming through it, and that fam you love means, like, just letting everyone else know there’s no comparison.

Okay. Alright. So I’m curious. You talked about, the retool your school as a community program, and in Molly’s quote that we were referring to earlier, she talked about a commitment to communities. I’m wondering why is it important to have that commitment and support of the communities.

Is it a matter of that heart aspect that you referenced earlier as what’s important?

Chantee: That is exactly right. If you are deciding on who to buy from, there’s gotta be something beyond the fact that it’s on sale depending on the item.

Right? And so this emotional connection, this heart of the matter does get to that. It’s making a difference in people’s lives and being able to say and show that we care and that we’ll show up with the retooled school, that we’ve been showing up to for 15 years.

And so that, I think, really does help kind of show that representation and that we are connected and want to support the very people who shop with us day in and day out.

Sonia: Yeah. I’m curious. We talked about how more communities are starting to become more vocal. And I’m wondering how you all and even if you have recommendations for how other brands can understand the identities that exist within their customer base so that they know.

I think sometimes intuitively people understand, yes, we’ve got a diverse customer base, but they don’t actually define it. They don’t know what are these identities that we need to be working on to ensure that they feel seen whenever they’re interacting with a brand. I think there’s ensuring that they feel seen whenever they’re interacting with a brand.

Chantee: I think there’s so much that happens in terms of research at most corporations, I would imagine. And you do these days know your customer base inside and out. I would guess that there are probably so many, you know, maybe research departments at certain corporations or ways to do some social listening in some of the social media channels that exist so that you can get a sense of who your customer base is and what it is that they need.

They are going to tell you. I think too when you think about our stores and the kinds of questions that customers ask when they come in and they need help with projects.

That gives you a sense too of what your customer needs. And I think some of that listening so that you can understand how to best serve them goes a long way.

Sonia: For sure. Okay. Now, I know where you are now. You’re at this very high point where inclusive marketing is culturally relevant, marketing is you all are operating like a well-oiled machine. Can you talk a little bit about the journey to getting there, because something that often doesn’t happen overnight? So I’m curious if you have any insights to share on the evolution of ensuring that the brand can do this consistently.

Chantee: Yeah. I think it does start, as we were talking about before. Our brand values make a lot of difference. If we are infusing everything that we do with this idea of doing the right thing or making sure that we have respect for all people, which is another one of our values.

These are things that have been in place since the company’s founding. And so I think starting there, making sure that there is a north star or something that you are working toward as a company that helps infuse anything that you do.

That is probably where it started with us foundationally, just making sure that we are taking care of our associates because that is what happens. And then, of course, the associates go on to take care of our customers.

The famous oft-repeated quote from our founders. And so I think if you look at it from that perspective, that’s a start. I think things have become more and more evolved as we learn more about our customers’ needs.

You’ve gotta make sure that if there are people in stores who are working alongside you, you are then making sure they feel equipped to help out the customers who are coming into our stores every day. So, as that becomes more and more refined on a one-to-one basis, I think about some of the data that we have these days.

And so that’s probably the future and where we are now. If you start with values, you’re then in the store servicing customers, then you start looking at some of this digital-based data that helps you understand where customers are in their journey and how you can help them along. That’s probably the evolution of things.

Sonia: Okay. I’m curious. What are your thoughts or your philosophy on bringing your partners along with you most brands have partners that they work with who are collaborating, helping execute on your plans, your vision, and your strategy. So how do you get them to extend the vision that you all have from an inclusive marketing, multicultural marketing standpoint?

Chantee: When I think about the best multicultural marketing groups or the best multicultural marketing disciplines, education is a big part of it. And making sure that your partners feel equipped, being a resource for your partners is incredibly important.

And I think trust goes a long way. Being comfortable enough to have these conversations where folks can ask you questions and you can give honest responses. That’s how the trust builds internally.

And then, ultimately, what’s messaged out there in the market is on point because you’ve had the conversations inside the building, so to speak.

Sonia: Yeah. I’m wondering, is there a lot of, like there’s a lot of education as you mentioned that needs to happen with your partners, but I imagine there’s a lot of education that needs to go with your other internal partners and team members as well who have charge of different aspects of marketing, but they don’t necessarily have that wear the multicultural hat in their title and their responsibilities as well.

Chantee: I think what you’re asking, I got it got a little broken up again there. Okay. How is it that we are taking the learnings that we have and sharing them with our partners even if they aren’t necessarily responsible I think in some cases, it’s a matter of making sure that you have a seat at the table. And it’s not necessarily that we are making the creative decisions, but we’re consulted. And I think that often is the key.

How can you take your multicultural team as consultants along with you? We may not be the ultimate decision-maker, but can we offer some advice? Can we maybe get one of our multicultural agency partners? We have a few of them that we work with, offer some insights that are data research based that help inform some of the decisions or some of the creative that’s being produced.

Sonia: Yeah. Have you all been able to measure business results or impacts of your efforts over time as you’ve been working on building inclusive campaigns and just growing as an inclusive brand?

Chantee: Yeah. I think when you look at who some of our, what we call, next-generation customers are, you know, our younger customers, they’re they’re a diverse customer base. And so a few things that we think about, the fact that more women are becoming homeowners. 20% were single women in 2020, becoming homeowners.

And then, you know, you think about more women becoming pros Over 17% since 2016. And so some of the work we’ve done to celebrate and empower women in home improvement, we see the results of that.

We see that there is an engagement and that there are people who resonate and feel good about the fact that we are championing women, becoming homeowners, becoming pros. We had an incredible spot called Give a Girl a power tool. Give a girl a tool. And it’s one of those things that, you know, it it is really just hearkening to this idea of you can do this, and Right. We’re here to help you.

You know? It’s it’s truly how doers, in this case, women, get more done. The other thing I think about is the fact that these next-generation home buyers are younger. They’re maybe a little more experienced in terms of homeownership.

And so we wanna give them the confidence to make their house a home. How do we do that? By educating, teaching them, and helping them to understand that drill or that ladder or that paint product.

How can we educate you on how to use those products so that you feel confident and can take on some of those projects? And to that end, where I’m going with this, is we see literally traffic to our website because of this content. You know? So it’s helpful information that we do see our customers engaging with and coming back time and again to learn how to take on some of these projects.

Sonia: Very cool. Alright. So before we switch gears and wrap in our wrap-up, I do wanna ask you because, we’re saying 2 different terminologies, and I’m wondering if you see a difference between inclusive marketing and multicultural marketing, and if so, like, what are the nuances of each?

Chantee: Yeah. I think of multicultural almost in a sense that, you know, this younger demographic, the next generation of home buyers, yes, they’re multicultural, but it’s almost as though, you know, that’s not any one ethnicity.

We are seeing more and more that some of our, let’s say, black customers who are younger are also acknowledging some of the trends that their Latino friends might be celebrating or the holidays that they celebrate. Like, there’s a little bit of an exchange.

So I think of multicultural in that way. Like, there’s there’s a lot that you can glean from a cultural perspective, from people who don’t necessarily look like you. So, I think there’s that.

When I think about inclusivity, it’s how can we make sure that everyone is included. How are we making sure that we are keeping top of mind that we have a broad customer base and making sure, again, that they feel seen and heard? It’s almost the output of recognizing that there is this rich, rich culture from so many different people to pull from and share.

Sonia: Okay. Very cool.

Chantee: Does that help?

Sonia: Like, that’s this is just It does.

Chantee: Okay.

Sonia: Yeah. No. It does. I think that our field is still so new that there are a lot of new terms and best practices that are being developed even now. So that’s why I’m always super curious to hear what other people the way they think about it because there isn’t necessarily one right answer, and we’re all shaping it together. Right? So as we go along.

Chantee: That’s exactly right.

Sonia: Alright. Can you tell me about a time when a brand made you feel like you belonged?

Chantee: When a brand made me feel like I belonged. Wow. That is a really good question, Sonia. That is a really good question. I mean, you know, I don’t want to state the obvious, but I’m gonna go there. I feel like, having been in the world of journalism for many years and coming to The Home Depot. So I used to work in newspapers and media, old school. Right? And so coming to The Home Depot was a decision.

It was, okay. I’m gonna leave this old world and come to this new retail space. And it’s one of those things that I wasn’t sure about. But after walking into some of the buildings, and meeting some of the people, I have to say, it was it’s a brand that lives its values.

And I felt included. I felt like I could make a difference at this company, and it has proven to be true. And I do think that there’s a value that people place on just making sure that there is respect, truly, for all people at this company.

And it makes sense that it would be one of those values that we hold dear. So I’m I’m gonna say The Home Depot. I’m I’m gonna I’m gonna take that route. I do feel that I have I have been seen. I have been heard. I have been respected and acknowledged at this company.

Sonia: Love to hear it. Love to hear it. Alright. Any parting words? Because I’m I’m so excited about like, our conversation has been super rich, and I probably could talk to you for ages ages and ages, but we can’t we can’t do that. So I wanna just ask, do you have any parting words of wisdom for marketers and business leaders who are aspiring to build inclusive brands and to just do a better job overall of, including more of the people that they serve no matter what their identity is?

Chantee: Yeah. I think that it’s about trust at the end of the day. I think there’s something to be said for trusting what your customers are telling you and making the adjustment or making sure that you’re doing your best to connect.

And I think, internally, for marketing teams, it’s trusting your partners. It’s asking questions and, you know, understanding that the answer may not be one that you expected, but trusting that perspective and being willing to hear it out and to do some things differently. Or perhaps, hopefully, you’re doing the right thing already, and you can continue down that path of trust and understanding that we are doing what we can to make sure that our customers are feeling seen and heard.

Sonia: Very cool. Chantee, thank you again for stopping by. This has been a pleasure. I learned so much, and it’s just been it’s been a thrill. Thank you.

Chantee: Well, thank you. Thank you so much, Sonia. I’m so glad that you had a chance to talk today. Like, I really do. This is one of my first interviews in a while. So especially on this side of the house. So I appreciate you being so kind and gracious with me. Thank you very much for having me.

Sonia: My pleasure.

Chantay had so many cool things to share, and I’m super curious to hear about what was the thing that was most of interest to you in terms of how the Home Depot approaches inclusive marketing.

Send me a note by email. Let’s chat on social media. Whatever way works best for you, let’s have a conversation in the DMs. I wanna hear all about it.

That’s it for today’s episode. If you like this show, and I sure hope you did, it was a great one. I hope that you will share it with a friend, your colleagues, and your network. I’d like to think it helps more people do a better job of practicing inclusive marketing and making more people feel like they belong. So you’re doing really great work whenever you do. Also, please leave a review for the show in your podcast player of choice. That also goes a long way towards helping more people discover the show.

And one more thing, are you getting the inclusion and marketing newsletter? Each week, I send stories, insights, tips, tools, and all kinds of goodness to help you build an inclusive brand that attracts and retains a bigger and more diverse customer base. Go to inclusion of to get signed up. I’ll also drop a link to that in the show notes for you below.

Until next time, remember, everyone deserves to have a place where they belong.

Let’s use our individual and collective power to ensure more people feel like they do.

Thanks so much for listening. Talk to you soon.

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