In today’s world, inclusion is what sells, but the authenticity of the inclusive image and practices you’re promoting is key. In other words, you can’t just talk the talk, you have to walk the walk and be mindful with each and every step. Practicing inclusivity in all aspects of your organization gives you a strong advantage over your competitors and boosts morale. It is challenging to justify that a business can truly be innovative if it is leaving out large spaces of the marketplace; a fashion brand can by no means refer to itself as mainstream and superior if its range in sizing is too small and limited for the everyday shopper to wear.
The reality of it all is that no brand can be all things to all people. However; it is in the best interest of brands to be truly socially conscious from within and genuinely invested in inclusion so that your brand’s principles effortlessly radiate outwards and it’s easily identifiable as genuine to your target consumers.
The question every brand should ask itself: Who are we not reaching or serving?
In this post we’re going to look into 4 ways your brand can be inclusive, here’s a breakdown of the post’s content:
- Do Your Research on Cultural Intelligence
- Mirror the Reality of Your Audience
- Celebrate Differences
- Practice What You Preach
1. Do Your Research on Cultural Intelligence
If your company’s intent is on targeting a customer group with which you have had no connection in terms of their cultural identity, their ethnicity, or major concerns, such as stereotypes, institutional racism, and human rights issues they have faced, then you frankly must submerse yourself in getting to know who you want to include. On top of researching, what you want to do is incorporate those you want to include in the decision-making process. If you plan on being inclusive with trans women or indigenous women, give them seats at the table, ask for their input, their viewpoint, include them in the big decision making, and in all aspects involved in your marketing plan.
The pure lack of cultural intelligence and lack of cultural sensitivity toward the audience you desire to serve is one of the biggest challenges in successfully completing an inclusive marketing campaign. To confront this, you need to accurately find out the ways in which the world works from their specific point of view, understand just what their pain points are, and just how you want to make a difference in their lives. Implement a policy for your team where actively learning about your customers is a top priority through proper market research.
The diversity of any company’s workplace should directly reflect the diversity of its market, if not, consumers may not believe the company truly believes in inclusion, and rightfully so. Committing to learning about your diverse audience is a serious commitment that in order to respectively execute, will take time and resources. Becoming thoroughly educated on a subject that is foreign to you or diving deep into a cultural lifestyle you might be unfamiliar with will help you see through a new culturally sensitive lens. This new lens you have acquired through countless hours of research gives you an added advantage of ensuring the diverse and inclusive content you plan on putting out to the world isn’t stereotyped and inaccurate. I know I have seen my fair share of tone-deaf or even blatantly racist ads, and campaigns, and the harm it causes is immense.
It is necessary to remember, incompetent or inaccurate knowledge of your consumer group could lead to a campaign sounding tone-deaf and have lasting negative implications like a PR crisis or, even worse, cause further harm to the community you planned on fully embracing.
2. Mirror the Reality of Your Audience
Mirroring the current reality of who your consumers are is a great opportunity to portray real-life everyday people in your campaigns and advertisements. Consumers are tired of seeing the same images of what brands have defined as desirable, valuable, or beautiful; the same images that have been constantly forced on them over and over for generations.
Consumers demand for brands these days to be inclusive and authentically reflect the reality of their lives in advertisements. Consumers are aware that what they have to say matters more than ever before, especially with social media. Such expectations from society shouldn’t really feel out of the ordinary since consumers today are increasingly diverse and multicultural.
Using the knowledge your team has acquired from thoroughly and respectfully gathering cultural intelligence, you’ll be capable of achieving the image your audience wants to see that easily resonates with their beliefs. By prioritizing the feelings of individuals, people feel valued and consequently create a space for your brand in their lives. To build a natural affinity between your brand and the intended target group requires the act of mirroring your consumers’ cultural values and beliefs.
Showing good examples of how your product affects your current customers is one of the best ways to garner the attention of your intended consumers. People like seeing people who are like them in different ways. An example of a brand using this technique would be Dove’s “Real Beauty” commercials, they pride themselves on using real women in their commercials and not models like many self-care brands.
3. Celebrate Differences
What people want is a greater variety of choices. People yearn to see their realities reflected. People have longed for heterogeneity. A valuable part of the human experience is integrating, celebrating, and learning about one another’s customs and practices, as well as promoting a culture of inclusion that ensures employees feel seen and valued.
Companies that unapologetically embrace diversity, inclusivity, and cultural sensitivity are inclined to have an increase in attraction than businesses that are perceived as intolerable and out-dated in their frame of mind. Celebrating the multiculturalism of an organization gives support for all members to sense their values, beliefs, and experiences are abundantly appreciated and respected.
Cultural diversity should be incorporated throughout workplace practices and deeply implemented in policies instead of being highlighted every so often. To really connect with your audience from different parts of the world, and from different backgrounds, you must create campaigns that represent a multitude of communities and cultures.
As noted in Hubspot, the well-known lingerie brand ThirdLove’s CEO and Co-Founder Heidi Zak, “discussed the company’s strategy of depicting all women, how brands like Victoria’s Secret should be empowered by diversity, and why inclusivity should be seen as a movement rather than a trend.” She is quoted in the New York Times stating, “We believe the future is building a brand for every woman, regardless of her shape, size, age, ethnicity, gender identity or sexual orientation. This shouldn’t be seen as groundbreaking, it should be the norm,”. They pride themselves on celebrating all definitions of beauty, and unapologetically show real women of all ages, shapes, and races. ThirdLove celebrates what the rest of the world sees as “flaws”, such as cellulite, body rolls, wrinkled skin and many more normal aspects of the human body.
4. Practice What You Preach
In order to ethically preach inclusion and diversity in your campaigns, you need to be sincerely implementing these practices and values in your own organization. Inclusivity in marketing shouldn’t be approached in the same way you would approach trends because it is simply not a trend. Always keep in mind that it is a movement and not a trend. Brands need to fully embrace this movement and have a deep understanding of what the movement stands for rather than doing it for the sake of being trendy, or view it as only an opportunity to cash-in.
You’ll want to start from within by making the necessary internal changes. If you are just getting your foot in the door when it comes to marketing towards a niche customer group, in particular one that you wouldn’t identify yourself as being a part of, be sure to bring together a diverse team that is inclusive of an array of people who share a part of who they are with that customer group you plan on marketing to.
The roles to be mindful of when expanding your reach to a more diverse demographic includes your brand team, agency partners, consultants, as well as your market research team. For instance, conduct an evaluation of your current creative teams and question yourself to uncover if there’s truly enough diversity or accurate representation within your team. If the conclusion you come to is that your team lacks diversity, the next initiative should be to hire more diverse members for your team.
Actively pursuing the inputs from your own team members with the same cultural background and same communities as your intended target audience is a very valuable and authentic asset when making arrangements for your campaigns. Creating a welcoming, and transparent environment in your workspaces that also encourages constant growth in inclusion will undoubtedly have a spillover effect that people will notice.
The idea is the more you include people on your team who possess deeply rooted knowledge of the audience you plan on reaching out to, the less complicated the process will be to effectively connect that with experiences, ideas, and points of view from others on the team to aid you in bringing into existence material that resonates.
In conclusion, inclusive branding and inclusivity within our organizations is not a goal to reach, but a practice needing active nurturing, learning, and organizational cultural change.
Implement as much as you can, where you see fit, and identify what additional work there is to be done. It is not until you fully immerse yourself into another person’s world for a respectful amount of time, that you’ll be capable of appreciating the variety of cultural nuances or able to expand the capacity of empathy required to converse and engage with them in a suitable fashion.
Never stop learning about your audience, no matter how much you think you might know them. Uncover ways in your organization to make habit, procedural, or a requirement for the practice of inclusivity. Inclusivity is a lifestyle, it’s a mindset, it’s the words you speak and it is the actions you choose to make or refrain from. The more diverse and inclusive your staff is, the more relevant and relatable your brand will be.
A few major takeaways from this article are; to unite people with things they have in common such as highlighting how your brand has the answer for all sorts of peoples’ problems, sincerely highlighting real stories from employees or customer testimonials, and solving ongoing problems for your customers such as what ThirdLove has done by representing those that are usually unrepresented, in their campaigns.
Remember there is always room for more growth and there are always opportunities to enhance your knowledge.