inclusive marketing

Leading the way with inclusive marketing

04th Aug 2022

Leading the way with inclusive marketing

Truly innovative brands understand that in a fast moving and digitally enabled world, brands that succeed are able to encompass their core values, beliefs and loyal customer base, whilst rejuvenating their brand storytelling to fit into the modern age. Seamlessly being able to weave their brand stories with a fresh viewpoint and delivery to match today’s connected, diverse and purpose conscious world. Inclusive marketing is the key component to keeping brands timeless yet relevant.

In this piece, we explore what makes up a winning inclusive marketing campaign and how it can be successfully applied across global markets.

The evolution of Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) to Equity and Belonging

In recent years the understanding of Diversity & Inclusion initiatives has grown and evolved to add the “E” for Equity and more recently the “B” for Belonging.

Unlike equality, which focuses on providing equal resources regardless of context, equity focuses on the process of adjusting resources to those that need them. Equality is treating everyone the same, whereas equity is about achieving the same benefits, even if it means that everyone receives different, though still just and fair, treatment.

inclusive marketing

Belonging is the ultimate goal, the sense of security and support that filters from acceptance, inclusion and identity for a member of a certain group. It can only be achieved when an individual can bring their authentic self to a setting, which in the case of business is the workplace.

Organisations that don’t implement DEI practices are more likely to miss out on opportunities internally and externally to tap into people’s potential. A study conducted by McKinsey & Company in partnership with The Society for Human Research Management (SHRM), evaluated the performance of companies with different levels of workplace diversity. They found that companies that exhibit gender and ethnic diversity within their staffing structure are, respectively, 15% and 35% more likely to outperform less diverse peers. The same study found that organisations with more racial and gender diversity bring in more sales revenue, more customers and higher profits. This framework can also be applied to marketing, to create inclusive marketing.

What is inclusive marketing?

Inclusive marketing can be defined as creating content that truly reflects the diverse communities that brands and organisations serve. It means that we are elevating diverse voices and role models, decreasing cultural bias, and leading positive social change through thoughtful and respectful marketing content.

There are multiple factors that these simple yet very effective changes can enable a brand to outperform their competitors. And the figures speak for themselves: the stock price of diverse brands performs 69% better than their counterparts. Inclusive marketing helps drive trust and loyalty  – 70% of consumers are more trusting of brands that represent diversity, which in turn drives purchase intent. Microsoft studied Tommy Hilfiger’s adaptive collection campaign as an example of how to use multiple dimensions of diversity in marketing – the campaign drove a 23-point purchase intent vs. a non-inclusive yet appealing advert only gaining 10-point purchase intent. 

Online data shows consumers are on the lookout for more diverse and inclusive brands: between Jan 2020 and Jan 2021 Google data saw a 181% uplift in consumers searching for ‘diverse brands’. An Edelman Earned Brand survey of 8,000 people across eight markets also finds that consumers believe that brands are a more powerful force for societal change than government. More than half of people (53%) believe that brands can do more to solve social ills than the government, and 54% believe it is easier for people to get brands to address social problems than to get the government to act.

Set yourself up for success 

So how to go about inclusive marketing, particularly in an international context? Let’s break down the core principles and analyse some local and global success stories.

The core principles of inclusive marketing:

  1. Diverse representationDiverse ethnic representation across a campaign is essential to connecting with a more diverse audience.
  2. Authenticity If your message and tone are aligned with your core values and beliefs, the authenticity of the campaign will shine through.
  3. De-stereotypingBreak down barriers and challenge stereotype roles.
  4. Cultural relevance Is the campaign relevant to the market? Being aware of historical context, appreciating and studying the culture, collecting local insights and seeking expert help where needed can help create a truly relevant and engaging campaign.
  5. Intentional or inclusive languageLanguage has enormous power; it can increase understanding and enhance relationships, or it can misunderstand or even injure others. Make sure your intention is clear.
  6. Collaboration and activismWork with people or companies that share your vision and values to create a campaign that resonates with your audience(s). 

1.2 billion people globally live with some form of disability which accounts to 15% of the world population, yet in global advertising there is only a 1% representation of this group.

Maltesers’ campaign that aired in September 2016 in the UK during the Paralympic Games is a great example of representation at its best. Maltesers worked with disabled charity Scope to help create the advert which aims to encourage everyday conversations surrounding disability and showing more diversity on television.

After the campaign aired Maltesers had 8.1% uplift in value sales, 19.4% uplift in units sold, out of the people who had seen the campaign were 20% more likely to say that they liked Maltesers as a brand. The advert was also posted on the Maltesers YouTube channel and became the highest organically viewed advert in Maltesers’ history, currently sitting at 2.2 million views.

Similarly Smirnoff has made their messaging and stance clear over the last few decades by acting as an ally and activist for the queer, non-binary and transgender community.  Their “we’re open” campaign in 2017 truly incorporated the key principles of inclusive marketing whilst promoting more than just diversity and representation. This campaign is about awareness and driving progress in that area with a thought provoking tagline of “labels are for bottles, not people”.

Ariel India’s #sharetheload campaign promotes female empowerment and is a campaign based around gender inclusion. Showing that household chores are not just for women, this message has been built into Ariel’s culture in a very sensitive manner to not upset their local markets and has had a very positive impact on sales, recording a 76% sales increase. 

Always pay attention to the cultural agenda

Combining cultural sensitivities and the DEI agenda has to be done very carefully, as one cannot function without the other. Failing to do so could be counterproductive as good intentions could turn extremely damaging to the brand.

Tanishq / Titan India, released a controversial advert showcasing a inter-religious wedding between a pregnant Hindu woman and Muslim man. The advert was meant to be a beautiful confluence of two religions, traditions and cultures, but was very badly received with various sections of Indian society associating it to a ‘Love Jihad’ movement. The backlash across social media resulted in the advert being removed from circulation and the company stock price falling by – 2.5% in one day. While this campaign was developed locally, the cultural sensitivities alongside a DEI agenda weren’t addressed. A good illustration that gaining granular local insights is essential to navigating sensitive topics.

The roadmap to global inclusive marketing

Here are 7 principles to consider when creating an inclusive marketing strategy:

  1. Analyse your current marketing strategy and brand purpose – Take a deeper look at your current offering to see where there is room for you to embed inclusive marketing and think about where you want to be going with your strategy and purpose.
  2. Diversify your team – With a diverse team you’ll be in a much better place to get different points of view and a better understanding of how to appeal to diverse audiences – there have been multiple studies to show the strength of having a diverse team.
  3. Make inclusive marketing part of your brand planning – Embedding inclusive marketing or your DEI strategy into everyday brand planning, means you are taking a step towards shifting your brand culture and making DEI an integral recurring component rather than being used as a one off from time to time.
  4. Research your audience – Marketing 101, know your target audience. They might be more diverse than you think, if you haven’t researched them correctly you’ll never know how to approach them correctly. 
  5. Representation is key Use imagery that reflects your diverse audience. It’s simple, but very important. Make sure you represent and appeal to all of your audience.
  6. Embed inclusivity into your written content – Inclusive language is vital and is not something you can improvise. Have an expert to guide you, especially when looking at international markets with different languages to consider.
  7. Rework content to cater for all demographics, sub-groups and communities – it might take a bit more time but it’s worth the investment.

Find more cultural insights on our insights page.

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