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Inclusive Marketing: Why it’s essential for your brand

In this blog, we’ll define what Inclusive Marketing is and share key elements that give companies a framework for growth, the context about the world we live in that’s reshaping our collective mindset, and an approach to innovation that holds true across all business disciplines. These factors will not only transform our individual humanity with purpose, but also our organizations and our marketing strategies. By providing you with ideas that your business can use to evolve your strategy for greater success, we hope the insights from our ongoing journey at Microsoft Advertising will support you in the evolution of your organization.

What is the difference between Diversity & Inclusion and Inclusive Marketing? 

Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) refers to initiatives managed by human resources (HR) or specific D&I teams within a company. D&I as a phrase is used to encompass the employee engagements that are designed to promote an inclusive workplace and develop an inclusive culture.
We define Inclusive Marketing as marketing that may highlight or solve for an aspect of diversity where exclusion exists. This is something that resonates with all of us — by amplifying a common human value like love, family, safety, opportunity, or enduring stories like the struggle of coming of age or the underdog overcoming all obstacles. Inclusive Marketing considers its products, services, or experiences in ways that deeply resonate with people and make them feel seen and accurately understood. This inclusion and thoughtful consideration fuels long term loyalty and growth. This is at the heart of Inclusive Marketing.
Inclusive Marketing is not D&I. However, you do need inclusive culture created by D&I initiatives to drive the flywheel of innovation inside an organization. Innovation is driven by inclusive culture and is expressed as inclusive business strategy and through marketing. The two disciplines of D&I and Inclusive Marketing go hand in hand — together they can grow business opportunities and optimize people's lives — inside the company and outside in the world — making good on a brand’s overall mission.

How to create Inclusive Marketing: Uncover exclusions to drive innovation

First and foremost, it’s important to strive for an inclusive culture within your business; you simply can’t market to an audience outside of your business walls without being inclusive on the inside.
Inclusive Marketing means communicating and connecting with an audience of a particular ethnicity, sexual orientation, class, immigration status, military status, language, ability, or an intersection of these. Inclusive Marketing offers diverse reflections of who your customer is, and when done effectively, inspires everyone in your audience to feel that your brand understands them.
There are three key concepts to create Inclusive Marketing:
  1. What you market, such as an inclusively designed product.
  2. Who you market to, such as an audience who typically isn’t considered part of mainstream society or a part of the majority, with authentic, representative creative that reflects that diverse population.
  3. How you market, such as search campaigns planned with inclusive consumer decision journey insights, an accessible marketing event experience, or campaign alignment with a supported cause that authentically aligns to your brand’s mission.

At the heart of uncovering these opportunities is a simple but powerful concept that will revolutionize how you approach your business. This is a growth mindset rooted in inclusion, deliberate curiosity, and an intimate understanding of your customer’s needs. This will shift the way we see our business and forever change how we go to market. 

How to create Inclusive Marketing: What you market, who you market to, and how you market to them.

First things first: get close to your customers as people. Proximity is essential. If you get close to people, especially to people unlike yourself, you’ll learn what it’s like to be in their shoes. For instance, how they might be excluded from an experience, a product or a piece of information that could help them participate in the world just like your core audience does, which creates empathy, and empathy provides this valuable insight.
That new knowledge of their experience drives innovation in either the product you develop, who you market to, or how you market to them. This insight allows you to solve for the exclusion you uncovered and create new business impact. That solution can also span across new services, a new app, new audience marketing campaigns, or a content strategy — but at the heart of uncovering these opportunities is inclusively thinking about others.
The business impact could take form as a new product, service or campaign creative. Inclusive approaches to business report three times higher levels of innovation, along with better decision-making.

Proximity, empathy, insight, uncover exclusions, innovate for impact.

Inclusive Marketing is not a side campaign, it is your campaign.

A common pushback on Inclusive Marketing campaigns is that there’s no additional budget. There’s no need for additional budget if we spend the time to really understand who our customer is along with new trending consumer mindsets. Couple that with enduring human values that span across diverse populations and you have a campaign that can touch the hearts of everyone.
By highlighting diversity along with a common human value that most people share, such as coming-of-age challenges, love of family, desire for success, community, having opportunities — or even the love of music or dance — we not only make the edge of a community feel understood and welcomed, but we also include the entire market with this inclusive storytelling strategy.
As marketers and content strategists, we have the unique opportunity to make a difference by the story we choose to tell, and how we tell it. Through Inclusive Marketing, we also have the chance to reach a much larger audience than we ever thought possible, hence “inclusive.”
One of my favorite examples is a campaign by Levi’s called, “Circles.” The creatives behind this campaign uncovered a universal sentiment and were able to show that no matter what culture or part of the world we live in, there’s a common love for one activity that transcends our differences, and we all tend to do it similarly. Have a look at the video.

Evolve your thinking, create more possibilities 

Our world is becoming more diverse every day, with younger generations introducing new paradigms of consumerism and older generations evolving their purchase considerations. That makes inclusion critical to everything we do — in our own lives and in our businesses as marketers — so we can see the world more broadly. The more digitally connected our world becomes, the more human diversity shapes our experiences with a wider array of inputs.
As a result, marketers need to evolve their strategy to truly represent the global customer’s needs with an inclusive audience marketing strategy that can bring local, personalized relevance. Because we’re increasingly experiencing a growing population diversity, a wider spectrum of the population is being considered, included and represented across industries in new and historically significant ways.
Here are some statistics that could shape how we think about connecting our products, services or experiences with people:

  • Only 10% of people with disabilities have access to products and services they need, and there are 1 billion people in the world living with disabilities.
  • When you include family and close friends of people with disabilities, this market reaches an additional 2.3 billion people who collectively control an incremental $6.9 trillion in annual disposable income.
  • 80% of buying decisions are made by women, with female buying power at $40 trillion.
  • ​26% of millennials identify as LGBTQI+ and the buying power of all LGBTQI+ is $3.6 trillion.
  • 47 million Latinos are living in the U.S., which is more people living in all of Canada, or Australia or Spain.
  • 55% of London is multicultural, and by 2055, a third of England will be as well.
  • 75% of Australians’ ancestry originated from another country, and 1 in 4 currently living there were born in another country.
  • 80% of the population in Mexico is mixed race, comprised of European and indigenous ancestry.
  • 10% of people in the Netherlands have a mild or more serious disability.
  • Gay relationships have been legal since 1944 in Sweden.
  • Top countries of origin for immigrants in Canada are India, China and the Philippines.

Why inclusion matters to business impact

There’s never been a better business case for empathy for our customers. Understanding the size of these trends and communicating to the individual’s within these communities that they’re valued, that their needs matter, and that their individual experience and differences are important to us is crucial.
People simply want to feel like your brand truly understands them — data shows consumers are evolving their thinking about their interaction with brands to one that is based more on common values than just transactional needs. For example, millennials are a key demographic for many brands today, and studies show that they expect more from the brands that they buy and interact with. In this age of social movements and causes, millennials are linking what the company stands for to their own personal values.
According to the 2017 Edelman Earned Brand Study, a brand's position on social and political issues drives 57% of the world's consumers to either buy or boycott it. In fact, of the 14,000 people in 14 countries surveyed in the study, it was found that developing countries demonstrated the highest rates where people consider themselves to be belief-driven buyers; including China (73%) and India (65%). Values-led purchasing makes up about half of consumers purchase decisions in established markets such as France (50%) and the U.S. (47%). Unsurprisingly, 66% of American millennials buy on their beliefs, up 30% when compared with the previous three years leading up to this study.
CEO Richard Edelman of Edelman said, "Belief-driven consumers will leave behind those [brands] that fail to take a stand on issues they care about, but they will reward those that align with their views through increased spending and advocacy." There are even websites like that illustrate how consumers are interested in where corporations are donating money.

When marketers are continuously challenged to find new revenue streams, one of the most powerful exercises a company can do is to be clear on its worldview and mission – and how that translates to their brand values. Out of those surveyed in the Edelman study, 67% said they bought a brand for the first time because they agreed with its position on a controversial topic, yet 65% said they’d not buy a brand when it stays silent on an issue that they consider important. Further, 23% of consumers will pay at least a 25% premium, 48% will advocate for and defend the brand, and 51% will buy the brand exclusively and more often. 

One important consideration for brands is the cost of not paying attention to this new consumer mindset of values-led purchasing with belief-driven loyalty. These brands risk ending up in no-brand land.

Inside every human being is a unique story 

Our world has barely scratched the surface of considering, understanding and supporting the broad spectrum of human experiences. What a different place we’d live in if we unlocked the enormous potential and ingenuity of all the diverse and extraordinary human beings and their different experiences and abilities within our teams, our colleagues, our clients and our customers.
Imagine if a true representation of all people was included at the beginning of any project or idea.  There’s an opportunity for inclusive leadership at any level and that can have a profound domino effect across an organization.
I believe our industry has made gains in this area in the last few years, but we can collectively do more. Personally, I no longer have to waste energy pretending to be what I thought society needed me to be — a feminine-looking woman — in order to be successful, but rather, I can now focus my energy on doing what has become the very best work of my life and allow my gender fluid identity to be expressed. I am the first marketer at Microsoft with a title that includes “Inclusive Marketing.”
By embracing this opportunity, we at Microsoft Advertising have been working with our clients and sharing the strategies we’ve uncovered as a framework to ignite a new relationship with people they’re trying to better reach, resonate and serve with their products, services or experiences. We’re not only optimizing the businesses we partner on with our clients, we’re optimizing the lives of the customers we collectively serve together. Proximity drives empathy, and empathy gives us insight.
I invite you to watch this video clip to learn more about the most valuable type of insight derived from empathy that can drive inclusive innovation:

What you can do today

By working on inclusion and diversity together, we can bring about much deeper engagement with each other, our clients and their customers. The inclusive values that can grow in our advertising industry will not only grow our key performance indicators, but also create a better industry to be a part of.
This is how you can start today:
  • Be a learn-it-all and have deliberate curiosity about others 
  • Strive to uncover how someone might be excluded from a product, service or experience — then fix that!
  • Learn to make your marketing inclusive and accessible with our on-demand Modern Marketing is Accessible Marketing webcast and eBook to extend your current media and advertising to people with disabilities.
  • Consider your brand’s mission and how it can empower a more sustainable, accessible or representative and diverse world.