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Why Inclusive Marketing is Good for Business: Lessons from 8 Prominent Brands

From Coca-Cola to Maltesers, brands are shifting toward inclusive marketing. Why?

Adebisi Adewusi
July 13 2019

Marketers today are increasingly investing in inclusive marketing. 34% say they’ve used racially diverse models in recent campaigns, and 21% have used more images featuring ‘non-professional’ models within the past few years. This customer-centric approach signals the marketing adjustments brands are making to reflect consumers’ evolving needs and wants. In this article, we’ll discuss four reasons why inclusive marketing is good for business.

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Changing Demographics

Thanks to globalization and border fluidity, consumers are no longer homogenous sectors. Multicultural consumers account for 40% of the US population and are armed with $3.2 trillion in spending power. To appeal to their audiences and remain relevant, brands today are embracing inclusive advertising.

Cheerios’ 2013 ‘Good For Your Heart’ commercial, for example, featured an interracial couple and biracial child in a reflection on the evolving American family. Though it aired just a few years ago, the ad was somewhat revolutionary and celebrated the fact that there are many kinds of families in the world.

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When devising multicultural campaigns, keep the following in mind:

Do the Research: Conduct extensive research to learn the cultural intricacies of your target audience, if and how their purchase journey differs from other groups, and what’s important to them. Take note of how verbal and visual cues affect buying behavior and test how consumers will react to your multicultural ad before you start production.

Work With A Diverse Creative Team: To avoid missteps and insensitive advertising, hire a culturally diverse creative team. Your team members your target audience, with at least one individual with dual multicultural experiences. Create a setting where all employees can voice their opinions and ask questions.

Celebrate a Variety of Cultures: To connect with multicultural consumers, create campaigns that highlight community and culture. Enlist specialists who can leverage their cultural insights to ensure your campaigns resonate with and engage your audiences.

Consumers Want to See Themselves in Your Ads

Keep your ads real by practicing inclusivity, both with the ‘actors’ and audiences’ experiences. Consumers. For instance, 52% of moms pay more attention to ads that feature an image of a

Use these tips to create relatable ads:

Be Real: Use real people in your marketing to build an emotional connection with consumers and celebrate who they are. Follow clothing brand Aerie’s lead and choose models that represent your audience. Their ‘Aerie Bras Make You Feel Real Good’ campaign, for example, featured un-retouched images of real women with a variety of backgrounds and physiques.

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When casting, choose individuals who capture the spirit of your brand and represent diverse body types and shades. And to really make a statement, eliminate airbrushing to highlight real beauty.

Inclusive Products: Offering products that reflect customers’ individuality helps them relate to your brand on a deeper level. When blonde Barbie and her unrealistically small 18-inch-waist began losing her appeal among parents, Mattel created ethnically diverse dolls with a variety of body types.

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Listen to your community to learn which products they want and then decide on a realistic rollout plan. When introducing new products, use an empowering marketing message to bring your products to life and connect with customers.

Reflect Values: Affirming your values can strengthen your with consumers. 44% of consumers say it’s important for a brand to align with their personal values. Prioritize the values you share with your customers and emphasize those ideals in your products and messaging.

In Coke’s ‘Wonder of Us’ ad, the brand highlights its strongest values, such as unity, positivity, and inclusion by showing that there are as many different ways to enjoy a Coke as there are people in the world.

Brand Reputation

Today’s consumers are quick to call out ‘tone deaf’ campaigns. Shine a positive light on your business through inclusive marketing. 88% of marketers think using more diverse images can boost their reputation – and they aren’t wrong. In 2018, Victoria Secret’s reputation took a dive for its failure to embrace modern beauty standards and inclusivity in its marketing.

Here are a few ways you can use inclusive marketing to improve your brand reputation.

Progressive Gender Portrayal: Falling back on stereotypes is the fastest way to show consumers you don’t understand them. ‘Unstereotype’ your ads by rethinking notions of masculinity and femininity.

Though Lululemon is synonymous with women, the brand’s Strength to Be campaign broke gender stereotypes by celebrating men who represent their own definitions of masculinity. In a series of short videos, Lululemon filmed five aspirational men from various backgrounds on what strength and living as their true selves means to them.

Use Inclusive Imagery: Not all your customers look the same, so it doesn’t make sense to use just one demographic in your ads. When using inclusive imagery, be sure to reflect your customer base and be mindful of how you portray race, gender, or religion in your images.

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Gap’s Back to School campaign received positive coverage for bringing inclusion into mainstream fashion. Though the retailer’s ad features the regular ‘kids joyfully playing’ theme, Gap put a twist on the old marketing standards by celebrating diversity.

Go Gender-Neutral: With consumers doing away with labels, consider gender-neutral advertising. Research the ways your target audience chooses to acknowledge gender and ensure your campaign focuses on lifestyle and not sex. Develop a genuine understanding of the symbols and conversation surrounding the topic and try to use gender-neutral pronouns in your copy.

Take note from Coca-Cola’s ‘The Wonder of Us’ Super Bowl ad, which celebrated inclusion by using the word ‘them’ as a gender-nonconforming pronoun.

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Inclusion is Good for Business

Done in good taste, inclusive marketing can attract more customers, fortify brand relevancy, and drive sales. Millennials are more likely to choose one brand over another if that brand demonstrates inclusion. Check out a few ideas on how to use inclusive marketing to boost sales:

Cater to Underserved Markets: Increase your bottom line by serving customers whom mainstream brands have ignored. Fenty Beauty, for instance, developed a product range that earned the brand $100 million in sales in its first 40 days on the market.

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Discover underserved consumers by researching different demographics and listening to customer feedback to find unmet needs. Pay special attention to their requirements, asks, or suggestions – this is how you’ll know you’re delivering on your promise.

Include People With Disabilities: Though incredibly underrepresented in modern marketing, 66% of consumers would purchase goods and services from a business that features disabled people in its advertising. When using this strategy, spend time learning about the challenges faced by people with disabilities. Focus on themes of empowerment and inclusion, and avoid underlying messages that disempower or imply limitations on people with disabilities.

Take note from Maltesers’s ‘Look on the Light Side of Disability’ campaign. The ad, which was “inspired by real-life stories from disabled people, celebrating universally awkward situations,” earned the brand an 8% uplift in sales. 

Promote Body Positivity: Fashion industry professionals should note that body-positivity is sweeping the industry and attracting millions of loyal customers. Instead of selling a particular aesthetic, lingerie brand Lively focuses on selling items that women of all shapes and sizes can wear proudly. Their body-positive ads helped drive a 300% revenue growth in 2017.

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Address inclusivity, authenticity, and customers’ emotions up front in your campaigns. Ensure your product celebrates diversity and helps create a culture of acceptance and healthy self-esteem.

Keep in mind that while inclusive marketing is profitable, consumers will call you out if your aim is transparently grounded in financial gain rather than a strong commitment to serving audience’s needs.

Do The Right Thing

The next wave in marketing entails connecting with consumers regardless of their age, ethnicity, shape, or gender identity, and it’s critical to begin this process now. Create goals around customer inclusion specifying exactly how to measure and report on the impact and outcomes of customer inclusion campaigns. To further show your commitment, delegate a qualified workforce that represents your customer base, and cultivate a workplace culture that values diversity and inclusion.

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Adebisi Adewusi

Adebisi Adewusi is a freelance B2B writer and a Huffington Post Contributor. When she’s not creating compelling content for businesses, you’ll find her capturing moments with her Nikon d600.

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