Inclusive marketing

Digital & accessibility guide for Marketers

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Understanding inclusive marketing and how you can get it right

At the heart of any marketing strategy is to create a positive brand image. Having a brand that people view in a positive light, feel positive about, and can connect to is important. Inclusive marketing makes sure your brand connects with the largest possible audience. It also helps existing customers to create a much stronger bond with your brand.

What is inclusive marketing?

Inclusive marketing is marketing that considers diversity in all forms. This includes age, appearance, ethnicity, and gender identity. As well as language, socio-economic status, religion/spirituality, and physical/mental ability. It’s about recognising that your audience is made up of different groups of people. It’s also creating marketing campaigns that will resonate with all people from all backgrounds and walks of life. Inclusive marketing also recognises that every person has multiple identities. It reflects real people in the real world.

Let’s talk about inclusive marketing campaigns

Inclusive marketing campaigns will speak to all groups of people, including marginalised and underrepresented groups. But they’ll do so in a way that breaks stereotypes. They’ll tell your audience that you see them and really understand them - for real.

Going above and beyond, truly inclusive marketing will elevate the voices of people that are typically underrepresented.

Embracing diversity in marketing and advertising isn’t about simply including diverse people in your images. It’s not about ticking the boxes of diversity. Rather, it’s about reflecting and connecting with your audiences. As people, we do this by getting to know one another on a personal level. In inclusive marketing, it’s the same but on a brand to consumer level.

How to avoid the clichés

According to research by Radley Yeldar, 85% of the Forbes 100 Most Valuable Brands actively communicate about their diversity and inclusion (D&I) efforts. However, 45% of them are falling back on D&I clichés along the way. In our webinar, Radley Yeldar’s Brand Director, Jennifer, goes into more detail. You’ll also hear from Robin, Head of Digital Inclusion at AbilityNet. He shares how website accessibility supports inclusive marketing by making sure everyone can access your digital content.

5 principles of inclusive marketing

  • Inclusive marketing campaigns are true to the world around us. They reflect real people in real situations in the real world. Making sure that your campaigns truly reflect society helps every person to feel connected to your brand. You can do this by being mindful in the visual references you make. Choose images that avoid stereotypes. In fact, choose those that go against them. By openly challenging existing stereotypes and bias, your campaigns can make a positive difference to our world.

  • Diversity in marketing and advertising is about being inclusive of everyone. That means representing all forms of diversity. From race and culture, to gender and appearance, to age and ability, and the list goes on. It’s important to be representative of underrepresented groups, so that everyone can see themselves in your campaigns. This matters, especially because underrepresentation in marketing and advertising is still a problem.

    Research into Facebook adverts found that people with disabilities featured in only 1.1% adverts. Yet globally, 15% of people have some form of cognitive, emotional or physical disability. By practicing inclusive marketing, your campaigns can help these groups feel more included.

  • Being mindful of diversity and inclusion in advertising and marketing is great. Challenging stereotypes and working to promote a view of the world that’s representative is brilliant. But to do so authentically, you must take time to truly understand different diversities and cultures. If you’re representing a minority group, spend time learning about their personal experiences and opinions. If you’re honoring a minority culture, take time to understand the traditions and history. By doing so, your brand can authentically represent diverse groups. You can help the voices of the underrepresented be heard. You can positively impact the conversation.

  • As with the visuals used in marketing campaigns, language and tone is equally powerful. Tone has the power to attract and please, but it also has the power to offend. When writing marketing copy, consider what you want to achieve and make sure your messaging follows the same intent. Do the same with the language that you choose. Use words, phrases and metaphors appropriately.

  • Inclusive marketing isn’t just about creating marketing campaigns with inclusive principles in mind. It’s also about taking a step back to think ‘Are our campaigns having the impact we intend?’ Making sure your marketing campaigns are being perceived as representative, inclusive and welcoming is important too. Talk to your audiences and ask them how you’re doing. Let them know you’re making an effort and want to get it right. It’ll have a positive impact for everyone.

“It’s ok if you don’t have it all figured out yet. You want to get it right. Don’t wait until everything is perfect to start communicating your efforts - communicating the journey is just as important, and if not more powerful than saying ‘look how great we are!’”

Diversity & inclusion hub: World Federation of Advertisers

To support organisations to be more inclusive in their marketing, the World Federation of Advertisers have created a hub of resources. At the hub you’ll find examples of good practices, and much more.

Why is diversity important in advertising and marketing?

Diversity and inclusion in advertising and marketing matters for brands who want to show that they care, and really ‘get it’. As marketers, we spend our time communicating with people about how our brands offer solutions to their problems. But how believable are you if your marketing campaigns don’t truly represent your audience?

According to a global study on diversity in the marketing industry;

  • 72% of people feel most advertising doesn’t reflect the world around them
  • 63% don’t see themselves represented in most advertising
  • 60% don’t see their community of friends, family and acquaintances represented accurately  

This shows us that the relationship many people have with brands is superficial. Marketing campaigns are failing to create deep connections between brands and their audiences.

Inclusive marketing helps because at the heart, it’s about creating real relationships, loyalty and trust.

Not only that, truly inclusive marketing can help the voices of the underrepresented to be heard. It can influence positive social change, and that’s important too. The global study also found that 76% of consumers believe that “advertising has a lot of power to shape how people perceive each other”. Diversity and inclusion in advertising has the power to positively impact your brand. But it can also make a difference at a societal level. With the expectations of consumers today, standing for a cause makes an impact.

Take a step back. Consider what your target audience expects.

As consumers ourselves, we want to feel valued by a brand. We want to feel welcomed and included at every step of the customer journey. But today that’s not all we expect. 

As we scroll through social media for example, the brands that impress us are the ones that speak out about ‘conscious fashion’, the environment, or current social issues. In fact, 66% of people are willing to pay more from brands that are committed to social value. As we look to the future, this is set to continue with 83% of millennials saying they want brands to align with them on values

Focusing your marketing strategy on inclusive marketing has its benefits for your brand, your audience, and society in general.

It should be less about thinking, "How do I focus on my own messaging and my own world of what's going on with me?" But looking at, "What does my audience need to know? How can I make sure that I'm able to translate what I'm trying to say so that it actually has that impact?" - Erica Wong, Radley Yeldar

Webinar: Grow traffic & boost brand reputation with inclusive marketing

In this on-demand webinar we’re joined by Ceri Balston, Head of Digital at Scope.

As a disability equality charity, Scope is dedicated to diversity and inclusion. Listen as Ceri shares how to create digital campaigns inclusive of people with disabilities. 

The 4 inclusive marketing trends that will impact your brand

We’ve already touched on the growing expectations of consumers. But what does this really mean for your marketing strategy? Below, we identity 4 trends relating to diversity in advertising and marketing.

  1. Normalising that there’s no such thing as normal
    With inclusive marketing comes the recognition that every individual is unique. In inclusive marketing, there’s no such thing as “normal”. As more and more companies realise the importance of diversity in the marketing industry, we’ll see less and less marketing to the “masses”. 
  2. Realising that intentional inclusion is a must
    Today’s consumers challenge brands that aren’t considered inclusive. More often than not, this is an unintentional oversight from the brand. For example, the lack of size-inclusive models in campaign visuals. When planning marketing campaigns, we’ll see more organisations placing an intentional focus on inclusion. This is important for inclusive marketers. After all as the saying goes, if we don’t intentionally and proactively include, we unintentionally exclude.
  3. Understanding that transparency has value
    More than half of consumers (53%) believe brands only take a stand for public relations or marketing purposes. As an inclusive marketer, you might use your marketing campaigns to take a stand. As you do, being transparent can help your audience realise that you truly care. And that you’re not just living up to expectations. Consumers say brands are more credible if they stand up for issues that directly impact their customers or business operations. With this in mind, we see brands becoming more transparent with their audiences in general. Not just about why they have a personal investment in an issue. Rather, transparency will become a key part of the consumer-brand relationship. There will be a bigger focus on real humans talking to real humans. That means being honest and owning it when mistakes are made too. 
  4. Recognising that with inclusive marketing must come an inclusive culture
    Below the surface of inclusive marketing should be an inclusive company culture. After all, your brand values should match your organisational values. Today, more organisations are recognising the value of diversity in the workplace. More marketing teams are realising that diversity marketing should come from a diverse marketing team. Not only does this benefit a brand’s authenticity, it also helps brands to be more ‘culturally intelligent’. This means they can talk with more authority about issues, and relate more effectively with diverse groups.

“When it comes down to it, I think what we need to understand is that talking about D&I is just a way to better reflect and connect with your audiences. And I think that's the piece that should be so simple, but really, it just gets sucked under with all of these other confusing, conflicting things, and that fear of getting it have to just go in there and put your heart into it. Because at the end of the day, we're all just people talking to other people.” - Erica Wong, Radley Yeldar

Podcast: Reaching your audiences with content that connects

In this podcast we explore the factors that affect inclusive communication.

Hear from Jodie Greer, Founder of Be People Smart, and Erica Wong, Senior Brand Consultant at Radley Yeldar. Discover what you can do to make your audiences feel more connected and included. Gain advice that’ll help you to reach your whole audience more effectively.

The brands getting inclusive marketing right

To help you understand inclusive marketing, let’s take a look at it in action. Here’s a few diversity marketing examples from brands getting it right. In fact, these brands are going above and beyond.

Google: “We have to be all in”

Google realises that a single person sees almost 2 million ads per year. They know that means almost 2 million ways the advertising industry could be helping people see themselves positively reflected. That’s why inclusive marketing matters to them.

They review their own ads, criticise them, and work to improve inclusion in every campaign. They partner with diversity experts to help them get it right. From elevating the Black community, to tackling assumptions around mental health they aim to make a difference. Not only that, they want to support fellow marketers to do the same. Recently, they launched an inclusive marketing toolkit. In it, they share everything they’ve learned over the years, to help the marketing industry get it right.

ThirdLove: “78 sizes, 1 perfect fit.”

ThirdLove is a truly inclusive lingerie brand. Their products are made for real women. Their marketing campaigns are targeted at real women.

On their website, their visuals include women of all ages, sizes and from all backgrounds. Their content includes phrases like ‘We do comfort, you do you’. Speaking to their target audience, their CEO, Heidi Zak, says “To all women everywhere, we see you, and we hear you. Your reality is enough. To each, her own.” With their marketing campaigns, they’re working to normalise diversity. 

“We believe the future is building a brand for every woman, regardless of her shape, size, age, ethnicity, gender identity or sexual orientation. This shouldn’t be seen as groundbreaking, it should be the norm." -  Heidi Zak, CEO and Co-Founder, ThirdLove.

Not only are they getting it right with inclusive marketing, they’re encouraging other brands to do the same. Read their open letter to Victoria’s Secret.

Nike: “Breaking barriers”

Nike is well-known for marketing campaigns that challenge biased perceptions of an athlete. They recognise that ‘if you have a body, you are an athlete’, and they use their campaigns to feature stories about diverse athletes.

From their ‘Find your greatness’ campaign, to their ‘Until we all Win’ campaign, through to their ‘Toughest athletes’ campaign, they’re inclusive of all groups. They even create products that are inclusive and support a diverse sporting industry. They’re now also working hard to improve diversity and inclusion in their workforce. Their 2025 vision shares their 5-year roadmap to a more diverse and inclusive company culture. This shows that no matter where you are with inclusive marketing, there’s always room for improvement.

Webinar: How to go above and beyond, and achieve customer loyalty

As part of inclusive marketing, it’s important that everyone can view and understand your content. Digital accessibility makes sure your content can be accessed and understood by people with disabilities, older people and more. It creates a welcoming experience for a wider audience, and has a positive impact on your brand image.

In this webinar, explore how to build online inclusion into your marketing strategy. Discover how to move from an inclusive brand, to a brand of choice.

Examples of inclusive marketing campaigns to inspire you

Inclusive marketing is a journey. You’re not going to start tomorrow and instantly get it right for all groups of people. So start small. Take it one marketing campaign at a time. To help, here’s a few inclusive campaigns to inspire you.

Hallmark: “Share more merry”

Hallmark’s ‘Share more merry’ campaign is centered around a young girl with a hearing impairment. They show relatable Christmas traditions but tell the story through underrepresented groups.

Not only that, the entire dialogue is signed through the whole advert and the advert is also captioned. Their campaign recognises diversity, and promotes inclusion through content that’s accessible to everyone.

Whirlpool: “Care counts”

Whirlpool’s Care Counts Laundry Program aims to improve equality to education by reducing one barrier - access to clean clothes.

They recognised that many children skip school because of this, so they install washers and dryers in schools to help. As an issue that impacts their consumers, they’re using their brand to raise awareness around the issue. Their marketing campaign gives a voice to the impacted community and serves to educates others.

Essex Police: “We Value Difference”

Inclusive marketing includes all types of marketing, including recruitment campaigns. As we said before, with inclusive marketing must come an inclusive culture. That means your recruitment campaigns should be inclusive too.

The Essex Police ‘We Value Difference’ recruitment campaign aims to ‘dispel the myths that you have to be a certain ‘type’ of person to be a police officer’. With their slogan, ‘One team. One family. One county. One force’, they highlight that their workforce is simply made up of different people, with the same values. With a focus on shared values, the campaign invites candidates from all walks of life - and really highlights their commitment to diversity, inclusion and equality.

Further reading

We hope we’ve inspired you to embrace diversity in marketing and advertising. As you work to be more inclusive, making sure your content can be accessed by all is important. 

Explore how to improve the accessibility of your digital content.

Creating accessible content

Learn how to create accessible content, and make sure all your online content is easy to access and understand.

SEO and website accessibility

Explore how website accessibility can positively impact SEO.

View the complete guide

View our full accessibility guide. We’ve lots more areas of digital accessibility for you to explore.