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Small but Meaningful Ways To Be a More Inclusive Marketer

Sexual orientation, race, ability, age – the consumer population is hardly homogenous, yet 72% of people feel most advertising doesn’t reflect the world around them.

It’s curious, isn’t it? As marketers, we spend so much time trying to convince people we understand them. Their challenges and needs. Their hopes and dreams. But isn’t it all phony-baloney if they don’t see themselves reflected in our marketing?

There’s a lesson here: we need to be trying harder to build meaningful connections with our audiences, and inclusive marketing plays an important role.

What’s inclusive marketing?

Inclusive marketing acknowledges that your audience consists of different groups of people. It’s about being intentional with the words you chose, the types of people you show in your creative (38% of consumers are more likely to trust brands that show diversity in their ads, and 64% are more likely to buy their products), and how you design your experiences to be accessible to everyone.

It’s the right way to operate, but it can’t stop at marketing.

Launching an ad campaign that features a queer couple is great, but if it’s not authentic – if you only champion the 2SLGBTQ+ community during pride month, for example – it can be seen as performative, an illusion of inclusion.

“Marginalized consumers want brands to prove they are worthy of their attention and dollars.”

—Sonia Thompson, Forbes

When it comes to being inclusive, consumers and stakeholders expect brands to take action beyond mere marketing. It boils down to trust.

And frankly, there’s a business case to be made: a recent Deloitte survey concluded that the highest-growing brands are “committed to achieving equitable outcomes across all their areas of influence – workforce, marketplace, and society – in ways their lower-growth peers are not.” It literally pays to do the right thing.

That said, a formal Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) plan doesn’t come together overnight. It’s a journey – one we’re still learning about ourselves – but that doesn’t mean you should wait to take honest action in your marketing.

Small steps you can take today.

  • Visual representation. One third of consumers have boycotted a brand at least once after feeling like their identities were excluded from a company’s ads.

    Be intentional with the models you use in your marketing and advertising. Ask yourself: are these subjects accurate avatars for my audience? Am I alienating anyone or exacerbating a stereotype? If you don’t have the answers, seek out the perspectives you need.

    For stock imagery, look beyond the traditional outlets. The Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) has done a great job with its Indigenous stock photo library. As have the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and Getty Images with their collaborative Disrupt Aging collection, which aims to challenge outdated stereotypes by more authentically representing people over the age of 50.
  • Accessible content. More than six million people over the age of 15 in Canada live with some form of disability that could affect how they browse the web.

    Ensure your content is compliant with Canada’s accessibility lawsAODA, specifically, if you’re in Ontario. Look to accessibility checklists for guidelines around alternative text (alt text), legible fonts, high-contrast colour palettes, video captioning, and more.

    For example, just by adding short, clear descriptions to the code of your images – AKA alt text – you’re helping visually impaired people using screen readers understand the content of those images. It’s an easy step your content and development teams can add to their processes. And bonus: it does wonders for SEO.
  • Inclusive language. Ever wonder why people still use words like “manpower” when more than half of Canadians don’t identify as men?

    That’s why inclusive language exists, to avoid words or expressions that might be gendered, biased, discriminatory (you’d be surprised how many everyday phrases have racist connotations), or generally problematic. It’s about being aware of your words and revising your content critically. Not sure where to start? Try the Government of Canada’s guidelines for inclusive writing.

Don’t wait to respect your audience.

Most people have a superficial relationship with brands to begin with. By not being inclusive in your marketing, you’re making it even harder to build meaningful connections with your audiences.

But keep in mind: your brand values (what you show the world) should be synonymous with your organizational values (how you operate). No amount of diversity in your sales collateral, for example, can replace measurable DEIA commitments. It’s how you build loyalty.

Still, some action is better than none, so don’t wait to champion DEIA in your marketing. Don’t let the fear of getting it wrong hold you back. People value brands that care about other people. If you’re authentic and consistent, and you leave room to listen and improve, your efforts should be well received.

Want to learn more about optimizing your marketing and communications? From accessibility to SEO to media planning and more – our team is here to help.

Contact us today to get started.