Inclusive marketing is the future of marketing. And each year, as more leaders start to prioritize and actively engage in building an inclusive brand, consumers are taking notice.
But just because a brand tries to be more inclusive, it doesn’t mean that consumers, particularly those from underrepresented groups, will automatically be receptive to their efforts.
Increasingly, consumers expect more from the brands they engage with and buy from. They are also becoming more vocal about their expectations. Here are five inclusive marketing principles to embrace to be effective with your inclusive marketing efforts moving forward.
Authenticity. Performative marketing and statements don’t go over well. Consumers often resent efforts to earn their attention that don’t feel true, even when a brand has good intentions. The fix is to change the way you approach making the products, services, and experiences you deliver more inclusive.
Gelaine Santiago is a content marketer that specializes in authentic storytelling for BIPOC-owned direct-to-consumer brands. She advises that brands should approach authenticity the way chefs use salt when cooking.
“People who cook a lot, oftentimes you don’t just use salt at the end, but you actually use at the beginning and the middle, and again at the end of your process of cooking. That really changes the flavors. You end up with something that’s really deep and rich and the salt brings out these nuances in terms of the flavor of the dish.
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But if you are someone who doesn’t use salt until you sprinkle it at the very end, then what you end up with is something that just tastes salty. You know the salt is there. You can see it, it’s obviously apparent that you used salt, but it, it is very different from baking it into the whole process.”
Using this analogy, Santiago explained that authenticity in marketing comes from being inclusive throughout all parts of the marketing mix from the beginning of a project through the end.
The challenge is, is that most brands “throw salt on at the end” with simple tasks such as diversifying the models used in a photo shoot, and it doesn’t have the impact they desire.
Bake authenticity into your marketing campaigns by including people who are a part of the communities you are trying to reach in the full process. Follow the principle “nothing about us without us,” as a guide to create products, services, experiences, and communications that are authentic to the communities you are working to engage.
Focus on teams. As more companies start working to engage underrepresented groups, consumers from these communities have started to grow more skeptical of brands and their intentions.
As a result, they’ve started to look for additional proof that demonstrates the brands vying for their attention and wallets actually do value diversity, inclusion, and the communities they are a part of.
A big source of proof consumers are looking for is assessing how representative the internal teams are of the companies they engage with. For instance, if a brand says they stand with and value Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, but don’t have a representative amount of people from those communities on their internal teams, it feels disingenuous.
The talent you hire and invest time and resources is are a strong indicator of how inclusive your brand really is.
Customer experience. Inclusive marketing and customer experience are inseparable twins. It’s essential for brands to plan out a vision for the customer experience they’d like to deliver, and then map out how to deliver that level of experience throughout every touchpoint along the customer journey for all the customers you serve.
This will ensure the experiences you deliver have as little friction as possible.
Besides, consumers you’re trying to engage from underrepresented communities want to know you took the time to think of them in advance, rather than scrambling to serve them as an afterthought.
For instance, brands often have accommodations for customers who have some form of difference, such as a translator, a gluten-free menu, or even plus-sized sections. While these steps allow consumers to get their needs met, it often requires them to “raise their hand” to acknowledge how their different from the masses. Having to do this in some instances can make some feel uncomfortable, embarrassed, or frustrated enough, that some will avoid getting the support they need out of fear of making it known they “aren’t like everyone else.”
Instead, deliver experiences that makes everyone you intend to serve feel like they belong. Make it easy for them to self-select what they need without having to call attention to what makes them different if they don’t want to.
In-depth features and storylines. Representation matters. But not all representation is created equal. As more brands work to incorporate a broader diversity of people throughout their marketing mix, consumers are saying it isn’t enough to just include people from underrepresented groups in the visuals.
For consumers to believe your brand is inclusive, they want to see you feature people who are part of the communities they identify in prominent storylines. Gone are the days where people from underrepresented and marginalized communities get excited about “just being included” with what feels like a token character with a non-speaking, sidekick, or stereotypical role.
They want in-depth and nuanced features of people that enable them to see themselves or who they aspire to be. They want to see people, experts, and stories of people whose lived experiences they can identify with. They want to laugh, cry, and connect with people who walk the same walk they do. That depth of connection and understanding can’t happen at a superficial level with talent and storylines that have no depth to them.
When it comes to inclusive marketing, going deep outperforms shallow and superficial representation any day.
Consistency. A common mistake brands make with building an inclusive brand is doing it sporadically and not sticking with it for the long term. So a brand may celebrate Black History Month or Pride month for instance, but then disappear with their support and engagement with those communities for the rest of the year.
This doesn’t work well for establishing and nurturing relationships with any community, especially those that have been marginalized and ignored by many in the past.
Once you decide that there are specific communities you want to serve, build a plan for how you will engage with that community all year long. Sure, celebrate them when the whole world is during special days or months. But earn the right to the loyalty of these communities by walking beside them, and supporting them and what’s important to them over the long-term.
Quality, lasting relationships aren’t born from popping in and out every now and then. They are born through showing up through the good, the bad, and everything in between over time.
Building an inclusive brand that customers gladly give their loyalty is possible when you fully commit to building an inclusive brand the right way.