Promoting inclusivity, diversity, and equity is more important now than ever before.
In the words of Dr. Sally Eaves, “If you’re not purposely advancing equity, you’re probably allowing inequity to exist”.
This is especially true for your marketing team, who act as your business’s link to the outside world. Marketing teams today must understand the value of accurately representing and respecting all audiences, regardless of their age, gender, sexual orientation, race, or ability. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it also helps you build trust in audiences who have been traditionally marginalized by big business.
But how can you create inclusive marketing that is sincere in its effort and feels authentic to savvy consumers who can spot token representation from a mile away? Well, here’s a quick guide to get you started.
Inclusivity in marketing is a trend that was spurred into life on the back of movements like the #MeToo campaign and the ongoing struggle by Black Lives Matter activists. These movements inspired people to educate themselves and created more savvy, culturally aware consumers. While better-educated consumers might be a headache at first, adjusting your marketing strategies to become more inclusive can only be a good thing for your business and society as a whole.
Inclusive marketing does more than represent folks fairly — it also builds trust in consumers. A recent poll found that 49% of consumers say that they do not purchase goods from businesses that fail to represent their values, meaning a failure to update your marketing strategy can harm your brand identity and result in declining sales figures.
Inclusive marketing can also help galvanize your existing employees and boost your profile in the job market. That’s because many traditionally marginalized folks are used to being belittled or ignored by brand campaigns. So, when you step out from the crowd and state your commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in a public space, you show all your stakeholders that you care for them and value their contribution to your business.
If your first investment into inclusivity is a marketing campaign, you are doing it wrong. You simply cannot create marketing strategies themed around inclusivity if you have not yet put in the work needed to ensure that your internal operations reflect inclusion, diversity, and workplace equity.
You can begin the journey towards becoming an inclusive employer by investing in training to help folks in your workplace understand the value of diverse workplace cultures. This training should shift conversations away from ideas like “cultural fit” in hiring practices, and aim to instill universally accepted values that create a sense of belonging for all the folks who work for your business.
If you get the sense that your employees are hesitant about DEI initiatives, consider bringing in a guest speaker or leader who can clearly explain the need for such changes. Ideally, you’ll want to bring in a guest speaker who can speak first-hand to the experience of marginalized folks, as this ensures that they have credibility when addressing your employees.
The key to inclusive marketing is all about representing folks in a realistic, respectful way that cherishes difference. But giving fair representation is harder than it might seem. This is because no group is a monolith, and everyone experiences their race, gender, sexual orientation, and ability differently. So, what might seem “realistic” to one person may come across as pandering or offensive to the next.
The key is to refocus on what your business actually offers, and focus more on agreed-upon issues. As an example, let’s say you’re leading the marketing team for a new line of healthy smoothies. It can be tempting to follow the traditional route of branding that would make claims about massive weight loss and run B-roll of size 0 models. But, instead, consider reaching out to a fat-friendly doctor who understands the pressures of fat-phobia and can help you create a campaign that helps folks who want to lose weight feel respected, rather than vilified.
No marketing team sets out to create campaigns that intentionally offend traditionally marginalized demographics. But, we all have our blind spots, and may not even be aware of how our language and content could come across negatively and reinforce harmful stereotypes.
Your marketing team should already have a set of core values when they create their campaign. Typically, these involve ideas about a brand’s identity, and include short, snappy messages like “Bold”, “Trusted”, or “Creative”. But, marketing teams today should add a new mantra “Do No Harm”.
By centralizing a marketing mantra of “Do No Harm”, your marketing team will become more vigilant and will work harder to ensure that the messages they are promoting do not offend the groups they may be trying to build trust within. You can further this commitment by investing your budget into inclusivity research, which strives to get a better picture of how traditionally marginalized demographics will respond to your next campaign.
Creating authentically inclusive marketing campaigns is difficult and even the best marketers get it wrong from time to time. If this happens you should offer a sincere apology with future commitments to improve your understanding and representation of all demographics. You can start creating inclusive marketing by investing in DEI schemes in your workplace, and by conducting research that helps your marketers create campaigns that respect difference and help build trust in your brand.