By Eva Fellner
With technology as an integral part of our day-to-day lives, it’s easier than ever to stumble across thousands of advertisements in a single day. In fact, according to Forbes, the average American consumer takes in anywhere from 4,000 – 10,000 advertisements daily. This number might seem absurd to some, but just think about it: while we’re scrolling through Instagram or TikTok, listening to music on our favorite streaming platforms, and watching that new Netflix original at the end of the day, we’re being exposed to advertising that affects the way we view specific products and services.
In the past 10 years, digital marketing has become a major source of advertising for brands, if not the primary form of advertising. As technology becomes more leverageable to brands, it’s important to maintain messaging awareness when putting out branded content.
If your strategy comes off as one-sided, consumers won’t interact with your brand in a positive way.
It’s not just about getting your message in front of the consumer. It’s about what you can add to their life. It’s about what you stand for, and whether this message resonates with them. So, how do you create messages like this? By building the foundation for an inclusive marketing strategy and sticking with it.
Here’s how you can build a more inclusive strategy:
Take an honest look at your current marketing strategy. Analyze the processes you have in place for content creation and complete an inventory of all past and present blogs, posts and other published content. Take note of what you find, paying special attention to the specific messages your tactics create, how old your content is and whether it aligns with your desired messaging.
After you’ve completed your content audit, ask yourself:
Once you’ve taken a holistic look at your content and the details of your internal processes, you can begin to assess what your company’s strengths and weaknesses are when it comes to inclusivity.
You’ve audited your content, and maybe you feel your brand needs a complete makeover. Or maybe your brand has done a pretty good job at showing diversity. This should be good enough to integrate into your inclusive marketing strategy, right? Wrong!
While this is a step in the right direction, diversity and inclusion do not necessarily mean the same thing.
"Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.
- Verna Myers"
Many brands show images that feature people from all walks of life, which is great. But does your strategy really speak to all these groups? Consumers are quick to sense insincerity and will be able to tell if your brand is merely putting up a front of inclusivity.
Take rainbow-washing, for example. Rainbow-washing, a new term used to describe the practice of putting up rainbow flags, stickers and other insignia during June without any real support of the LGBTQIA+ community, has caused consumers to question the truth about big brands.
Companies ranging from alcohol to clothing to candy have been quick to jump on rainbow themes during June while their business practices actively support anti-LGBTQIA+ politicians. While several brands don’t share anti-LGBTQIA+ sentiments, they don’t actually create a culture of support within their own companies, causing consumers to be weary of their marketing tactics.
Instead, work to integrate both diversity and inclusivity on your team to help establish brand activism that resonates with diverse populations, resulting in a more inclusive and authentic marketing strategy.
For instance, during June 2020 Skittles gave up its rainbow packaging in support of the LGBTQIA+ community and announced their partnership with the leading LGBTQIA+ media advocacy group GLAAD.
After all, what good are diverse marketing efforts in your underlying culture isn’t inclusive?
With a clearer understanding of your content and what it means to be inclusive, revisit who your target audience is. Even though you probably have a good understanding of where you should be directing your efforts, try starting from the ground up. Conduct some research. Learn more about people who currently benefit or could benefit from your products and services. This research could open your eyes to potential growth opportunities.
Once you’ve determined your target audience, remember: you never know who might be interested in your product or service now or in the future. Don’t deter people from your brand. Keep diversity in mind.
So, you’ve done more research and have created target segments for your product. This is a fundamental step in any marketing strategy, however, be careful not to base your efforts on stereotypes.
Using stereotypes in your marketing can hurt rather than help you and can be offensive to your target audience. Overall, avoid stereotypes and potential cultural appropriation when drafting any marketing strategy. Keeping an open mind is key. Look at your work from other perspectives, and start more inclusive conversations and break out of outdated stereotypes.
In the world of digital advertising, visuals are everything.
Graphics, video content and photos are a major way in which consumers interact and connect with your brand. If they don’t like what they see, you won’t convert them. Remember the Aunt Jemima logo? This brand recognized the racial stereotype rooted in their brand identity and decided it was time to make a change:
Now having removed the old logo and name, The Pearl Milling Company formerly known as Aunt Jemima has taken a step in the right direction to ending the perpetuation of a racist stereotype and moving towards a more inclusive design.
When choosing any kind of visual, be sure to select ones that are truly representative of your brand. Keep your target audience in mind but don’t forget to also keep an open mind and leave room for growth. Don’t rule out groups that have the potential to connect with your brand. If your visuals send the wrong message, viewers will likely feel that your product or service isn’t for them. Stay inclusive.
Whether on social media, blogs or your company website, use language that represents all demographics. Steer clear of using slang, references or other words that have the potential to be discriminatory.
Language trends are always changing. Stay relevant and take a good look at your copy every now and then to ensure it keeps up with trends in a way that makes it easy for your target audience to understand. Take the online trading platform Robinhood. Designed for young college students looking to get involved in the stock market, the platform differed from other trading sites that were primarily marketed to working professionals. Robinhood leveraged current language trends in their copy, speaking to a wide audience of young adults. Through these efforts, Robinhood was able to reach new heights, rivaling other e-trading sites like Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade.
Don’t assume your audience knows the jargon or specific references you’re using. Switch this out for more common phrasing or include an explanation of the term in your copy.
If you leave them guessing, you leave them out.
It may seem small, but inclusive language is a priority for the health of your brand! Not only do you not want to deter potential customers, but you don’t want to exclude potential employees as well.
Creating an inclusive marketing strategy is critical for the long-term health of your brand. Without the right processes and ideology in place, you risk excluding a large part of your customer base. By following these key steps, you’ll be able to create the strategy that’s right for you and your company.