Have you ever felt out of place when shopping for clothes online because you couldn’t relate to the body type projected on the screen? If so, you’re not alone.
Only the other day I was looking to buy some activewear online and again it hit me how the fashion industry still has a looong way to go before brands truly represent models of all ages, shapes, and races.
Not one model wearing leggings was bigger than a size 2!
Now how was I, a person who didn’t have a visible thigh gap, supposed to know what a legging would look like on my body shape?
Fortunately, the world hasn’t given up on people who aren’t skinny. After tweaking the search term on Google, I did manage to find several brands that showed representation in models that didn’t look touched up and high-fashioned.
My argument for the lack of representation in fashion models that aren’t skinny might sound superficial when there are so many other underrepresented communities whose needs are either being ignored or not made aware of.
That is why we need to address the importance of inclusive marketing.
What is inclusive marketing?
Often, people confuse diversity and inclusion (D&I) and inclusive marketing to be the same, which they aren’t. While D&I refers to developing an inclusive culture within your workspace, inclusive marketing refers to what you do to remove exclusion through marketing efforts.
I found the HubSpot definition of inclusive marketing to be spot on. “Inclusive marketing describes campaigns that embrace diversity by including people from different backgrounds or stories that unique audiences can relate to. While some inclusive campaigns make an effort to break stereotypes, others simply aim to reflect or embrace people in the real world.”
According to the 2019 consumer survey by Google and The Female Quotient, it was revealed that 64% of all respondents took some action after seeing an ad they considered to be diverse or inclusive.
Seriously, we’re in the year 2020. Brands showing representation and inclusion shouldn’t be considered pathbreaking, it should be the norm!
If you’re a brand struggling to get inclusive marketing right, don’t worry. It’s not as difficult as you think it is. To get the ball rolling, you’re going to need some inspiration from brands that are doing it right. And of course, a few tips from us to help you get started creating a more inclusive marketing strategy.
Let’s dive in!
1. Do your homework on cultural intelligence
If you’re targeting a customer group with whom you have no connection in terms of their cultural identity, ethnicity, or major concerns, then you simply must immerse yourself in getting to know them.
The lack of cultural intelligence of the audience you want to serve is one of the biggest challenges in executing an inclusive marketing campaign. To tackle this, you must find out how the world works from their point of view, what their pain points are, and how you want to make a difference in their lives.
Make learning about your customers a priority through proper market research. Committing to learning about your diverse audience will take time and resources. So, don’t expect to check this task off your list by EOD. Remember, half-baked knowledge of your audience group could land you in a PR crisis or, worse, hurt the sentiments of your audience.
To show you an example of a brand that did their homework, take the case of Procter and Gamble’s “The Talk” campaign.
You don’t need to be told of the institutional racism Black people face even in today’s world. P&G’s “The Talk” takes you through the many difficult closed-door conversations African American mothers have with their children about racism and judgment.
For example, there’s a scene in which a mother tells her son, “There are some people who think you don’t deserve the same privileges just because of what you look like. It’s not fair. It’s not.”
And then there’s another scene where a mother asks her son to come home straight after practice and asks if he has his ID with him “in case they stop you”.
The goal of the campaign was to raise awareness about the impact of bias that takes on many shapes and forms across gender, race, age, weight, sexual orientation, and more. The brand wanted to bring these conversations to light and progress toward a less biased future and end the need for mothers to have such conversations with their children in the future.
2. Reflect the reality
Another interesting find from Google and the Female Quotient survey is that 69% of Black consumers say they are more likely to purchase from a brand whose advertising positively reflects their race/ethnicity. This clearly tells us that consumers expect brands these days to be inclusive and reflect the reality of their lives in advertising.
This shouldn’t really come as a surprise to you since consumers today are increasingly diverse and multicultural. To build a natural liking between your brand and the target group, you need to mirror your consumers’ cultural values and beliefs.
Take the case of Bumble’s “Find Me On Bumble” campaign. What’s interesting about this campaign is that Bumble didn’t resort to external resources to be inclusive in their marketing efforts. Instead, they chose to highlight a few of their own real-life Bumble users for this campaign.
Now, these aren’t touched up and high-fashioned models or unrealistic people, but real and actual users of the app. Genius!
The aim of the “Find Me On Bumble” campaign was to celebrate a variety of great and inspiring users Bumble saw in New York City. The company brought them all together to tell their stories and share a life lesson they’ve learned along the way.
Some examples of the inspiring people shown in the Bumble video are a political operative, an orthodontist, an opera singer, an author, and a model and activist.
So, what did Bumble really achieve with this campaign?
Well, if you ask me, Bumble just wanted to celebrate the lives of some inspiring real-life users of the app while also showing people the quality of their product.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve had the misfortune of interacting with a lot of unpleasant people on dating apps that have made me question the quality of the app and the people using it.
But when I saw this Bumble video were people with such diverse backgrounds and inspiring stories were using the same product as I did, it sure did restore my faith in dating apps and assured me that the product was of good quality after all.
For companies that are in the same line as Bumble is, take note; there’s no better way to get the attention of your prospects than showing good examples of how your product affects your current customers.
3. Celebrate variety
News flash: One-size-fits-all is, like, so last year.
People want greater choice. People want to see reality. People want variety!
To really connect with your audience from different parts of the world, you must create campaigns that represent different communities and cultures.
A great example of a brand that celebrates variety is ThirdLove, an American lingerie company that aims to sell lingerie for everybody…or should I say every body?
ThirdLove is also the first-ever lingerie company to launch half-cup sizes for women who didn’t fit into the standard sizes. (Amen for inventing 32B ½)!
You can tell from the get-go that the company embraces inclusivity in all its marketing efforts. Head over to ThirdLove’s website and social media pages, and you’ll find yourself immersed in imagery of women of all ages, shapes, and races wearing the company’s lingerie line.
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ThirdLove’s “To Each, Her Own” campaign aimed at representing women “in a way that felt grounded, relatable and universally understood”
Heidi Zak, ThirdLove’s co-founder and co-CEO, in a company statement said, “We want women to look at our campaign and see themselves in the women depicted.”
Well, that’s exactly how I felt after watching this video.
The video was so raw and unedited that managed to beautifully capture the life of real women in their everyday life. From a mother in her living room nursing her child to a woman in her sixties stretching on her yoga mat, it’s hard not to see yourself in the women depicted in this campaign.
4. Practice what you preach
You can’t really preach inclusion and diversity in your campaigns without implementing even a fraction of it in your own organization, can you?
Inclusivity in marketing is not a trend that you need to get behind just because other brands are doing it. Remember, it’s a movement, not a trend. Brands need to embrace this movement and understand what it stands for instead of doing it for the sake of being trendy.
Start from making internal changes.
For instance, look at your current creative teams and ask yourself if there’s enough diversity in your team. If there isn’t, you know what to do—hire more diverse teams. Seeking inputs from your own team members of the same cultural background as your target audience can be very valuable and authentic when planning your campaigns.
Microsoft is probably the best example for a company that treats inclusion and diversity as a journey that requires constant self-assessment rather than as a finite goal.
Microsoft’s “We All Win” campaign is by far my favorite inclusion campaign featured in this article. The company realized that there was a dire need for adaptive gaming controllers to meet the needs of gamers with physical disabilities or limited mobility.
The launch of Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller which included touchpads instead of buttons and bright colors for the visually impaired, leveled the playing field and created the opportunity to play video games for all users.
From including people with disabilities in the product development team, to creating an inclusive and thoughtful design, Microsoft’s “We All Win” campaign was indeed a big win.
I’m no soothsayer to tell you that inclusive marketing is the next big trend to watch out for in 2021 because it’s just not. Inclusive marketing is not a trend. Period.
Inclusive marketing for consumers should start within marketing teams with the aim of bringing cultural awareness and solving the problems of unique audience groups.
That’s the goal!