Inclusive marketing was born from a simple observation: society is evolving and marketing has a role to play in this evolution. Our era is marked by strong changes, whether technological or societal. Voices are being raised to make more visible communities that have been underrepresented or even discriminated against for years, and many believe that companies have a role to play in this change. They can contribute in many ways, including being more inclusive, both in their communications and in their user experience or product development. But what is behind this term and more importantly, why is it an issue for companies today?
What is inclusive marketing?
It’s a new kind of marketing that creates content to reflect the diverse communities targeted by products and services. The goal is to provide visibility to a broader range of voices, bodies and representations.
More and more companies are concerned by the subject and are looking to change their habits. This is the case with Google, which recently shared an “All-in” guide to inclusive marketing. This decision stems from an observation: there is a general trend of under-representation of certain categories of people based on criteria such as sexual orientation, skin color, religion, disability and many other data…
For example, in 2017, only 10% of creatives reviewed in Google’s inclusivity audit represented black or Latino people. It’s true that for a long time most ads have either not represented historically marginalized communities or have represented them through stereotypes. For example, black people tend to be represented through music, sports or dance rather than in other situations.
Faced with these findings, which Google is not alone in drawing, the idea of a more inclusive marketing practice has emerged. Its objective is to diversify the representations submitted to users. The goal is to represent the diversity of the population through all kinds of marketing content: texts, advertisements, products, etc.
A consumer demand
Inclusive marketing addresses a user need that can help companies increase sales, or at least not lose market share.
According to many studies, there is a correlation between a company’s messages and the consumption of that company’s products. Indeed, the more the brands’ messages include the audience they represent, the more likely this audience is to consume the brands’ products.
Furthermore, according to a Salesforce study of over 2,000 consumers, nearly 90% of consumers say that companies have a responsibility to make the world a better place. In other words, implementing inclusive marketing when you are a company or a brand can attract and retain many customers.
It allows the expansion of the market for companies
As mentioned, the more consumers feel represented in a company’s messages, the more likely they are to trust the brand and consume that company’s products over those of competitors.
Thus, also highlighting audiences that are underrepresented by traditional marketing can help a company reach these targets.
Another important fact is that inclusive marketing speaks to an entire generation, and is even demanded by it. We are talking about generation Y. They are under 35 years old and represent one third of the global and Swiss market. It is therefore a major audience that it is interesting to reach and attract.
The Nielsen report indicated in 2020 that a brand that does not have a multicultural strategy, and therefore an inclusive marketing strategy, does not have a long-term growth strategy.
The example of Adidas
Adidas launches an inclusive swimsuit so that all women can swim. A study commissioned by Adidas found that only 12% of women in the United Arab Emirates are comfortable wearing a swimsuit. That’s why the brand has developed a new product, a burkini. Here is the advert highlighting their new inclusive product.
A necessity to stay in the game and inspire
Inclusive marketing is also essential for many companies to ensure their sustainability as tomorrow’s generation is sensitive to these issues and will need to be recruited. Thus, to attract new talent, the HR strategy implemented by the company must be supported by an inclusive marketing strategy.
It is also an essential element if you want to focus your brand image on modernity and innovation. It allows to reinforce its notoriety. Marketing can either accentuate stereotypes by using them, or break with them to display a new vision of things and establish new representations.
The inclusive marketing approach may seem insignificant, but implementing a more inclusive communication allows to break codes that were established years ago and that no longer seem to correspond to the expectations of some consumers and clients. By breaking these codes, the company sends a message of modernity and innovation that allows its customers and prospects to project themselves alongside it.
For example, Microsoft has launched a controller adapted for people with arm deformities. The classic controllers are not adapted for these people, so the new controllers make this inequality disappear. The company is therefore entering a new market while at the same time projecting an inclusive and inspiring image.
How to implement an inclusive marketing strategy?
Audit your marketing strategy and analyse your customer base and targets
First of all, before integrating more inclusiveness into your strategy, it is important to audit your current marketing strategy. Does it allow all audiences to find their way, whether it be in the visual representations or in the messages conveyed?
Following this audit, which allows us to get an overview of the current marketing plan, it is important to analyze our clientele in order to integrate them into the company’s values.
Highlighting human diversity in communication campaigns
The objective of inclusive marketing is to represent the whole of society. To do so, it must ensure that it represents the diversity of this whole to bring more equality to marketing representations. For example, it is interesting to represent different age groups, gay or lesbian couples, people of various origins and genders, from various social categories…
The goal is to naturally represent the diversity of society. It is important to do this in a subtle and consistent way in order to remain credible. Inclusive marketing must also be relevant to the brand’s objectives and commitments. It should not be present only to reinforce its image, otherwise it may not serve its objectives.
The brand H&M has been using inclusive marketing for a few years. Here is an example with its 2019 holiday commercial:
Mobilizing an inclusive lexicon
Beyond images, words are also important. They must allow targets to find themselves in the written content of a brand.
It is also interesting to adapt inclusive referencing techniques. That is to say, use inclusive expressions (prefer all to all, for example) and data on gender, disability… so that your advertising campaigns do not exclude any category of person.
Pay attention to the accessibility of ads and web pages
Inclusivity also means thinking about the accessibility of your sites for people with disabilities. Digital inclusion is a data not to be neglected when setting up an inclusion strategy. To check the accessibility of your web pages, Microsoft has set up a plug-in compatible with all browsers.
Inclusive marketing is on the rise due to a strong demand from consumers. It represents an opportunity for many sectors to attract new audiences and to build an innovative and modern brand image. However, it is a new type of operation which requires an interest in the questions of inequalities of representation in order to implement it in a subtle way. It also opens the way to highlighting the inequalities present in our societies and places companies as actors of change.