Would you knowingly exclude a potential audience of over 1 billion people in your marketing? As Marketing 101 taught us, reach is critical, and the more people you reach with your message, the greater your chances are of making a connection. Accessibility is an important part of an inclusive marketing strategy, and it opens your brand to connecting with the more than 1 billion people globally who have a disability. If you aren't making your marketing accessible, then you’re likely excluding almost one out of every seven people in the world.
This month is the 75th observance of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), and the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Both milestones are being commemorated by the Department of Labor with a range of events and activities centered on the theme "Increasing Access and Opportunity." We’re pleased to celebrate NDEAM with some guidance on making your marketing accessible, and demonstrate the impact you can achieve when you are inclusive in your advertising, reflecting people with disabilities. Without accessible advertising, marketing, and customer experiences, your marketing campaigns and programs are unable to reach their full potential.
Why Accessible Marketing is important
In the Microsoft Advertising Marketing with Purpose Playbook, we explore the market opportunity for expanding your marketing and advertising to include accessibility. There are people today living with permanent disabilities, but there are also people who are living with temporary impairments and situational impairments. In the United States, there are approximately 25,000 people who lose an arm each year: a permanent disability. There are 13 million people who experience an injury to an appendage — think a broken leg or torn rotator cuff: temporary impairments. Lastly, there are 8 million people who experience a situational impairment like holding a baby, which removes your ability to use one arm. All these numbers are US-based, but the framework applies anywhere. Their challenges are real, and the business opportunity of including them is large. We, as marketers, can recognize these exclusions, solve for them, and make a difference not only in the lives of many people, but also in improved marketing and business performance.
Accessibility is an important part of inclusion. Inclusion means matching the needs, wants, values, and variations of human diversity — and that includes accessibility. Today’s savvy consumers expect brands to go beyond merely complying with regulations. For example, ADA, Web Content Accessibilities Guidelines (WCAG), and World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) compliance are all important baselines to get right — both digitally and in public space applications — but effective brands go beyond that to create inclusive experiences that are equitable for everyone.
Ask yourself, what packaging are we choosing to use for our products? Do we consider the customer experience all the way through to unpacking a product? One stellar example is the Xbox Adaptive Controller’s packaging, which created an equitable experience for all with their accessibly designed package for the accessible product.
Also, what working conditions are we choosing to provide to our workforce? Customers want to know that the people who represent your brand are treated fairly, and that they and their families’ basic needs are being met.
And how are we choosing to represent all people in our advertising? Are we actively seeking to create a sense of connection that feels like we’re part of one human experience? It’s making a genuine effort to serve people and build authentic relationships with them, not jumping on a bandwagon cause, which can feel disingenuous.
Being inclusive in advertising increases your performance
Microsoft Advertising conducted a series of research studies to understand the psychology in play when experiencing inclusion in advertising, and if there were any quantifiable effects. We looked at the Tommy Hilfiger brand because they display a wide spectrum of inclusive to non-inclusive advertising.
The results of our research showed:
- The best performing ads were the “most appealing” and the “most inclusive.”
- Between the “most appealing” and the “most inclusive” ads, the inclusive ad outperformed the appealing, non-inclusive ad with a 23-point (pt.) lift in purchase intent vs. the 10-pt. lift in the non-inclusive, yet appealing ad.
- The participants stated that the most inclusive ad made the brand feel more genuine and authentic. It made them feel “seen.”
- While only 10% surveyed in this research identified as having a disability, the “most inclusive” ad that drove the 23-pt. lift in purchase intent contained multiple people across age, gender, and ethnicity, but all had a form of a disability. Not only does inclusion in advertising drive purchase intent if someone like you is represented, it also drives purchase intent with people who might not be personally represented in the ad.
You can learn more from our whitepaper, "The Psychology of Inclusion and the Effects in Advertising." We summarize these insights to help you gain an understanding of why surfacing inclusion in your business strategy and advertising cannot only make a difference in your business, but also in the world as we know it. We also share ideas for applying the research.
Tips and guidance for creating more Accessible Marketing
At Microsoft Advertising, we’re actively working to make our advertising and marketing more accessible. We have successfully updated our sites to comply with the new Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1. Additionally, we’re tackling our emails, social media, and digital advertising to progress towards accessibility compliance. Digital inclusion is important because it provides access to services, products, data, information, and education for everyone. When you consider your customer experiences with accessibility in mind, designing an online experience that is optimized for people with disabilities can benefit us all. When you caption a video, you are not only helping those who cannot hear, but you might also be helping the working-from-home parent that needs to turn off audio because they need to let their newborn baby nap next to them as they attend a meeting. Captioning can also help those spouses who share a workspace with each other.
We've also launched an accessibility Microsoft Teams channel within our organization to assist our Microsoft Advertising employees, and partners we work with, to answer any accessibility questions. As we have learned, it's a process that doesn't happen overnight, but setting a goal on accessibility with education and persistence are key to achievement!
We want to add to your education on how to create more accessible marketing. In the Microsoft Advertising Marketing with Purpose Playbook, we provide guidance and tips for how you can make accessible marketing more standardized across your organization with:
- Inclusive design principles
- Ways to build an inclusive customer service support team for customers with disabilities
- Tips for how to make your search advertising more accessible, such as:
- Making link lengths reasonable: People without vision cannot visually skim through lengthy links.
- Adding “alt-text” to images: People without vision cannot visually experience the look and feel of an advertisement.
- Ensuring link text has a 3:1 contrast ratio from the surrounding non-link text: People who have visual impairments may have difficulty reading text at non-compliant contrast levels.
A sample of the Marketing with Purpose Playbook.
We’re excited to see what you do by making accessibility part of your inclusive marketing strategy. It can be an organization-wide opportunity as well as an individual commitment. A great place to start is with 'The Simple Things Count,' which shares simple ways you can be more inclusive of people with disabilities.
To learn more about inclusive strategies and the opportunity offered by Accessible Marketing, check out these additional resources on Microsoft Advertising:
Download the Microsoft Advertising Marketing with Purpose Playbook for detailed guidance on accessibility strategies and inclusion’s impact in advertising performance.
Use our key takeaways from Modern Marketing is Accessible Marketing to understand the business case for inclusive design, and accessibility in your marketing, advertising, and overall customer experience.
Be sure to check out our Accessible Marketing eBook for comprehensive tips and checklists on how to build accessibility into your marketing, so you can reach, resonate with and serve more people.
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