Creating a positive brand image is at the heart of any digital marketing strategy as it is important for people to be able to connect to and feel drawn towards your brand. In recent years, brands have started to make a more intentional effort to promote inclusion by ensuring equal representation. Representation in marketing is necessary for brands to connect with a larger audience and to create stronger bonds with them. This is possible as the right representation targets individuals from all walks of life, by seeking commonalities outside of labels that come with skin tone, body shape and race.
The fashion industry has often received a lot of backlash for portraying unhealthy beauty standards due to its exclusive features of slender bodies. It even led to Victoria’s Secret bidding farewell to its annual fashion show in 2019. However, out of its ashes rose Rihanna’s body inclusive Savage x Fenty fashion show on Amazon Prime, a perfect example of diversity marketing at its best. The brand gained success by featuring models with different body types, genders, and racial backgrounds. By doing so, it was able to reach a wider audience who may have previously felt unseen by other big brands.
Underestimating the value of diversity and its importance to customers will definitely stand as an obstacle to a business’ success in these modern times. However, ill-informed attempts at promoting inclusivity will prove to impact brands even more negatively. Some of the common mistakes that are being made by brands range from completely skirting diversity altogether in their digital marketing strategies to misrepresentations of cultures due to a lack of knowledge. How can companies practise diversity while ensuring that their marketing efforts accurately represent their audience?
Follow our guide to avoid some of the major pitfalls before launching your digital marketing campaign.
Make no mistake, diversity and inclusivity are not just boxes to be checked while planning for a marketing strategy. It will be obvious to your consumers if you have included someone from an underrepresented group just for the sake of inclusivity. In fact, consumers might even find it insulting. Tokenistic inclusion is not inclusion at all. Representation should never be an afterthought or seen as an obligation.
To ensure authenticity, brands have to focus on diversifying their network. Brands should meet and get to know the people that they are trying to include in their brand story. When hunting for talent, be sure to gather people from all backgrounds, regardless of race, culture and body shape. People of different backgrounds will also provide new ideas and points of view when coming onboard an inclusive marketing campaign.
Next, you will have to understand the nuances of your audience and adapt your messaging to that audience, just as you would with any other demographic. Your audience will be able to see that you are embracing their culture, and not just taking advantage of a minority group to prove your efforts in promoting diversity.
Customers want more than just representative photography from a brand. They want to see that an effort has been made to understand their culture and background even before photos that represent them are taken or published as part of a digital marketing strategy. As shown by renowned bath product brand Dove’s failed marketing campaign, simply including a person of minority background as part of an advertisement is not enough, and this mistake might even spark backlash. As part of your marketing strategy, it is a good idea to include features, storylines, and more in-depth content. Show your audience that you care, are being genuine, and more than anything else, are aware of the struggles that minority groups are subjected to.
To fully encapsulate what inclusive marketing represents, focus on real stories from real people – which unlike photos, cannot be bought. Inclusion should be an integral part of brand proposition, to ensure that diversity and inclusion is built into the ethos and mindset of your company.
Don’t make the mistake of pretending to be inclusive. Consumers are looking beyond just a brand's digital marketing in terms of the products, services, and experiences they deliver to determine whether or not they are truly representative.
Representation needs to be seen internally as well. If diversity is not seen at all levels within the workplace, it shows that your brand lacks authenticity and it will highlight a lack of commitment in valuing diversity. Look into your hiring practices and tweak it so that there are no subtle prejudices against any particular group of people. This will help to ensure that everyone has equal opportunities in the workplace. Advocate inclusion across your policies, processes, and behaviours. Encourage inclusivity from inside out – diverse, niche and marginalised consumers want to spend their money on brands that truly value or care about those who are part of their community. Ensure that your representation efforts are seen as authentic by them, and not just a way to get these customers to spend their money.
Inclusive marketing is great, but only when it is done right. It is about being authentic, genuine, and aware of everyone’s cultural sensitivities. Brands of today need to work towards building up a commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion to ensure that their products and services are accessible to people of all cultural backgrounds.