Inclusive Marketing: Celebrating Diversity and Representation in Brand Communications
Here's why values and actions around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are increasingly becoming a point of differentiation for savvy shoppers.
The business-customer relationship is changing. With shoppers now receiving 6,000-10,000 overt and covert advertisements every day, companies need to invest in long-term customer relationships that build trust and inclusion to stand out. Values and actions around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are increasingly becoming a point of differentiation for savvy shoppers.
A missed opportunity for many brands
Embracing DEI is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’ element for brands. There is growing evidence that high-growth businesses focus more on DEI initiatives and more frequently measure DEI performance than lower-growth competitors. There are a few reasons for this:
People increasingly shop their values
Companies that don’t embrace and promote DEI will find it reflected in their revenue. Amazon Ads found that 67% of shoppers felt it important that brands act to promote DEI. In addition, just under half of people across the US (49%) and the UK (42%) said DEI factors influence their purchasing decisions.
There has never been more awareness of company values, and shoppers are quick to spot brands that are not putting their promises into practice. Promoting DEI is important and can’t stop at marketing efforts – it must run through the whole business.
Shoppers buy from brands they trust
Microsoft’s research revealed that 85% of people will only consider buying from a brand they trust. Alongside this, 59% of people are more trusting of brands that represent them. These two stats side by side show why a focus on DEI is essential to building customer trust and achieving higher customer lifetime value.
Inclusive marketing is often mistaken for multicultural marketing – reflecting the customer’s cultural heritage, language, and gender identity. But images of white people can’t just be switched with those of ethnic minorities – it’s much more than that. To build trust with customers, brands need to genuinely know their customers – what drives them, motivates them, and adds value to their lives. You can pay to put your communications in front of specific audiences, but that doesn’t mean it will resonate or build trust.
Inclusion is more important to younger generations
From a customer lifetime value (CLV) perspective, inclusive marketing is becoming increasingly important. Younger generations are more alert and aware of representative advertising and factor it into purchasing decisions.
If brands want to build trust with Gen Z and the younger generations, they need to cultivate this sense of inclusion and belonging. Microsoft found that 49% of Gen Z have stopped purchasing from a brand that did not represent their values and 47% are more trusting of brands that represent them. As this generation represents high-potential CLV, it’s time for all brands to take note.
Principles of inclusive marketing
Reflect your audience
To reflect your audience, you first have to know and understand your audience. Cultivating true inclusivity means matching the needs, values, and variations of human diversity – ensuring that everyone has access to a product or service in a way that is designed for them. Inclusive marketing is the first step to providing long-lasting value to your customers, which drives value for the brand.
Marketers must ask themselves: does the diversity of the marketing team match the diversity of the audience? Research shows that the highest-growing brands are actively looking to reflect the cultural and demographic makeup of their audience within their marketing teams. Hiring diverse perspectives and providing an inclusive company culture is the best and easiest way to produce inclusive marketing.
Aim for authentic connection
There are countless examples of organizations attempting to retrofit inclusion into their marketing plans. Inclusivity can’t be something that is tacked on to a campaign just before launch, it needs to be baked in from the very beginning. Genuinely inclusive marketing is a form of authentic connection between business and customer – communicated honestly and transparently.
Now that the digital age has allowed two-way communications between business and customer, brands have never had more opportunities to listen to their audience. Build feedback loops into your customer journey, and ask questions to fully understand who they are and what they need. As the old saying goes: ‘You have two ears and one mouth, use them in proportion’.
This isn’t just a marketing thing
In the same way that inclusivity can’t be tacked on at the end of marketing strategy planning, it shouldn’t just be a marketing initiative. Marketing efforts can’t be genuinely inclusive unless everyone involved in the planning and execution of the product or service has a clear understanding of what inclusivity means.
Research shows that often higher growth companies take this a step further – by building internal targets and making their own inclusivity efforts measurable. These brands consider all areas of influence, from workforce to marketplace, and commit to achieving equitable outcomes. Looking at DEI as an ongoing process of improvement in which the whole company has a responsibility for success is the best way to meaningful inclusive marketing.
The Round-Up: Genuine inclusive marketing requires a holistic approach
Today’s savvy shoppers have never been more switched on to representation and diversity in brand communications. They want inclusion, not just to be included. And they will vote with their wallets if brands are seen to be making disingenuous attempts at inclusive marketing. A holistic approach to inclusivity is needed to create authentic connections with customers. If done well, the long-term rewards for forward-thinking brands will be huge.
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