5 Ways to Make Your Marketing More Inclusive

Diversity and inclusion are front and center in marketing these days, and it’s about time. Underrepresented and marginalized groups have been left out of marketing and advertising for decades, but top brands across the globe have been changing their tune. Think about the Gillette ad in which a father teaches his transgender son how to shave. Or when makeup line Maybelline New York first featured a man in an ad campaign, for example.

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Inclusive Marketing Attracts a Larger Audience and Builds Trust

More than 60% of people said they are more trusting of brands that represent diversity in ads, and 85% of consumers said they’ll only consider a brand they trust, according to research from Microsoft.

In 2019, 69% of Black consumers said they were more likely to purchase from a brand that positively reflects their race/ethnicity in advertising. And 71% of LGBTQ+ consumers said they were more likely to interact with an online ad that authentically represented their sexual orientation, based on Google’s findings.

But truly inclusive marketing is more than just showcasing diversity on your website. To be inclusive, your marketing has to speak to a larger audience by looking past stereotypes and preconceived notions of gender, age, race, religion, sexuality and more. Inclusive marketing enables all groups to fully experience and connect with your brand.

Is your marketing inclusive? Here are some helpful tools to consider when ramping up diversity and inclusion efforts in your marketing program.

1. Use Inclusive Imagery and Language

Each one of your marketing channels—from social media and website to e-newsletters and printed materials—needs to feature diverse imagery and inclusive language. Choose images with a wide variety of folks, including people of various races, sizes and abilities. Your audience wants to see themselves represented in your advertising.

They also want to feel included, and that’s where language comes in. Avoid using discriminatory terms that presuppose a person’s identity. Avoid acronyms or terminology that may be unfamiliar to certain groups. Language that isn’t inclusive can create a barrier between you and your audience. Don’t make anyone feel left out of the conversation.

Media monitoring organization GLAAD has excellent resources to help marketers and members of the media represent LGBTQ stories. You can also consult style guides, such as the AP Stylebook, for race-related language guidance and inclusive storytelling.

2. Write Descriptive Alt Text

Alt text or “alternative text” is the invisible description of images online, which is read aloud to blind users on a screen reader. For example, the alt text for an image of two friends posing together might be, “Wearing formal attire, Susan and Sam smile while sitting on a green sofa.” Adding alt text to all of your online images enables blind visitors to fully experience your marketing materials.

But it can do something else, too: boost your SEO ranking. Search engines still can’t “see” images, so providing alt text with your unique keywords could help improve your SEO efforts. For the best results, make sure your alt text describes what is specifically in the image, uses your keywords and doesn’t go over 125 characters.

3. Be Inclusive with Holiday Recognition

Whether it be Pride Month, Holi, Juneteenth or Hispanic Heritage Month, acknowledging more than the “major” holidays in your marketing efforts is critical to inclusivity. Celebrating holidays on social media is easy, but you need to walk the walk, too. Every culture and religion has a unique set of things they celebrate, so give your staff the space to enjoy them.

4. Hire Diverse Staff

Hiring people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations and abilities will make your marketing more inclusive, naturally. Different perspectives can help to advance new ideas for how to be more inclusive. It also means your audience and membership see themselves represented at the table.

5. Listen and Learn

There’s no way to know how every individual will interact with your marketing, but it’s important to keep trying to learn. If you want to try a new marketing message or ad campaign, get a diverse set of people to review and provide feedback first. If something is offensive or exclusionary to them, be willing to make changes and learn from the experience.

For more ways marketers can be proactive about diversity, equity and inclusion check out our blog post.