Fashion companies that don’t offer plus-size options. Makeup companies with foundation shades that stop at “beige.” Company websites filled with stock imagery reflecting a stale, homogeneous portrayal of the American population. All of these choices, while seemingly innocent from the inside, send a clear message: our brand does not value diversity.
If you are reading this article now, you’re likely already considering incorporating more diverse marketing strategies into your business, and that is a great first step. Sometimes, it can be challenging getting corporate buy-in for initiatives that may initially seem tangential to the business at hand (“what does diversity have to do with selling cars??”), but inclusivity is one of the most important elements you can add to your digital marketing strategy—both in terms of increasing audience reach and in terms of being an ethical business. Here are some ways your brand can prioritize diversity in digital marketing.
What is Diversity in Digital Marketing?
Diversity is about welcoming and celebrating people from all types of backgrounds, especially marginalized groups. The term encapsulates a variety of traits and protected classes, including (but certainly not limited to) age, race, ethnicity, religion, gender/sexuality, and veteran status. Inclusion is the process of taking active steps to ensure diverse members of a community feel safe and valued. In the context of digital marketing, this means making content and campaigns that speak to and consider an audience representative of the varied people who interact with your brand.
Now, don’t worry; I’m not saying you need a super broad marketing strategy that attempts to cater to everyone. However, your target audience is probably more diverse than you might currently imagine. And if it isn’t, then it might be time to consider how you can market yourself to other demographics to obtain a more diverse audience. Creating a diversity and inclusion marketing campaign requires research, empathy, and a willingness to examine and challenge any personal biases that may be affecting your work.
Benefits of Diversity and Inclusion in Marketing
If you’re trying to determine whether it’s worth the time and effort to include more Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) practices in your marketing department, consider the following benefits:
Broaden Your Reach
Once you start examining your audience with diversity in mind, you might realize that you’re missing out on large groups of people who would love your product or service. By adopting a more inclusive approach, you can tap consumers who would have simply passed your brand by before.
Demonstrate Company Values
When your marketing campaigns are actively and visibly inclusive, you’re making a statement that you support diversity. Many consumers also value diversity, and if they see that your brand supports the same issue, they will feel a stronger emotional connection with your brand. In fact, a study found that 62% of respondents reported that diversity (or lack thereof) influences how they think about a brand. Earning the respect of customers could lead them to choose your business over competitors and continue returning.
A 2019 study showed that 61% of consumers want to see diversity in advertising—and that’s not all talk either. The Female Quotient found that 64% of respondents would take some kind of action, such as making a purchase, after seeing a diverse ad. This indicates that adopting inclusive marketing practices is a way to gain revenue and increase conversions.
Stay Relevant With Younger Audiences
As the melting pot that is America continues to melt even further, Generation Z is the most diverse generation yet. As such, it’s not surprising that the younger generations, Millennials and Gen Z, typically value diversity. For example, 70% of young Millenials and 69% of older Millennials said they would choose a brand over a competitor if it demonstrates inclusivity. Similarly, a whopping 75% of Gen Z consumers said they would stop buying from a brand in response to advertisements that discriminated on the basis of sexuality or race. So, if you want to not only connect with the diverse younger generations but also maintain their patronage, diversity matters.
It’s the Right Thing to do
This one should be obvious. From an ethical standpoint, diversity is always important.
8 Ways to Incorporate Inclusive Marketing Practices
Diversity-focused marketing initiatives that come across as tokenism or mere lip service will cause more harm than if you made no diversity efforts at all. As such, it’s critical that you approach these topics with sensitivity and sincerity. Remember, this includes offering heartfelt apologies if your company or a member of your company puts out something deemed offensive.
Recognize a Variety of Holidays
Maybe your company offers amazing discounts for the Fourth of July or posts Christmas-centered content in the winter months, but have you considered other holidays, such as Eid, Kwanzaa, or Juneteenth? By publicly recognizing these holidays through promotions, celebratory events, or holiday-specific content, you show that you care about events that are important to everyone.
Consider the People Represented in Imagery
80% of marketers believe that pictures featuring diverse people improve the perception of their brand. And it makes sense—wouldn’t you naturally feel more connected to a brand if their website and promotional materials include images of people they relate to? Whether you’re using stock imagery or taking custom photos, strive to showcase a range of ages, body types, races, physical abilities, etc.
Website Accessibility Standards
Following website ADA compliance best practices will ensure that everyone, regardless of any accessibility concerns, can navigate your website. From image alt text to video transcriptions, these are simple changes that can dramatically improve how individuals can use your site.
Use Inclusive Language
In all of your content, make a concerted effort to speak in ways that don’t exclude anyone. This might include:
• Respecting and honoring pronouns.
• Replacing gendered language (i.e. “you guys” or “ladies and gentlemen”) with gender-neutral terms.
• Avoiding slurs or any terms rooted in oppression.
• Staying up-to-date on the preferred names for certain groups of people (i.e. “people experiencing houselessness” as opposed to “homeless”).
Inclusive Hiring Practices
When you have a diverse team, it’s more likely that those values will be represented in your marketing initiatives naturally without having to make a big effort. For example, an all-male team will inevitably miss things when creating a marketing strategy for a tampon brand. Put your money where your mouth is and strive to involve people in the demographics you’re catering to.
“If I’m not buying it, I shouldn’t be selling it.”
– Jenny Hoffman (Senior Global Creative Strategist, Spotify)
Your research into your target audience should address both who is currently engaging with your brand and who is not. This will allow you to both recognize the traits of your current audience and identify gaps in your marketing strategy that may be causing certain people to feel that your brand is not for them.
Speak About Important Topics
You should have a clear idea of the company culture you want to embody, and if that company culture believes in diversity, don’t be afraid to speak out about social justice issues. Yes, there is risk involved here because those who disagree with your views may leave your company in favor of those with more conservative tactics. However, other people will respect your company when they see integrity and will only increase their support.
Provide Educational Opportunities
If your team is being tasked with adopting more inclusive marketing practices, give them the tools they need to succeed. This might mean bringing in experts to provide DEI trainings, allowing employees to take online courses focused on diversity during company time, or providing internal training sessions.
Incorporate audience feedback.
Listen to Audience Feedback
Are users commenting that what you thought was a funny social media post is actually problematic? Is no one responding to an ad targeting a particular demographic? Are you seeing higher engagement when you use certain types of imagery? Take that information and use it to make your marketing strategy—and your brand—better.
Embracing Diversity in Digital Marketing
Diversity in digital marketing shouldn’t feel like a hassle or a waste of time when you understand that welcoming people of all walks of life will only improve your company’s ability to reach the correct audience and build a sustainable business. Not only that, but you can feel good about the work you do at the end of the day, knowing your company is making an effort to adopt inclusive habits. The world is a wide, varied place, and the goal should be to provide an accurate reflection of the beautiful diversity in our population.
When a company doesn’t take the time to consider the interplay between their marketing choices and diversity, it’s easy to inadvertently broadcast a negative message. So, let’s be more intentional and change any negative messages to a profoundly positive one: we see you, and we support you.