Written by Caroline Cox on Aug 19 , 2020

It’s important that your marketing ads appeal to all facets of your target audience — that means making sure your message is inclusive.

Here, you’ll find:

  • How to create inclusive marketing
  • The difference between diversity and inclusion
  • What to avoid for a more inclusive message
  • How to create a long-term inclusion strategy

One time I was taking a barre class at a fitness studio and I noticed something that made me uneasy. I looked at all of the large photos framed on the wall, and each one featured only thin, white-looking women. Then I looked at the equipment, which included just one size of resistance bands (small), which were meant to fit over both thighs at once.

I stopped going to this studio because I felt like they were only marketing to one particular demographic. The image they were projecting wasn’t inclusive.

As Accenture defines it, “Inclusive marketing refers to the messaging, people, processes and technologies that enable [marginalized] or underrepresented groups to fully experience and connect with brands.” By focusing on making your marketing ads inclusive, you can appeal to a wide range of prospects without making anyone feel left out or like they don’t belong. 

Wondering how to make sure your digital strategy models inclusive marketing? Keep reading.

inclusive marketing strategies

Highlight your brand’s inclusive mindset by celebrating holidays focused on marginalized people, the LGBTQ community, and other diverse groups. (Image via Unsplash)

1. Take a look at your customers

Your customers will tell you a lot about how you’re currently marketing your product or service. Check out their demographics: are there segments of the population that could very well benefit from your offering, but you’re just not targeting them?

It’s also wise to look at your leads that didn’t pan out, and the reasons why. Was it not a fit because of need or price, or was it a misalignment in your messaging or sales pitch? If someone’s interested in your product but doesn’t feel like your brand speaks to them or shares their values, they’re less likely to sign on the dotted line. 

Pro tip: Consider surveying your customers (and even your leads). Ask questions to learn more about them and get their feedback on how you could better represent and speak to them through your marketing.

2. Celebrate more than the “major” holidays 

It’s common to create social media content and marketing promotions around major holidays, seasons, and other events. But why stop at summer, Valentine’s Day, and New Year’s Eve? Highlight your brand’s inclusive mindset by celebrating holidays focused on marginalized people, the LGBTQ community, and other diverse groups as well.

For example, some brands change their social media avatars or homepages to feature a rainbow during Pride Month. Others will create educational content around a holiday like Juneteenth or Hispanic Heritage Month to show allyship. 

Just make sure it’s not all rooted in performance and optics. The best displays like this are backed up by inclusive hiring practices, language, and even donations or investments in organizations that help uplift these communities. 

3. Be thoughtful about visuals

No surprise here: Visuals are one of the most important factors when it comes to digital advertising. Photos, graphics, and videos are a way to instantly hook the viewer and make them want to know more. But if your ad, blog, or website imagery isn’t inclusive, you could be inspiring people to bounce instead of buy.

Take it back to your customers. More than likely, they’re a diverse crowd when it comes to things like:

  • Race
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Ability
  • Size
  • Socioeconomic status

HubSpot highlights the positive impact inclusive marketing imagery can have not only on public perception, but your bottom line as well. 

Pro tip: Colors and fonts can also affect inclusion. For instance, certain color schemes are hard to read for those with vision impairments or color blindness. And studies show that fonts like Helvetica, Courier, Arial, Verdana are more readable for those with dyslexia.

4. Use inclusive language

Using inclusive language means your messaging is free from slang, references, or other verbiage that discriminates against a group of people. Inclusive language should not only be a priority for your marketing, but for your job descriptions, website copy, and all other written materials across your company.

Inclusive language also helps prevent any barriers that could prevent viewers from understanding your message. Things like acronyms without explanations and business jargon can make people feel left out if they don’t get the reference. 

digital marketing for inclusion

“Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.” (Image via Unsplash)

5. Avoid stereotypes and appropriation

Just like you shouldn’t lean on exclusionary language, you also don’t want to employ stereotypes and appropriation. As Google explains, “Stereotypes are the fastest way to show users you don’t understand them.”

Not only are these tropes lazy, but they can offend people and get your brand into hot water. Salesforce adds that drawing from other cultures, traditions, and personal experiences can be both subjective and sensitive. The best way to avoid these pitfalls? Keep empathy, context, and nuance top of mind when you’re brainstorming marketing initiatives. 

Brands like General Mills, Tide, and Downy have shown strides in going against stereotypes by featuring interracial families and dads as homemakers, for example.

6. Know the difference between diversity and inclusion

The words “diversity” and “inclusion,” while similar, don’t have the exact same meaning. As acclaimed diversity advocate Vernā Myers put it, “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.”

While a multicultural stock photo in your homepage shows diversity, interviewing an expert that just so happens to be a person of color (POC) in a whitepaper shows inclusion. And what good are diverse photos if your language, hiring processes, and company culture aren’t inclusive?

The Content Marketing Institute adds that truly diverse and inclusive marketing “requires thinking more deeply, from your audience research to your team structure, from your style guide to your user experience.”

7. Bake inclusion into your overall marketing strategy

Once you’ve got the diversity and inclusion down pat, the next step is making sure the concepts stick. Much like PPC, content creation, and ad optimization, creating an inclusive company isn’t a one-time project.

You can encourage an ongoing commitment to inclusion by creating frameworks around your marketing process that involve asking questions whose answers will let you know whether or not your ads and other materials are inclusive. You can also leverage real customer stories in your messaging that highlight clients from various regions, backgrounds, and walks of life.

The takeaway

Marketing is about connecting people with products and services that can help solve their problems. But effective marketing is also about bringing people together through things they have in common.

Prioritize inclusive marketing through thoughtful language, visuals, social media, and strategies to ensure you’re reaching as wide an audience as possible in a way that properly reflects your company’s values. 

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

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