Every organisation wants to help make a difference in our world today. But what strategies do they choose to take? The wrong approach can damage the company’s image or even face potential legal action. You can potentially lose 50% of the market if you’re not being inclusive. But why is it important? Why should we care?
Inclusive campaign messaging isn’t new; one of the first of Coca-Cola’s ‘I’d like to buy the world a Coke’ advert was produced in 1971. The iconic brand truly embraced its “real” consumers from across the globe. It showed people from all different races and ethnicities with the common interests of Coca-Cola. This was ground-breaking at the time – and Coca-Cola has worked hard to continue its focus on getting its messaging right to appeal to a diverse global consumer.
What is inclusive marketing?
Have you ever had trouble relating to adverts, television programmes, or social media posts because they told stories of people with lives that differed immensely from yours? If so, you’re not alone. Inclusive marketing describes campaigns that embrace diversity. Whether related to race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexuality, physical ability and much more, brands should include people from different backgrounds so that various audiences can relate to them. They should be telling stories that EVERYONE can connect with and show under or misrepresented groups, for example, people of colour and different religious or socio-economic groups. Your marketing should be aimed at a broad range of people.
But inclusive marketing isn’t always easy to do right, and it certainly isn’t just a box-ticking exercise. It’s not just swapping images of white people with those of people of colour or changing the colour of your packaging to pink to attract more female buyers. Or putting rainbow flags on the end of social media messaging doesn’t show you’re embracing the LGBT community. It shouldn’t be about picking the “right” stock image but about making a real effort to represent diverse people in your campaigns.
Underrepresentation, discrimination, and poorly presented stereotypes are a reality in marketing. Companies and brands consistently fail to correctly reflect the societies they are trying to attract. Some research conducted by Gina Davies Institute back in 2019 showed that in adverts, men were shown working twice as often as women. And women are more often over-sexualised, being shown in revealing clothing four times more than men. Let’s hope these statistics have improved!
Inclusive marketing is about understanding what makes your audience or customers unique. Then taking this understanding and truly embracing it. Your marketing should show what’s inspiring, unique, or interesting about your consumers and how your brand supports this.
Why inclusive marketing is important
Marketing inclusiveness is essential because it positively impacts your business and the world. Here are some of the benefits of getting this right.
Inclusive marketing increases ROI
Inclusive marketing goes beyond good intentions; it’s a way for your marketing budget to work harder and increase your return on investment. It will increase sales by appealing to a broader audience if it is more inclusive. It is an effective way to help your business grow as new audiences see your campaigns, start to identify with you, and realise that your brand aligns with their lifestyle. More social groups previously not seen as mainstream consumers are becoming financially empowered.
Customers are more likely to buy from inclusive companies
People want to feel that brands genuinely understand them. Seeing a character they can relate to and enforcing their sense of belonging is increasingly important. Campaigns that appropriately reflect the target consumer are much more effective in influencing consumer behaviour. Customers feel valued when they see themselves reflected in ads and campaigns.
Customers are more likely to recommend inclusive companies to their friends and family
Everyone knows the easiest and cheapest form of marketing is a recommendation from a trusted source. Getting the messaging and representation right will enable your brand to tap into the power of word of mouth.
Inclusive companies have higher brand loyalty
Brands that practice inclusive marketing build trust with customers, which is good for brand loyalty. It can help brands connect on a deeper, more meaningful level with their audiences. Advertising should create a direct connection between your consumers and your brand – this is a critical factor in marketing. Customers are more likely to buy from brands they feel connected to and are more loyal when they feel valued.
Inclusive companies have a better reputation
If a brand can demonstrate that it supports causes its consumers care about and reflects their values, it makes customers feel like they are being heard. Consumers want to feel they are being listened to, showing that the brand cares about them. And they are more likely to buy from brands that speak up for their beliefs.
An inclusive workplace culture benefits your employees and your brand
A genuine inclusive marketing strategy should include diversity & inclusion throughout your workforce. Pretending that your brand represents values and social inclusion whilst your boardroom comprises middle-aged white men will no longer cut it. Advertising is a display of stories of people’s life experiences. So, to create those stories, marketers need to walk in their customer’s shoes. And the further removed the brand is from its audience, the more difficult this becomes.
It would help if you had the same diversity on your team to reach a market that includes people from all backgrounds. Having a team or a marketing partner that properly reflects multiple audiences and has the voice to influence these decisions will reduce the risk of subconscious biases.
Your employees are more productive when they feel valued and feel that their opinions are important. And with this sense of being valued comes more employee loyalty, which will improve your bottom line—reducing the costs associated with recruiting and training new staff. A happy, diverse, and productive workforce (at all levels) shows that the brand is living and breathing inclusivity.
5 Tips for an inclusive marketing strategy
Audit your website for audience diversity
Inclusive marketing doesn’t end with your adverts or social media posts. Think about where the customer will end up after they “click through”. It’s critical that your website and any landing pages also demonstrate diversity. Do your website’s images match the audience you created in your campaign? There is a simple way to review images across your website using Bing.com. In the search bar, type “site:” followed by your website’s URL. This will display all the images found on the website.
Perform an accessibility audit
Audit your website, the content you produce, and your advertising. Without accessible media, one in four people might not get your message. That’s 25% of your audience – the number of people with disabilities. Microsoft 365 has an Accessibility Checker that will highlight your issues and suggest ways to fix them!
By paying attention to inclusive marketing principles, you can reach your customers on a much broader scale. You will also send out a message that anyone is welcome to buy from you and that having a disability does not mean people can’t do business with you just as easily as anyone else.
Showcase diversity in campaigns and images
Inclusive advertising means having diversity authentically represented and aligned with your local market’s diversity composition. It also means considering the many dimensions of human diversity. It’s about knowing who your customers are, representing them accurately and ensuring that you’re not excluding any in your marketing. So, the images you choose matter – they should be representative of the modern families of today. And it’s not just about the people you choose to be in the pictures. It’s a good idea to use authentic and genuine people, not just actors or unrealistic models hired to play a part. Displaying real connection, with openness and balance – which Microsoft call the three metaphors of inclusion.
Using inclusive language
Ensure that you are using gender-neutral pronouns in your marketing. Refer to “they” or “them” when writing about people, and you should be offering at least a third option when asking for gender in data collection forms. Your language should be attempting to build trust; luckily, nine feelings make up trust: acceptance, celebration, clarity, confidence, hope, relaxation, relief, safety, and zest. Selecting language to resonate with these feelings can help connect with your audience.
Microsoft did a massive piece of research, and they came up with 50 words that indicate inclusion. But that doesn’t mean you should just be throwing these into your copy without the proper context. Perhaps use these as a start to build your brand’s inclusive word library – words that match your brand and your tone of voice—while understanding what is appropriate and what will offend.
Hire a diverse team
We have already talked about the benefits of having a diverse workforce. This diversity should be represented at all levels, and people should feel confident and able to voice their opinions. And everyone working on a campaign needs to know what inclusion means for your business. This is critical in any creative review process to uncover blind spots like negative stereotypes, cultural inaccuracies, or negative associations. It’s an ongoing process that requires self-assessment and challenge to eliminate biases. Contending with bias applies to all stages of marketing – not just the adverts we produce but the data and modelling tools we use.
An inclusive marketing company
Inclusive marketing strategies are good for business, especially when you consider the rise of Millennials and Gen Z. Younger consumers want to know that the hard-earned money they spend is doing good in the world. Businesses will see the value in trying to appeal to people from all walks of life rather than just targeting a single segment. Inclusive marketing is a win-win. Your company will attract new customers and grow while simultaneously improving your company’s image in the eyes of consumers.
It’s unacceptable for today’s companies to continue marketing in the same old way. Our society is making great strides forward, and we should celebrate those advancements. It’s time that marketing reflected that.
Let’s start rewarding inclusive companies and punishing those lagging behind the competition. As consumers, we should buy from inclusive businesses and support inclusive brands. A growing population believes inclusiveness and diversity are essential social values affecting their buying decisions. Take a look at our short video highlighting some of the statistics around public perception of inclusive marketing.
If you want help defining an inclusive marketing strategy or would like us to audit your existing content or website, please get in touch.