Inclusive marketing is the future of marketing. And because of this, smart brands are leaning in and embracing the future, rather than fighting it.
For example, earlier this year Sephora published a study assessing racial bias in retail. Following the findings, they released a comprehensive action plan to address these findings in their quest to deliver experiences that make diverse consumers feel like they belong.
Dr Seuss has removed books from his catalog that they say no longer hit the mark. Aunt Jemima has changed her name. Mr Potato Head ditched Mr’s brand name and launched included sets for kids to decide what their idea of family was. And Unilever has stopped using the word “normal” in its beauty and personal care products.
There are many other examples of brands taking steps to become more inclusive. There are also countless brands that want to create an inclusive brand that makes diverse and niche consumers feel like they belong, but don’t know where to start.
Here’s a five-step framework that I use with my students and clients to build an inclusive brand that earns the attention, adoration, and loyalty of diverse and niche consumers.
Focus on corporate culture. You can’t create an inclusive brand without creating an inclusive culture. Inclusion must be a way of being. Part of your strategic imperatives, and an essential part of everyone’s job.
I did a study a few months ago asking consumers about representation in marketing. A common thread in the responses was their need to see a brand be representative not only in their marketing, but in their hiring practices, values, and positions on social justice issues.
If you’re not here today, don’t worry. With intentional effort and focus, you can begin to embed inclusion into the day-to-day functioning of your business.
Diversify your circle of influence. The data shows that most people have homogeneous networks. There is even a scientific principle, homophilia, which explains why this is the case. The challenge of surrounding yourself with people with similar backgrounds, thought patterns, and experiences to yours is that it limits your ability to see and understand the perspective of other people who are unlike you.
As a result, it is more difficult for you to be aware of and practice empathy for people whose backgrounds, experiences, and ways of thinking are different from yours.
When you diversify and expand the voices that influence you – the people you work with or with whom you work, the influencers you follow, the news sources you listen to, the programs you watch, the food you eat, the people you talk to, or even the places you travel, you position yourself and your brand to have a broad perspective that gives you insight into how to best serve diverse, niche and marginalized consumers who don’t. do not fit perfectly into what is considered the mainstream.
Prioritize customer privacy. A deep degree of intimacy with your customer is your unfair advantage. Most brands that find themselves in trouble due to culturally insensitive or inappropriate communications and messaging are there because of a customer intimacy issue. They didn’t know the customers they wanted to serve well enough, and the results of their campaigns showed it.
Focus on spending time with your customers, especially diverse and specialized consumers with whom you may not have much experience. Do market research, spend time in their communities, engage and chat with them through different channels.
Get to know their plight beyond the way they think about and interact with the products and services you offer. When you do, you’ll gain the level of intimacy and cultural intelligence needed to know how to best serve them and how to communicate with them.
Map and audit your customer journey. State a vision of how the customers you serve in your business feel. Then, map the journey consumers take with your brand and audit to see how the existing customer experience you deliver is up to the experience you want to deliver.
This audit will help you identify areas where you are doing a good job of making diverse and niche consumers feel they belong, as well as areas that need work.
Provide inclusive customer experiences. The final element of the framework is to deliver experiences that make diverse and specialized consumers feel like you belong. This includes your marketing campaigns, your products, your photographs, your copy, your content, who you collaborate with and any equity programs you make available.
It will be imperative that you have processes and policies in place to ensure you deliver inclusive products, services, and experiences that consistently attract diverse and niche customers.
You can create an inclusive brand. But know that this won’t happen overnight, as it requires changes in the way you operate and present yourself both internally and externally. By focusing on following a proven framework, you will begin to transform your brand into a brand that will fully appear, ready to reach diverse and niche consumers on a regular basis.