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6 principles of inclusive marketing

What is Inclusive Marketing and why is it important?

Inclusive marketing means creating content that truly reflects the diverse communities that your company serves. As marketers, our responsibility is to relay our brands’ messaging in a way that resonates with people from all backgrounds, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender identity, age, religion, ability, sexual orientation, or otherwise.

According to Salesforce’s new research, 90% of consumers believe that businesses have a responsibility to look beyond profit and improve the state of the world.  Synchronously, Nielsen reports that “with 43% of the 75 million millennials in the U.S. identifying as African American, Hispanic, or Asian, if a brand doesn’t have a multicultural strategy, it doesn’t have a growth strategy.”

1. Start with tone

Tone is the style, characteristic, or sentiment of a piece of content. Often when people are offended or turned off by a piece but can’t quite put their finger on why, tone is at the centre. Consider the intended subject, topic, message, and overall impact of a piece in the planning stages to help reach the right and respectful tone.

2. Be intentional with language

Language includes the words, phrases, symbols, or metaphors used to describe something. There is immense power in language — it can deepen understanding and strengthen relationships, or it can confuse or even cause harm. It’s an important practice to carefully consider every word, symbol, or phrase — not just what the words say, but also how and where they are placed.

3. Ensure representation

Representation is the visible presence of a variety of identities in a story, image, video, and more. People want to see themselves reflected in media  — it helps us to all feel empowered, inspired and heard. Before publishing an advertisement or hosting a panel, for example, ask — does this reflect society? Am I elevating diverse voices?

4. Consider context

Context can be defined as the circumstances that inform an event or piece of content. This could mean the historical or cultural influences and also extends to the order and hierarchy of the subjects. One example of order and hierarchy is when you search “manager and employee” in stock photography, often seeing a male employee standing over a woman colleague, implying certain power dynamics. Work to develop your own photography and revise your stock repository to ensure that photos are not only diverse but that they are considering order and hierarchy.

5. Avoid appropriation

Appropriation is often defined as taking or using an aspect from a minority culture without knowing or honouring the meaning behind it. Drawing from people’s cultures, traditions, and personal experiences can be both subjective and sensitive. We can all lead with cultural respect and awareness by being mindful of nuance and historical context, honouring and learning the culture, seeking guidance and diverse opinions, evaluating intent and impact, and elevating authentic voices.

6. Counter-stereotype

Counter-stereotype is a phrase that means going against a standardized image that represents an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgment. Imagine a world where the marketing images around us shattered these stereotypes rather than emboldened them. This is where we as marketers have the power to change the society around us.

We could start reimagining…

What a CEO looks like

What an athlete looks like

What love looks like

AND adopt an inclusive review process

Finally, it’s important to have an inclusive review process to help catch any concerns or improve marketing before it goes out the door. When in doubt, always look at everything through the lens of these six principles.

This article was contributed to Marketing by Michael Peachey, senior vice president and CMO, Asia Pacific marketing, Salesforce.

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