How to Implement Inclusive Marketing in Your Content Strategy

Inclusive marketing in your content strategy means understanding that consumers aren’t like they were 30 years ago.

Heck, with the fast-paced growth of social media, influencers, and millennials leading the future – consumers have certainly changed.

Since consumers have changed, the brands they’re supporting need to change, too. In today’s digital age, it’s not enough to claim ‘diversity’ or ‘inclusion’ in your content, on your website copy, or in your elevator pitch. Inclusive marketing needs to be at the core of your content strategy – or your audience will catch you in a lie, completely.

How do you implement inclusive marketing in your content strategies?

It starts with throwing out the ‘tried and true’ buyer persona and digging deeper.

What Is Inclusive Marketing?

We define inclusive marketing as creating content that reflects the diverse communities our businesses serves. This isn’t talking about “ideal target audience”, “dream clients”, or “average buyer”. This takes it one step further and understanding who is your consumer and why do they buy from your brand.

Inclusive marketing takes into account different characteristics and understands how using content may influence or impact representation in the following areas:

  • Race
  • Gender identity
  • Ethnicity
  • Age
  • Religion
  • Ability
  • Sexual orientation
  • Political views

In Salesforce’s latest research on the opportunity for responsible businesses, 90% of consumers believe that businesses have a responsibility to look beyond profit and improve the world.

Like we mentioned before, consumers have changed. Minorities and marginalized groups are using their dollars to make statements and drive change – their buying power has increased!

Inclusive marketing looks like:

  • Elevating diverse voices –> “Passing the mic”
  • Decreasing cultural bias –> “Not playing into media stereotype”
  • Leading positive social change –> “Creating content that is representative”

This is NOT Inclusive Marketing

Before we get into the ‘how to’s’ of inclusive marketing, we want to highlight where companies went wrong. These are three HUGE mistakes from international companies who missed the mark on their marketing strategies.

Diversity & Inclusivity are two separate ideals. A community can be as ‘diverse’ as you want, but the difference is… does everyone feel included, heard, valued, and seen the same way?

Example 1: Dove’s Body Wash Ad

In an attempt to highlight racial diversity and inclusivity, the personal care and beauty brand ‘missed the mark’ when they had three women in a short clip, removing their colored t-shirts to reveal the other woman.

The company shared a short GIF on Facebook and seeing the full clip, you can see three different women from diverse racial backgrounds. Seeing a still of the GIF, you’re presented with a black woman, taking off her dark brown t-shirt, and underneath revealing a white woman, with a white t-shirt. Taken in this context, if only seeing the still photo, the soap ad seems to imply that before and after, black = dirty and white = clean.

People quickly denounced the company as racist, ‘tone-deaf’ to diversity, and threatened to boycott the brand.

Dove’s body wash ad campaign

Example 2: UBER’s Wife Appreciation Day

In September 2017, UBER shared a campaign in Bangladesh for “Wife Appreciation Day” by sending out a code “NOCOOKINGDAY” for a discount on UBEReats.

YES. That actually happened.

We can’t believe it either.

The message in the email campaign encouraged husbands to “let [their] wife take a day off from the kitchen” with a discount code. UBER’s Chief Brand Ambassador, Bozoma Saint John, quickly jumped on this and immediately went into damage control.

In your inclusive marketing efforts, let’s try to stay away from stereotypical gender roles for men and women.

Tasteless marketing campaign from Uber
via: @BabaGlocal

Example 3: Pepsi’s Protest-Themed Commercial

Ah. Yes, Pepsi. They shat on their opportunity and completely missed the mark with their message. Here’s the commercial, if you haven’t seen it…

During 2017, the United States had increasingly high tensions between police authorities and people of color. That year, there had been attempted lynchings, racially-profiled police shootings, and peaceful protests by larger movements like Black Lives Matter.

Pepsi created an ad campaign putting ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashian’ star, Kendall Jenner, at the forefront while referencing political protests that were currently happening in the country. The controversial ad attempted to create a message of unity, highlighting other millennials of diverse racial backgrounds, sexual orientation, and more.

In the commercial, we see the large group of protestors approaching the police line and Jenner grabbing a can of Pepsi, handing it to one of the police officers as a “peace offering”. After cautiously taking the can of soda, the police officer takes a sip and the crowd cheers as he ‘accepted the offering’.

The image in the commercial of Jenner handing the can of Pepsi to the police officer is almost a complete mirror of this image of Ieshia Evans as she is being charged by police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisianna, while she firmly stands her ground.

Pepsi protest campaign
Photograph by: Jonathan Bachman

While Pepsi’s intentions may have been to reference the political tensions during that year and bring all people together under a common belief, they completely… “missed the mark” like Dove and UBER.

The commercial was met with an uproar of backlash and criticism, as people accused Pepsi of capitalizing off of the Black Lives Matter movement, putting a white millennial female as the savior, and undermining the work of marginalized groups fighting for social and racial equality by solving the problem with a Pepsi.

READ: 18 of the Biggest Marketing Fails You Can Learn from in 2018 – written by Blueleadz

How to Implement Inclusive Marketing

Now that you’ve seen some large blunders from brands who’ve attempted to implement “diverse” and “inclusive” marketing, we want to share how to responsibly implement it into your content strategy.

Have a Diverse Team

Diversity means having different perspectives. Different perspectives mean different lived experiences, backgrounds, cultures, and upbringings. By having a diverse marketing team (or team in general), you’re able to highlight unseen biases that each of your team members has that can be misrepresented and misconstrued in a marketing campaign. This starts with having diverse recruiting requirements put in place, inclusion activities at work, and constantly having ‘taboo’ conversations with your team and pushing them out of their comfort zones.

Doublecheck your Imagery and Representation

Don’t be like Dove’s body soap commercial where they were tone-deaf to the image they were portraying by having a black woman take off her shirt and ‘transform’ into a white woman. Imagery, like Dove’s body soap commercial, misrepresent an entire race of women. Make sure to always doublecheck your imagery and representation. Common things to look for are:

  • Playing into racial stereotypes
  • Does the image associated with the text portray a negative belief of a group of people?
  • What types of images are being used to represent a type of media?

Be aware of what your images represent in your marketing campaign – from the text associated, the headline, and the message you are portraying. Also, what does diversity and representation LOOK like in all spectrums: age, race, ability, gender, religion, body type.

READ: How to Use your Copy & Photography to Connect with your Target Audience

Use Inclusive Copy & Check Your Tone

Inclusive copy is using gender-neutral pronouns. If gender isn’t necessary, don’t include it. The easiest way to write inclusive copy is to talk to your ideal audience like you are their friend. Be aware of cultural norms and stereotyping gender roles when writing marketing copy. We don’t want your brand to commit the mistake that UBER made!

Also, check the tone of your message. What does it sound like and how does it represent the people you’re trying to speak to?

READ: Writing Accessible Web Copy and Content

Expand your Narrative & Listen

Marketing can’t be done alone – that’s the beauty of it. It shouldn’t be done alone. When you expand your narrative, look for influencers, spokespeople, or professionals who offer a diverse perspective. There are definitely enough ‘white people’ who have their claim to fame, but how often do we see highlighted voices and narratives from others in marginalized and underrepresented groups take the stage to share their story?

And if your business is struggling to find diverse narratives to highlight, take the time to listen to your audience. Listen to ALL of your audience, not just your normal consumer or ideal client, take the time to understand what an individual is looking for, what they enjoy, and how they incorporate your brand into their lives. Start there and then expand.


Lastly and most importantly, please, don’t tokenize. Although we’ve just shared that it’s important to expand your narrative, we want to touch on the tokenizing that often happens in spaces that attempt to bring in diversity, representation, and inclusion. When you’re ONLY using one person (or group) that you know as the spokesperson for your brand, especially if they’re in a marginalized or underrepresented group, you’ve now tokenized them as ‘the only’.

We’re back to square one. If you’re only using images and copy to appear to implement inclusive marketing strategies, you’ve now participated in tokenism. Diversity and representation go MUCH deeper than that. Take the time to look through your values, understand your brand, and see where you can highlight and ‘pass the mic’.

Get Started with Inclusive Marketing in your Content Strategy

90% of consumers believe that businesses have the responsibility to improve the world. 43% of millennials in the United States identify as African American, Latinx, or Asian.

Those numbers aren’t here to play and neither are consumers. As consumer knowledge grows and shapes based on the political climate, pop culture, and global issues, companies are now being tasked with doing more and doing better. Underrepresented and marginalized groups have increased buying power, which means they WILL speak with their dollars spent.

Not only is the world moving to more inclusivity (with more work to be done, of course), people want to see themselves represented and feel seen. Brands now have the opportunity to include inclusive marketing strategies in their content, attracting and growing their audience. Your brand will not only be positioned as a leader in social change, but it will also be more creative in marketing efforts and more open to other business opportunities!

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