How MAC Cosmetics weaves a D&I-driven purpose into its brand DNA

Three diverse people posing for camera

4 mins, 10 secs read time

When it comes to living up to values of diversity and inclusion (D&I;), MAC Cosmetics is a brand that puts its money where its mouth is—literally. The VIVA GLAM initiative, raising funds through the sales of lipstick, has donated over $400 million to provide services to people living with HIV and AIDS through the MAC AIDS Fund. This matters to consumers since 88% have said they’d buy a product from a company that leads with purpose. And it matters to candidates, too; 84% of millennials prioritize working for a company whose purpose they support.

I had the opportunity to hear Andrea Flynn, Vice President Global Corporate Citizenship and Sustainability at MAC Cosmetics speak at INBOUND 18. Andrea discussed some of the approaches MAC has taken to embed a spirit of inclusion into the company culture. Here are a few of the takeaways she shared that every Talent and HR professional can get inspired from.

Key takeaway #1: Don’t say you support something you can’t back up through actions.

Before you start a communication campaign about committing to a purpose (whether it’s LGBTQIA rights, equal pay, parental leave) make sure you are already doing it. In MAC’s case, the company started with the idea of raising money and awareness for HIV/AIDS, an issue that particularly affected the fashion community. Choosing drag icon RuPaul as their first face of VIVA GLAM (and over the years other celebrities such as Lady Gaga, Elton John, and Boy George) resonated because the company had already created the MAC AIDS Fund. And with the money they’ve raised through this campaign, they’ve been dedicated to addressing the link between poverty and HIV/AIDS and supporting organizations that provide services to people living with HIV/AIDS.

Key takeaway #2: Purpose should flow from bottom to top.

Listen to your employees and customers. What do they care about? Perhaps your employees are already involved in grassroots initiatives that are related to a cause that matters to them. Any sort of branding or campaign you do about purpose will be much more meaningful if it’s based on the values that matter to your community. Nancy Mahon, Senior Vice President at MAC and Global Executive Director of the Global AIDS Fund writes:

The MAC AIDS Fund is truly the heart and soul of our company—there is commitment to the cause at every level.”

Key takeaway #3: Not everyone’s going to agree with you.

If your company decides to go all in with purpose and live it day in and day out, it’s important to recognize that you’re opening yourself up to criticism. Nike can attest to this after the buzz its ad featuring Colin Kaepernick has received. Starbucks has been criticized numerous times for its holiday cups, but continues to design them. Whether people don’t agree with your particular cause, question what it has to do with your business, or believe you should be supporting some other issue instead, there will be some naysayers out there. Understand and accept this, and know that your customers and advocates will step up for you as a brand. Don’t be afraid to be bold enough to support a cause and have your brand stand by it.

Key takeaway #4: Give up your voice.

Sometimes taking the focus off yourself and giving someone else’s voice a chance to be heard is the best thing you can do for your brand. Look for opportunities to showcase employees, customers, advocates, or people who’ve been impacted by the work you’ve done—they can speak most authentically about your brand. MAC is taking this approach with the More Than T film. The project is produced by the MAC AIDS Fund, and the entire cast and crew are trans individuals, including director Silas Howard and writer Jen Richards. This project ties in with the work of the MAC AIDS Fund to promote equal rights and combat stigma about HIV/AIDS in the trans community. Of the project, director Silas Howard says, “That they wanted a trans director was huge. It’s such a radical step to look at telling stories from someone who’s part of the world, knowing that we’re all so totally different.”

Disengagement at work is a challenge for many companies, and outlining a clear purpose and creating an inclusive culture are two critical ways to ignite engagement and company pride. These takeaways from Andrea and MAC offer exciting and innovative ways to showcase inclusion and turn employees and customers into advocates and fans.

When it comes to embedding diversity and inclusion into your brand’s DNA, hiring is often the first process we think of as being a prime area of interest. It can be daunting to kick off any type of D&I; initiative, especially in recruiting. If you don’t know where to start, read our article to learn 10 tips to kickoff your diversity recruitment initiative.

Dinah Alobeid

Dinah Alobeid

is the Senior Director of Content and Communications at Greenhouse. She helps shape and share the Greenhouse brand story and keeps its audiences informed on company news and industry knowledge. Dinah has over 16 years of communications and content experience in the technology field and prior to Greenhouse, she built and ran the communications team at Brandwatch. She's an avid writer, dancer, foodie and book nerd. You can connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.