Apr 28, 2023
Customers expect more from brands than great products and services. They expect brands they support to align with their values, practice social responsibility, and reflect diversity and inclusion in everything they do. 72% of consumers believe companies should have a legal responsibility to people and the planet - and a huge part of that responsibility to people requires that brands practice inclusivity - not only in their marketing but in their practices behind the scenes.
Inclusive marketing has become a buzz term over the last few years, but it's way more than a momentary trend: it's a call to action for brands to be inclusive in how they speak to and represent their customers online and in real life that won't be going away anytime soon.
Inclusive marketing ensures that how you present your brand and speak to your audience is welcoming and inclusive to different identities and backgrounds. It requires that brands consider the diverse needs and preferences of different groups of people so that they can be respectful and sensitive in their communication. Ultimately, inclusive marketing is a strategy every brand should prioritize because it's essential to creating a sense of community, belonging, trust, and loyalty among your audience. Not to mention, it’s simply the right thing to do.
While brands shouldn't expect to master the nuances of inclusive marketing overnight, there are essential steps that brands can take to make it an integral part of the way they show up online. Keep reading for a guide on where and how to start.
The first step to inclusive marketing is knowing your audience - and this means going beyond basic demographics like age, gender identity, or race. It's about understanding how your audience thinks, how they speak, how they feel about particular topics and issues, and how they like to be engaged. This requires social listening and participating in two-way conversations with your audience. Beyond that, it requires a willingness to accept criticism and take responsibility when you might get things wrong - which, in this social media climate, is inevitable. Without a sincere effort to deeply understand your audience beyond age, race, and gender, brands can easily straddle the fence between inclusive marketing and the danger zone that is tokenism.
"Tokenism is about believing you need to do something to showcase an uptick of allyship when you actually don't believe it."
Rochelle Robertson, Founder of TING
Inclusive marketing can only be achieved if there is a diverse range of identities taking part in decision-making and content creation. This boils down to who is on your team. Are the people who are making the decisions, developing strategies, and creating content reflective of the poeple in your audience? If not, fixing that should be a major priority.
Having different and dynamic perspectives as part of your process ensures that your marketing is inclusive and limits the possibility of sharing content that might be considered insensitive, incorrect, or offensive.
"Who are the people creating that strategy and making sure that tone of voice is correct because if they're not representative of the people or if there is no representation of those people within those teams, then actually it doesn't actually come across as authentic."
Vanessa Sanyauke, Founder of Girls Talk London
The social discourse around the live action remake of The Little Mermaid is proof of why representation matters. When people see themselves represented in the content they consume, it makes them feel seen and valued. It also creates a deeper connection and sense of relatability with the brands they support. Audit your content to ensure that it reflects the people you're speaking to, and if it does not, consider evaluating how you can make your content more diverse by collaborating with influencers and UGC creators. Fenty Beauty is a great example of how to do this well.
"Get really clear on the audience that you serve and make sure that the audience you serve doesn't feel excluded."
Ren Baogun, Strategy Consultant at Revolt London
Inclusive marketing is not limited to race, ethnicity, gender identity, or age. It also includes accessibility for the disabled and disadvantaged.
When creating content, consider the people you are speaking to. For example, if you have an international audience or an audience of immigrants, consider sharing content with multiple translations. You also want to use alt text for images for visually impaired people. Add closed captioning to your videos, and design your website and materials with accessibility in mind.
Ren Baogun also shared, "It's actions that really speak the loudest and ultimately those actions have to be involved in your processes, your brand, content creation, and brand strategy right at the front of it as opposed to thinking about it right at the end of it."
Inclusive marketing isn't just about talking the talk; you also have to walk the walk! It's pivotal that brands use their platforms to support and stand up for the very people who support them by patronizing their businesses. Ben & Jerry's is the perfect example of doing this well: they've become as well known for their stance on social issues as they are for their icecream.
Long gone of the days when it was considered faux pas to speak on social issues. You must take a stance on social issues and address them in your content. This effort makes the difference between brands who prioritize inclusivity for their own benefit and brands who prioritize inclusivity for the betterment of us all.
Ultimately, brands should not expect to achieve inclusive marketing overnight. Consider these steps your starting point and recognize that it requires long-term effort, plenty of trial and error, and a constant willingness to learn and adapt.