By now, everyone, in one way or another, has learned what the term "Diversity and Inclusion" means. Whether at work or school, the world is doing their best to be more inclusive, including how things are marketed. Inclusive Marketing is the practice of having underrepresented and marginalized groups represented in marketing campaigns and materials. This has become a popular practice, as many brands are trying to reflect the world we live in.
In 2019, Google partnered with the Female Quotient to conduct a survey of 3,000 participants with different backgrounds, to determine the influence of diverse and inclusive marketing materials. 64% of participants were more likely to interact with a brand after seeing something inclusive. As a member of an underrepresented group, I also prefer interacting with brands that are inclusive in their campaigns. While being inclusive is important, there is a right and a wrong way of doing so.
Do: Include Everyone in Imagery
Stock photos, banners, billboards, the works; if the people in the images don't reflect the way the world actually looks, you're doing it wrong. When a brand displays one type of person, whether it's all one race or gender, it conveys the message that this brand is only meant for one kind of person. For years, makeup and skincare brands exclusively used white women in their campaigns, leaving women of color to feel as if these brands weren't meant for them. This, in turn, will steer people away from the brand.
Adding different groups into marketing materials opens the door for stereotyping. When brands don't know how to portray people properly, the ads will do more harm than good. Portraying men and women in materials together, men are typically put in the positions of power, while women as subordinates or secretaries. Racial stereotypes are another common issue that advertisers face. Constantly using African-American actors for commercials pertaining to fried chicken, or using Indian actors as the IT person devalues the person and uses them in an inappropriate way.
Do: Be Honest With It
When portraying someone in commercials, don't try and change what makes them real. Including disabled actors shouldn't mean stripping them of their disability for them to be included. For example, Apple did this perfectly. In 2016, Apple launched a short film featuring people with disabilities being able to use the Accessibility features on their devices to aide in their day to day. The film starts with Sady, a woman with cerebral palsy, using her Mac to communicate. It goes on to feature other users in wheelchairs, as well as deaf and blind individuals that used the device’s voice activation to take a photo or use their device to control their hearing aid. Not only did this film help feature a tool that devices have, but it also kept the users of it in the conversation.
Don't: Be a Hypocrite
If your marketing plan includes campaigns surrounding diversity and inclusiveness between genders and races, but everyone at work looks the same, you're being a hypocrite. Pushing diversity and inclusion in your campaigns while your office is the exact opposite shows your consumers that you're just using this to get their attention. Inclusiveness should not be a marketing trend, it needs to be a way of life.
When working on inclusive campaigns, remember what that means. If you have an ad, and the buyer is white, but the store worker is part of a marginalized group, you still aren't doing it right. This means of just plopping someone in a spot to seem diverse doesn't do anything beneficial. That previous example doesn't show the person of color buying from that store, which will continue to have people feeling as if this brand is not meant for them. Pushing an ad that is tone-deaf to diversity does more bad than good. Let's not forget the Kendall Jenner and Pepsi disaster of a commercial. This commercial featured Kendall Jenner walking through a protest (that many believed was meant to mimic the Black Lives Matter protests) and handing a police officer a Pepsi. This was supposed to bring everyone together and be a diverse and happy world. Oh, how they were wrong. This ad put themselves into a conversation they didn't belong in, and in an inappropriate way. They threw together a bunch of underrepresented groups into an ad, and called it diversity, then trivialized their protesting efforts by saying it could all be cleared up with a Pepsi. Inclusive marketing is the way forward; it not only requires, but it deserves more than poor, rushed, decision making.
There is so much to be done when it comes to inclusive marketing. This goes so much deeper than just throwing a person of color into your ads. It's about setting a tone that reflects your belief in an inclusive environment. Using language that carries the message you're trying to convey properly. Ensuring that people from all walks of life are comfortable with your brand because you have shown them that they matter to you as people not just a picture that looks like them in a magazine to check the inclusive box of your campaign. Being inclusive in your marketing materials and in your office will make consumers feel heard, and in turn make consumers want to interact with your brand.