What Is Inclusive Marketing? (Importance, Examples & Trends)

Patrick Lane Marketing Manager
Key Points
  • Inclusive marketing acknowledges the rich diversity of the world by highlighting, celebrating, and giving voice to people and their unique identities.
  • Inclusive marketing results in better brand affinity, customer loyalty, customer recommendation, and it’s the right thing to do.
  • All brands that want to reach wider audiences and provide solutions to broader markets should prioritize inclusive marketing strategies.

What is inclusive marketing?

Inclusive marketing is a type of marketing and technique that highlights, incorporates, and attempts to represent all the differences and diversity of the real world. It understands that real people have multiple identities.

Inclusive marketing differs from earlier forms of diversity-based marketing because it includes: 

  • Appearance 
  • Age 
  • Gender identity 
  • Sexual orientation 
  • Ethnicity 
  • Race
  • Marital status 
  • Religion 
  • Physical and mental ability
  • Socio-economic status 

It attempts to include all groups of people.

Inclusive marketing campaigns are designed to recognize the complexity of needs across diverse customer groups, and attempt to bridge the gaps to include audiences from all walks of life. Inclusive marketing strategies began as a digital marketing trend and now represents an entire discipline that supports social change.

Inclusivity appears across industries and is ubiquitous in marketing efforts for major brands and products like clothing, luxury goods, food, tech items, higher education, financial services, automotive products, and other widely used services. It can be seen across social media, brand sites, and marketing content.

Inclusive marketing vs diverse marketing

While sometimes used interchangeably, inclusive marketing and diverse marketing have subtle differences. While inclusive marketing is about representing and marketing to the broadest, heterogeneous customer base, diverse marketing specifically focuses on individual demographic segments.

Inclusive marketing is designing your marketing plans around the needs of everyone and diversity marketing is how brands target specific identity groups. You can think of inclusive marketing as the parent category and diversity marketing as a sub-process.

Why is inclusive marketing so important?

Considering that communities in real life are infinitely diverse and complex, marketers have to create initiatives and brand identities that can connect with their equally diverse target customers. 

Social good and progress are at the heart of inclusivity. But it can also majorly impact a brand’s bottom line, value, and customer experiences. Reputationally, no one wants to be known as the non-inclusive brand from an offering or company culture standpoint. With so many diverse voices, committing to an inclusive culture also brings in more talent with unique perspectives.

Expand your audience

For modern brands, operating with a more realistic understanding of target audiences should always be the goal. But, all the audience research in the world can be misinterpreted without an acknowledgement of unique life paths and how they impact audience connection.

When diversity is understood and inclusive marketing begins, brands can reach more individuals. Then, based on feedback from the new customer audience, they can improve their offerings or even offer new products and services to serve newly discovered needs.

The ultimate result is greatly increasing your target audience, which can increase revenue while gaining valuable information about your diverse customer base. What brand doesn’t want to do some good while getting more customers?

Improve brand affinity

Brand affinity, or the emotional connection between brands and customers, is an incredibly powerful tool for building brand loyalty, customer retention, and brand value. Brand affinity works when your audience shares your brand’s principles and vision. 

The emotional bond fosters a positive loop of purchase decisions and customer recommendations that drive even more sales. When customers experience high brand affinity, this connection creates a buyer journey that fully encompasses their specific needs.

Because brand audiences are so diverse, appealing to the widest possible audience and their diversity markers tends to result in better engagement. Plus, you’ll be including everyone and creating a welcoming environment.

Protect brand reputation

Given that the world is more interconnected, diverse backgrounds, cultures, and unique lifestyles increasingly fall into most brands’ target markets. With the advent of inclusive marketing, an expectation of diverse marketing is the norm.

Companies that don’t live up to the expectations of modern consumers risk a damaged brand reputation — being anti-inclusion. Also, creating an authentic commitment to real inclusivity is a social good that some brands, like Aerie and Dove, have used as PR strategies to bolster their brand’s public perception.

Be an inclusive company

Adopting inclusivity externally is great but internally it can have major benefits to any existing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs. Creating brand messaging rooted in inclusivity has the added benefit of attracting diverse talent, which resonates strongly with Gen Z. 

Creating a company that values diversity of thought and identity ultimately leads to better results. It leads to gaining and retaining top talent, creates a richer company culture, and welcomes people of all backgrounds.

Consider training your chief marketing officer in inclusivity and they can help prioritize this discipline in your broader marketing team.

Make the world a better place

Ultimately, inclusive marketing’s goal is to welcome people, regardless of their identities, into engagement with a brand’s community and offerings. But it also invites disenfranchised or underrepresented groups — LGBTQIA+, people of color, people with disabilities, etc. — into the conversation.

A welcoming approach and environment ensures better reach for brands, but more importantly, makes the world a better place.

Key considerations of inclusive marketing

Creating inclusive marketing that has impact requires the careful crafting of things like tone, positioning, language, sensitivity and empathy, and much more. Here’s a deep dive into some of the most important inclusive marketing considerations:

Tone

The tone, or the sentiment of a piece of content, is important to establishing an inclusive marketing position. Being cognizant of inclusive tone requires careful attention to the goal of a given piece of content and the impact it will have. A welcoming, open tone helps to keep things inclusive.

Inclusive language

Word choice in marketing materials is also essential to creating inclusivity. Words have the power to bring us together but they can also create misunderstandings and divide us. The same goes for your references, metaphors, and stories. 

Focus on developing language that supports your goals around tone, as this is a good guide. Also be mindful of the impact your language may have on diverse audiences.

Personas

We know that all major brands serve just about every identity imaginable. A brand like Coca-Cola, for example, serves the entire U.S. and that means marketing a product to everyone. This has major implications for all marketing efforts.

Based on the data, successful brands build buyer personas that accurately represent real people and their complex behavior. When doing this it is important to consider all the potential demographic information and identities of your target market. 

Including diverse persona examples early on provides better results built upon more realistic insights. If diversity isn’t part of your personas, you’re not only missing profitable demographics, but excluding real people.

Images and visuals

A foundational aspect of inclusive marketing is the use of imagery that reflects real world diversity. Your target audience and customer base contains multitudes of identities so why wouldn’t your imagery reflect this reality?

When choosing imagery to represent your customers as well as internal teams, pick a range that reflects many types of diversity like race, ability, culture, and more. This is a great way to up your customer engagement.

Culture

A key tenet of inclusion is the acceptance and celebration of diverse cultures, as well as creating spaces where this can happen. Overall, your marketing materials, site, and other assets should be based on accessibility, usability, and welcoming to all. 

In other words, when you create content, don’t write from an ethnocentric point of view or appropriate culture. Instead, try to foster an environment that makes room for the full range of identity, specifically cultural backgrounds.

In fact, that advice should extend across your entire content strategy.

Great examples of inclusive marketing

Check out this industry-defining inclusive marketing leader:

Etsy

Perhaps one of the most compelling brands on the inclusion front is Etsy. Specifically, we’re talking about the brand’s unique Indigenous Artisans Collective.

The Indigenous Artisans Collective is one of many identity-themed categories that celebrates indigenous culture through the lens of authentic crafts, jewelry, and other goods.

This section lists items from indigenous makers, highlights specific people, shares the items and info with Etsy’s general audience, and invites increased participation by indigenous people. This is inclusive marketing done perfectly. 

Images below:

Maker Communities show off the unique cultural productions of people of diverse backgrounds. Not only does this let people tell their unique stories and center their voices, it also provides economic opportunities.
Etsy invites users to learn more about the individual craftspeople behind the products and even produces blog-style content about them. You learn about the person’s unique identity, the roots of their craft, and more.
The Uplift Makers Program lets representatives of diverse groups play a major role in selecting the makers and crafts that appear in the Indigenous Artisans Collective. This adds an interesting layer of agency for indigenous makers on Etsy and also focuses on their unique backgrounds and perspectives.

Final Thoughts

Inclusive marketing can become another buzzword for marketing professionals but when it’s done with intention and for the right reasons, it can be transformative for the brand and its audience. From better brand trust to more engagement, as well as social good, implementing a thoughtfully created inclusivity focus has no downside.

Consider focusing on some of the tips in this article but also look to Etsy and other great inclusive marketers like Apple or Microsoft for inspiration. Remember, inclusivity is now a market imperative due to its wide adoption but it’s also simply the right thing to do.

Inclusive Marketing FAQs

What is inclusive marketing?

Inclusive marketing meaning: Inclusive marketing is a marketing technique that highlights, incorporates, and attempts to represent the diversity of the real world in a brand’s overall external communications and marketing efforts.

What is inclusive advertising?

Inclusive advertising meaning: Inclusive advertising is the same as inclusive marketing in most contexts. Inclusive advertising shares the methods and goals of representing real world diversity in marketing efforts.

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