How to Create an Inclusive Marketing Strategy

Since March, almost every advertisement or television commercial has included the line “we’re all this together,” but how are brands practicing what they preach? In 2020, themes of inclusivity have become prevalent more than ever before, partly as a reflection of our heightened collective need for connection and community. 

Inclusive marketing is the concept of utilizing messaging in a way that allows marginalized communities to connect with a brand. While the circumstances of this year are different from the years that preceded it, inclusive marketing has been circulating and growing for some time now. At face value, the name can be deceiving: you might be asking yourself, does inclusive marketing mean my product or service has to be catered to everyone? Definitely not. (The girl walking into the mall looking for an outfit inspired by one of the characters from Euphoria probably isn’t going to change her mind and buy a football jersey halfway through that mission no matter how hard an ad tries.) Rather, according to Forbes, inclusive marketing is all about being intentional; identifying the people you want to focus on, and then being the best at it.

Rihanna, with her industry-shaking Savage x Fenty line, has managed to exemplify this strategy across a few different categories: models at Rihanna’s shows are notably diverse in race, body type, and gender identity, showing customers from every walk of life that they have a place in their product lines. The long-struggling Victoria’s Secret, a direct competitor of Savage x Fenty, dug in their heels not too long ago when asked about the homogeneity of their models, saying models outside of their industry-standard didn’t “sell the fantasy,” a comment that understandably didn’t land well at the time and has worsened with age. Rihanna created a fantasy world of her own, where people who are diverse in every sense can come together.

There’s a difference between being inclusive and pandering, though, and customers can tell the difference. When Microsoft learned that children with certain physical disabilities, health conditions or missing limbs were having difficulty playing video games with their traditional controllers, they designed an alternate controller with different touchpads and visual cues. This choice didn’t alienate Microsoft’s existing customer base or divest from the core of the business – and, in fact, it brought in a whole new group of folks that didn’t consider the company before, maybe even building some brand loyalty in the process.

Microsoft’s choice illustrated that inclusivity is about more than racial diversity, which is often the first thought for many marketers and strategists. Racial diversity is an important factor, though: in America, racial and ethnic minorities make up nearly 40% of the population, a number that is only expected to grow in the coming years. Couple this with the fact that 5% of the population identifies as part of the LGBTQ+ community: this might not sound like a terribly high number, but that math comes out to more than 16 million people in the United States, new potential customers that maybe just didn’t realize they could be welcome in the story of your business.

When ad after ad is beating the same drum – we can get through this, together – how can your company actually bring that idea to life?