What is inclusive branding and inclusive marketing, and why is it essential to today's business landscape?
For more than 10 years, I have been back and forth between two amazing cities, London and Budapest, so I understand that diversity and inclusion can differ from country to country. Having experienced life in both the UK and Hungary, I've witnessed the impact of different social structures, cultural backgrounds, and historical contexts on inclusive business strategies. It's not easy to navigate this world, but I firmly believe that the future of marketing is inclusive marketing. (And ethical marketing and sustainable marketing. But that's another conversation...)
Regardless of location or context, it's crucial for brands and businesses, whether small or large, to prioritise diversity, inclusivity, and accessibility from the start of their business and communications planning.
But before we dive into the WHY, let's talk about the difference between inclusive branding and inclusive marketing.
Inclusive Branding or Brand Building:
Inclusive branding or brand building refers to the strategic process of creating and nurturing a brand that embraces justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) principles in its core values, messaging, and visual representation. It involves developing a brand identity that resonates with a wide range of diverse audiences, making them feel represented, acknowledged, and respected. The goal of inclusive branding is to create a sense of belonging and connection among customers and stakeholders, regardless of their backgrounds, cultures, or identities. Inclusive brand building goes beyond just the external image and extends to the company's internal practices, fostering an inclusive workplace and corporate culture. This approach aims to establish a lasting and meaningful relationship with consumers who feel aligned with the brand's values and ethos.
Inclusive marketing, on the other hand, refers to the tactical implementation of diversity, equity, and inclusion principles within a brand's marketing strategies and campaigns. It involves crafting advertisements, content, and promotions that showcase diverse representations, experiences, and stories. Inclusive marketing is about consciously avoiding stereotypes and actively promoting a more inclusive worldview in all marketing communications. The focus is on creating content that resonates with diverse target audiences and ensures they feel seen, heard, and valued. By embracing inclusive marketing, brands can build stronger connections with their customers, foster brand loyalty, and differentiate themselves from competitors who may not prioritise diversity and inclusivity in their marketing efforts.
In summary, inclusive branding or brand building is the overarching strategic approach of developing a brand that values diversity and inclusion at its core, both internally and externally. Inclusive marketing, on the other hand, is the tactical execution of this strategy, where the focus is on creating inclusive content and campaigns that reflect the brand's commitment to diversity and inclusivity. Together, inclusive branding and marketing work hand in hand to create a brand image that resonates with diverse audiences and promotes a more equitable and inclusive society.
Why not create a future where inclusivity thrives, and brands flourish?
Inclusive branding and marketing are essential pillars of today's ethical business landscape, and embedding JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) strategies into their operations and communications is critical for brands and businesses for several compelling reasons:
Social Responsibility and Positive Impact: Consumers today expect brands to demonstrate social responsibility and contribute positively to society. Embedding JEDI strategies in branding and marketing showcases a brand's commitment to making a positive impact beyond profit generation. Brands that genuinely embrace inclusivity and promote justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion demonstrate their dedication to creating a more tolerant and diverse society.
Embracing Diversity: Globalisation has made markets more diverse than ever before. Brands that adopt inclusive strategies for marketing and branding can appeal to a broader range of customers. By breaking stereotypes related to gender, age, race, income, abilities, sexuality, language, location, class, upbringing, and beliefs, companies open up opportunities to connect with a wider customer base. Embracing diversity in marketing initiatives allows brands to create a sense of belonging and representation for various communities, fostering stronger connections and loyalty.
Building Trust and Loyalty: Inclusive marketing and branding foster trust among consumers by showcasing authentic and diverse representations. When consumers see themselves or their communities positively reflected in brand messaging, they feel valued and heard. This sense of trust leads to increased brand loyalty, as customers are more likely to support brands that genuinely understand and represent their experiences.
Increased Purchase Intent: Research has shown that inclusive advertising can lead to higher purchase intent across different demographics. Regardless of gender or ethnicity, inclusive marketing campaigns resonate with consumers and evoke positive emotions, ultimately driving them towards supporting the brand and making a purchase. Inclusive marketing campaigns that prioritise JEDI principles create an emotional connection with consumers, making them more likely to engage with the brand and become loyal customers.
Staying Relevant in a Changing Landscape: Inclusive branding and marketing are not just fleeting trends; they are essential for businesses to remain relevant in a rapidly evolving consumer landscape. Consumers are becoming more conscious of the values and actions of the brands they support. Companies that prioritise JEDI strategies and adopt transparent, honest, and authentic inclusive marketing and branding strategies are more likely to resonate with today's socially aware consumers.
Fostering Innovation and Creativity: Embracing diversity within a company's workforce and integrating JEDI principles into its operations can lead to increased innovation and creativity. Diverse perspectives and experiences bring fresh ideas and solutions to the table, helping brands think outside the box and stay ahead in competitive markets.
In conclusion, inclusive branding and marketing, driven by JEDI principles, are not only essential for creating a positive impact on society but also for driving business growth and success. By prioritising diversity, equity, and inclusion, brands can forge deeper connections with their customers, build trust and loyalty, and position themselves as socially responsible and progressive organisations in today's business landscape.
Let's be clear: inclusive branding and marketing isn't just a passing trend; it's a strategic imperative for businesses that wish to thrive in an increasingly diverse and socially conscious world.
Note: I use JEDI for justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in this article, but there are several versions of it you might encounter during your research or on LinkedIn, for example, DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion), DEAI (diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion) or DEIB (diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging). Different communities, cultures, and regions utilise different acronyms to refer to the area that covers Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Accessibility, Justice, and Belonging, or a blend of these concepts.
Below is my ever-growing online library of books, articles, podcasts, community platforms, frameworks, and other useful links. Explore these insightful resources to understand inclusive branding and marketing better.
Institutes and Communities
Diversity & Inclusion Hub - World Federation of Advertisers
Diversity Charter - This charter is for event organisers, speakers, individuals, employers, sponsors and venues. By signing this charter, you are committing to highlighting where there is a lack of diversity at events and doing what you can to make things better.
Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media - a global research-based organisation working collaboratively within the entertainment industry to create gender balance, foster inclusion and reduce negative stereotyping in family entertainment media.
Centre for Global Inclusion - the leading global inclusion nonprofit that has knowledge and resources across the world, working in the field of education and research in its quest to address diversity, equity and inclusive (DEI) practices. Check out their Global Diversity Inclusive Equity Benchmarks structure here.
Outvertising - their purpose is to make advertising and marketing completely LGBTQIA+ inclusive. Their free downloadable Outvertising Guide helps brands take positive steps to LGBTQIA+ inclusion in their communications.
ANA AIMM - The Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing (AIMM). A branch of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA).
Othering and Belonging - The Othering and Belonging forum, which includes a multimedia journal as well as conferences, reflects the broader vision and mission of the Othering & Belonging Institute at UC Berkeley to investigate and challenge social cleavages and hierarchies based on differential power, privilege, and access to resources.
Podcasts and Talks on Inclusive Branding & Marketing
Texthelp Talks - a podcast about disability inclusion, technology and platforms.
Diversity: Beyond the Checkbox, a podcast by The Diversity Movement.
Diversity Alliance podcast - stories, experiences, advice and insights from EDI and HR, events, hospitality and marketing professionals.
The case for greater diversity and inclusion in marketing - Webinar by the World Federation of Advertisers (2020).
Untapped - conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion at the workplace.
Guides, Reports and Books on Inclusive Branding & Inclusive Marketing
Reports and guides related to inclusive brand building
Best Practices Guide to Inclusive Marketing by the American Marketing Association and The Diversity Movement
The Diversity Movement's collection of free DEI resources including blogs, webinars, how-to guides, and more.
The Drum, Diversity & Inclusion - The Drum speaks to leaders, creatives and influencers from marginalized communities to find out how the industry can meet their needs.
Demystifying D&I - A practical guide to being Inclusive By Design in the wilds of modern communications, by Radley Yeldar (2020).
#BrandsGetReal: Brands Creating Change in the Conscious Consumer Era - A report by SproutSocial.
All In: Google's inclusive marketing toolkit, to create work that reflects the world we need to be all in. Google also has several interesting articles on this topic, including: Inside Google Marketing: Our approach to inclusive media planning and buying, the 4 lessons they’ve learned, sometimes the hard way, about inclusive marketing, and an article on how inclusive ads are affecting consumer behaviour.
The Psychology if Inclusion and the Effects in Advertising: Gen Z. Key Insights and Ideas for Application. Inclusive Marketing Research by Microsoft Advertising.
MJ DePalma, Head of Global Multicultural and Inclusive Marketing at Microsoft Advertising's blog articles about inclusive marketing and inclusive keywords, a guide to growth with an inclusive approach, the psychology of inclusion and the effects in advertising, and other related articles.
All In UK Advertising Census 2023 - UK advertising's only industry-wide survey, created by the Advertising Association, the IPA, ISBA and Kantar, which was launched in March 2023. Almost 19,000 advertising and marketing professionals participated in the All In Census, providing new insights on the representation and experience of the UK advertising industry workforce plus data to benchmark progress from.
BRIM: Black Representation in Marketing - BRiM is a cross-industry initiative created to improve the representation of Black people in marketing. BRiM provides actionable advice to help anyone, no matter their level, improve the representation of Black people in marketing.
How to Create LGBTQ+ Inclusive Advertising (2020) - A guide to producing LGBTQ+ Inclusive Advertising, aimed at a mainstream audience, by Outvertising.
Inclusion Index 2022 - Kantar’s Inclusion Index measures company sense of belonging, absence of discrimination and presence of negative behaviour to create a percentage score for 13 of the world’s biggest markets and 24 different industries, providing clear benchmarks for improvement in your sector and your market.
Authentically Inclusive Marketing - This book demystifies Inclusive Marketing, so marketers of all career stages, experience levels, skillsets and specialisations can apply it in their daily work. This book demystifies Inclusive Marketing, so marketers of all career stages, experience levels, skillsets and specialisations can apply it in their daily work.
Inclusive Marketing - Why representation matters to your customers and your brand, by Jerry Daykin. The book combines clear actionable guidance with checklists, key questions and practical and personal insights from senior marketing leaders.
Mind the Inclusion Gap - How allies can bridge the divide between talking diversity and taking action, by Suzy Levy. This book is for anyone who wants to move beyond talking about diversity to actively shaping an inclusive future. Filled with insights and everyday skills, it will help you navigate the polarised and divisive issues we face in the workplace and in the world.
Diversity and Inclusion Resources - The American Copy Editor Society (ACES) compiled a rich list of resources pertaining to diversity and inclusion for editors, including community resources, style guides, webcasts, articles, editor directories, and other useful toolboxes and resources.
Conscious Style Guide - guides and tips will help you develop a basic understanding of inclusive, empowering, and respectful language.
Project Implicit - The mission of Project Implicit is to educate the public about bias and to provide a “virtual laboratory” for collecting data on the internet. Log in or register to find out your implicit associations about race, gender, sexual orientation, exercise, anxiety, alcohol, eating, and other topics.
City of Oshawa’s Inclusive Language Manual - this tool will help break down barriers by identifying and addressing forms of discrimination in language that create barriers to service, inhibit flexibility, and equity in the workplace.
The Trans Journalists Association’s Style Guide - The Trans Journalists Association’s Style Guide is a tool reporters, editors and other media makers can use to begin to improve trans coverage. It gives insight into appropriate language, common shortcomings, and steps journalists can take to make their coverage better.
Design for Diversity (D4D) - Diversity as a Design Process, a framework by Boyuan Gao and Jahan Mantin.
Anti-Racism Design Resources - This document is intended to uplift Black design communities, serve as a resource for communities in need of pro bono design services, and serve as a resource to non-Black and white people to deepen anti-racism work within design disciplines.
Design for Diversity, The Pledge - Design for Diversity is an initiative launched on 18th June 2020, by Kate Watson Smyth & Rukmini Patel. It is a three-point Pledge covering, Visibility, Opportunity and Accessibility and is a first step to working towards a more diverse design industry and giving brands, businesses and bloggers a guideline on areas they can work on.
Business Disability Forum - Surveys, action plans, toolkits by the leading business membership organisation in disability inclusion in the UK.
Creating accessible content - Digital accessibility guide for Marketers by Texthelp, including language, typography and text layout, headings and links, visuals, videos, PDFs, social media content, webinars, podcasts and colour palettes.
Digital & Web Accessibility Guide for Marketers - Explore web accessibility, learn about accessible content, discover accessible UX, understand inclusive marketing, and discover how website accessibility can positively impact SEO. Scroll down to the bottom of this article, and check your website's accessibility as well!
Directories and job boards - Hire diverse talent and bring true diversity to your inclusive marketing efforts!
Editors of Color Database - Talented individuals from a rich range of racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds, with a wide variety of interests, experience, and expertise. Editors, Proofreaders, Sensitivity Readers, and Adjacent Professions.
Black Remote She - A community for Black queer and trans women, nonbinary people and allies interested in working remotely.
Black Female Copywriters - an online directory that makes it easy for you to find talented black female copywriters to help you elevate your business or brand.
TransWork - TransWork fills a critical gap for addressing un- and under-employment by connecting transgender and gender non-binary job seekers and entrepreneurs to a network of supportive employers and business partners.
Things You Can Do Today
Conduct an inclusivity audit of your current marketing materials. Diversify your brand's visuals and representation in advertisements. Partner with diverse content creators and influencers. Check your website's accessibility.
Don't know how? Email me at email@example.com and discover your options. Embrace the power of inclusivity, and become a force for good!
Contact me if you think I should add something to this blog post - I look forward to hearing from you!