Inclusivity- What’s that all about?

The brands of yesterday sold on the premise of exclusivity. It was all about being elite. Not anymore. Today, we’re focusing on being authentic. Being real. Being relatable.

Today, we’re making sure that we don’t alienate anybody. We’re trying to make everybody feel included.

Why should I go with Inclusive Marketing?

Inclusiveness is good for business. In addition to being the right thing to do, being inclusive also works wonders for your bottom line.

Inclusive Marketing makes you and your audience feel good. That’s probably got something to do with Kantar’s findings. They show progressive advertisements being 25% more effective than non-inclusive ones.

In 2018, Accenture found that 70% of Millenials would choose a brand that demonstrates inclusion and diversity over one that doesn’t.

The world is changing. People expect more from businesses. You can’t just give them a product and expect them to be happy. That won’t work.

Customers want you to contribute to society. In fact, Salesforce research has shown that 90% of customers believe that businesses have a responsibility to the world. They believe that businesses need to have a positive impact on the world.

What happens if I miss out?

Well, best-case scenario, your business won’t grow. Here’s what’s more likely. Your audience will notice your exclusive behavior, call you out on it and your business will be a hot mess.

Don’t believe me? Just ask the folks over at Victoria’s Secret.

Victoria’s Secret- Stuck In The Past

Imagine a company that sells women’s products but has all their marketing aimed towards making men happy.

That’s their biggest problem. Victoria’s Secret was started in 1977 because the founder (a man) didn’t like how the women’s undergarments of the era looked.

So, for over 4 decades, they focused on marketing that catered to the taste of men. When their users were women. Not the smartest idea.

To make it worse, they decided that all their models had to subscribe to a certain archetype. Tall, slim, mostly white. Other women couldn’t relate to them. They continuously rejected the idea of adding women of different body types to their lineup of models.

That’s where they messed up. They were subliminally sending a message saying, “If you’re not tall, slim and white, you’re not beautiful”.

For some reason, they didn’t realize that they were alienating the majority of the women of the world. And, as these women started expressing themselves, Victoria’s Secret started facing major backlash.

In late 2018, the CMO of the parent company behind Victoria’s Secret, L Brands, said that he didn’t want to cast transgender or plus-sized models for their annual fashion show “because the show is a fantasy”. Over the next year, their stock proceeded to fall by 40% and they announced that they were closing 53 of their stores in the US.

A year after the comment, in November 2019, Victoria’s Secret announced that they would no longer have their annual fashion show.

So much for that ‘fantasy’.

Wow, I don’t want to go that way. How do I start off with Inclusive Marketing?

Glad you feel that way. The good news is that it’s not that hard to make your marketing campaigns inclusive.

Here’re a few things to keep in mind.

Destroy Stereotypes

destroy stereotypes

Listen to Elrond. He speaks the truth

Stereotypes have no place in today’s society. Your marketing campaigns are sure to take off if they don’t just break stereotypes but completely destroy them. 

Unilever understands this. They even conducted an experiment with their marketers, to help them change their perceptions.

Unite the world with a common love

That was Coca Cola’s game plan for their “I’d like to buy the world a coke” ad in 1971.

They took people from all over the world, got them together on a beautiful hill in Italy and had them sing a song filled with positivity. People from a variety of races were included in the ad which sang about buying the world a coke and sharing love. 

It united people across the world with their love for a good bottle of Coca Cola.

The result? The company received over 100000 letters about the ad. Listeners were continuously calling radio stations, begging them to play the song.

They even released a record version of the commercial which became a Top 10 hit. It sold more sheet music than any other song in the previous decade. 

Coca Cola really struck gold there. They not only got the world to see them in a new light, but also got people to pay to see their ad.

Progressive Gender Portrayal

Don’t dare make the mistake of portraying women as the weaker sex. That supposedly weaker sex will destroy your brand if you do that.

No more damsels in distress. No depictions of women giving up on difficult tasks. Definitely no women being beaten up by men.

Now is the time to show the power within women. Show them leading organizations. Show them as star athletes. Show them winning against men.

Nike’s ad with Serena Williams was a brilliant example of this. It asked women to ‘Dream Crazier’. It recognizes that men insult women by calling them crazy. But it asked women to show these men what ‘Crazy’ can do.

The voices of the people

If you’re trying to connect with a certain group of people, include voices from those groups. 

It’s horrible when you try depicting a certain group, but cast actors who aren’t from that group. Fantasy movies & shows have always faced backlash when they cast regular sized people to play dwarfs. 

On the other hand, ‘This Is Us’ got a wonderful response when they actually cast a legally blind actor to play the role of a visually impaired character. 

But don’t just include them as actors or voice-overs. Include such people in the creative process. Their experiences would give you insights that you could never have imagined on your own. Include them in the planning and writing phases. If your content is going to talk about people from the LGBTQ+ community, don’t get a straight, cis person to write it. Get someone who’s lived as part of the community to drive the creative process. That makes it more authentic.

Start with your company culture

You can’t really dive into Inclusive Marketing if your own work environment does not believe in diversity and inclusivity. Diversity in your company could be a major strength because you’ll have access to a variety of viewpoints.

The different experiences that they have all gone through will certainly add value to your campaigns. They’ll also help you understand your customers in a better manner.

Brands that embraced Inclusive Marketing.

Fenty Beauty

Rihanna and the folks over at Fenty built an incredibly inclusive company, without even saying the word ‘Inclusive’. They were thinking, ‘Talk is cheap. Let’s do something’.

Rihanna’s vision is ‘Beauty For All’. So, where every other beauty brand offered only a few shades of foundation (that didn’t work for everyone’s complexion), Fenty pushed out 40 shades. They later increased it to 50 shades.

This put a lot of pressure on pre-established beauty brands. Covergirl, Maybelline and Dior all have about 40 shades now. MAC actually has 60 shades.

Microsoft- Reindeer Games

Microsoft realized that differently-abled kids had to miss out on the joy of gaming. This was simply because the controllers were not built for them. So, they built controllers specially designed to let such people play on their X-Box.

Bumble- Find them On Bumble

Bumble decided that they didn’t want to showcase random models. They wanted the world to get to know the real, genuinely interesting people that they could meet on Bumble. Their idea was that every connection adds value to your life.

So they had a photoshoot for the real Bumble users that they found in New York and interviewed them. They even created a dedicated, Find Them On Bumble Instagram page.

AXE- Find Your Magic

Probably the most fast-paced, inclusive and fun ad I’ve seen in a while. While every other deodorant company depicted well-muscled, greek gods of men using their product, AXE starts off asking, ‘Who needs a 6 pack?”.

The premise of the ad is that you don’t need any other thing, because you have your thing. You don’t need to subscribe to anyone else’s standards of amazingness. You have your own magic.

P&G- The Talk

P&G dealt with a serious topic in a campaign titled- The Talk.

It showcased the hidden talks that African-American mothers have with their children to ensure that they stay safe. Their goal was to make the world aware of these conversations, so that one day, African-American parents would not need to have these conversations.


It pays to be inclusive. Literally. And now’s the best time to start. 

Inclusive Marketing is here to stay, you’ve got to make sure you’re doing it right.

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