You've probably heard the buzzword "inclusion" a lot in the last few years.
But what does it mean in the context of marketing?
When we hear about marketing, most of the time, it is about getting your product or service known. You bring awareness to the public by using fancy videos or imagery that helps put the best features of your product forward.
This process of marketing is very common among many businesses. The problem with this inward marketing process is that it focuses mostly on the product and not on the end users.
The goal of all types of marketing is to ultimately sell your offer; when you do not speak the right language to the audience, they might often feel left out and not connect with your brand. One way to ensure you do not jeopardize your marketing is by making it inclusive.
In this article, we'll talk about what inclusion means for marketers, how we can practice inclusive marketing in our day-to-day lives, and why it matters more than ever before.
What is Inclusive Marketing?
Inclusive marketing is a simple practice that consists of building your marketing message while considering the backgrounds of your intended audience.
It should consider things like gender, location, race, language, age, sexual orientation, culture, and socio-economic status, to name a few.
This kind of marketing considers all aspects of your audience so that all target demographics can relate to your business in some way.
It's all about making sure your customers feel included, valued and respected. It's not just about marketing to different kinds of people—it's also about marketing to everyone with empathy so that you can get closer to understanding their needs.
Principles of Inclusive Marketing
A company needs to apply certain principles of inclusivity not only in the marketing efforts, but also in their other processes.
Start with the tone
The tone of your marketing campaign is vey important. How is your message portrayed to your audience?
An effective message should have the right intention. Do not use terms, phrases or messages that could offend your audience!
Be Intentional with language
Language is an important factor in all aspects of life. When describing something to an audience, it is important to note how different people might interpret certain words or phrases. A marketer’s language should promote overall wellness.
Diversity is a key challenge for most organizations since it is complex to represent all the different people with diverse backgrounds. However, it is important that marketing campaigns reflect the representation of people from various backgrounds.
Cultural appropriation refers to one embracing pieces of a minority’s culture without fully understanding it or appreciating it.
For example, wearing a head wrap could be considered as appropriating Indian culture.
It is difficult to tell the difference between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation. To avoid appropriating, it is important for marketers to consult from experts before borrowing from any culture.
There's no way to sugarcoat it: Inclusive marketing is not only a great idea, but it's also the right thing to do. You'll be helping to create a more diverse and inclusive culture in your workplace and community, which can only lead to better results for everyone.
In order to make sure your marketing is as inclusive as possible, there are some specific things you should avoid at all costs:
- Do not use language that is offensive or harmful
- Do not use language that is exclusive
- Do not use language that is stereotypical- A stereotype refers to an oversimplified prejudice or judgment created to a certain group of people due to factors, including gender, race, ethnicity, color, and others.
- Do not use language that is sexist
- Don't use racially charged words in your copy for any reason.
These terms may seem harmless until someone points out how off-putting they are and asks you why on earth anyone would want anything labelled as such.
Understand the needs of your customer.
As you begin to understand your customer's needs, you can begin to craft an inclusive marketing strategy that is relevant. Inclusive marketing involves communicating with your customers by using language they understand, sharing content that resonates with them, and including diverse individuals in your marketing efforts.
Be Honest With Yourself And Your Team
You might be afraid to admit you're wrong or unsure, but those feelings are part of being human.
Be honest with yourself and your team—don't pretend like everything is going to be perfect all the time. When you make a mistake, say so and apologize. When something doesn't go according to plan, admit it and move on without letting it get in the way of progress.
If a teammate has an idea that's different from what everyone else thinks, don't shut them down; encourage them instead!
Being honest about this kind of stuff will build trust among all members of your team and increase transparency within your organization as a whole, which will make working together easier for everyone involved.
In the end, it's better for everyone when nobody pretends they have all the answers or acts like they know everything there is to know about their industry just because they've been doing this job for 10 years or more (or less).
Be Honest With Your Customers
Customers want to know what you stand for, and what you value and believe in. They want to know who your company is as a whole, not just the product or service you're selling.
When marketing an inclusive brand, it's important to put yourself in the shoes of your customers—not just those who are like you but all of them: men and women; people from different cultures/ethnicities; people with disabilities; older adults; younger adults; veterans; LGBTQIA+ community members...and so on.
The last thing inclusive brands should do is claim they're inclusive when they're not.
In fact, it's important that companies don't say they're something unless they truly believe in those values, and if the company hasn't fully embraced these values yet but wants to show its commitment toward being more inclusive—as many companies do—it is better to say so than to remain vague.
This is particularly important in design. Inclusive design is not just for people with disabilities. In fact, it can help everyone. Here are some reasons why creating an accessible design can make a difference in your business:
- Accessibility makes for a great user experience. You should strive to create an experience that works for everyone, no matter what their ability level is or how they use your product/service. This means avoiding common mistakes like using only text and no images, making sure buttons are big enough so they're easy to click on mobile phones, and having a consistent design across platforms (e.g., iOS and Android).
- Accessibility is a good business sense—it's the law in some countries but not others; if you're based somewhere where it isn't required, but you have customers from other countries who visit your site regularly and might have trouble accessing certain parts of it due to technical limitations (such as poor internet connections), then making your site more accessible would be good practice anyway!
Be inclusive in every step of the product development cycle
Look at the product development and design process. Think about the ways you can make your products more inclusive from the earliest stages of a new product rollout.
What tools do you use to evaluate your products for accessibility? How do those tools work? Are they easy to use? Does it take too long for someone with disabilities to complete them, or are they too complex for a person with low literacy skills, who may not have access to computers at all (and therefore rely on paper forms, for example)?
How will people be able to use or interact with your product once it's been released into the wild? Do they have access to manuals and instructions online if needed? Can those manuals be read by text-to-speech software if needed? Can users adjust the way they interact with their devices or software based on their abilities and preferences (e.g., keyboard shortcuts versus mouse clicks)?
Inclusion Is Not A Special "Extra" That Only Certain Companies Can Afford; It's An Essential Part Of Good Marketing
Inclusion is not a special "extra" that only certain companies can afford; it's an essential part of good marketing.
All too often, businesses think they're doing their part by being inclusive—or even solely focusing on diversity—in their marketing and advertising. But this is not enough. In order to truly build a company that values diversity, you have to be inclusive in everything you do every day.
Companies need to focus less on achieving the right ratios and more on creating environments where people are able to contribute equally regardless of their race, gender, ability or anything else that might be stereotyped as limiting themselves.
Inclusion is not an optional extra but rather an integral part of good marketing.
It's a way to build trust with your customers and show them that you care about them as people, not just as consumers.
And this is true whether you are marketing to the general public or working with specific communities — whether it be because they have disabilities or chronic illnesses, live in remote areas where internet access isn't easy or reliable, etc.
Inclusion gives people confidence that when they buy from you, their needs will be taken seriously; when they engage with your brand, whether online or offline.
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