When you boil it down, marketing is first and foremost about demographics—or how to message your service or product to specific groups or audiences. But as our society becomes more open and inclusive, so should our marketing strategies.
Inclusive marketing—a repudiation of the use of tired and lazy stereotypes to reach out to groups of consumers—doesn’t advertise to one group of people in particular but markets to consumers of any background regardless of race, ethnicity, age, ability, gender, sexuality, or religion while also recognizing each person’s unique individuality.
More specifically, inclusive marketing seeks to paint a more accurate picture of the world by highlighting our various differences, identities, and heritages while also illustrating the things we hold in common—the things that make us human.
Marketers who are not aware of recent cultural, political, and social shifts as well as the changing demographics in America—whites are already outnumbered by minorities in public schools—will surely miss out on new, wider, and more diverse audiences in the future.
But while inclusive marketing has its upside, when done wrong or in a shallow manner it can often come off as exploitative and inauthentic. Perhaps the most notable example of what not to do when it comes to inclusive advertising was Pepsi’s 2017 protest commercial.
In the ad, Kendall Jenner goes to a protest and hands a policeman a Pepsi. The protest miraculously ends and everyone cheers. Pepsi trivialized and tried to take advantage of serious causes and protests occurring at the time and received intense backlash from both the media and consumers. Instead of being seen as inclusive, the soda giant was seen as greedy and exploitative.
But when done right and authentically, inclusive marketing campaigns can pay off by boosting sales and brand reputation. Here are some of the best examples of inclusive marketing:
1. MassMutual LGBTQ-inclusive ad
This emotionally-moving and simple video ad from life insurance company MassMutual filmed LGBTQ couples telling their stories. The video was filmed by a professional documentarian and trending all over Facebook feeds in 2015, no doubt raising MassMutual’s brand awareness and reputation significantly.
What made the ad so powerful was its ability to speak to consumers in a real and engaging way while taking a stand for a just cause like marriage equality. Indeed, MassMutual’s brilliant idea to let regularly excluded individuals like LGBTQ people speak for themselves was a great way to avoid the most common pitfall of inclusive marketing—coming off as fake.
2. Old Navy interracial couple ad
Last year, Old Navy released a beautiful ad of a black woman, a white man, and their interracial child to market a 30 percent off sale at their stores. While it, unfortunately, received a ton of racists responses on social media, it was no match for the huge amount of interracial families who sent family pictures and thank you messages to the popular clothing brand. In this instance, Old Navy didn’t care about losing a few customers to secure to a wider, more diverse audience.
“We are a brand with a proud history of championing diversity and inclusion,” Old Navy spokeswoman Debbie Felix said in an interview with the Huffington Post in a dismissal of the racist backlash. “At Old Navy, everyone is welcome.”
3. Goldieblox gender equality ad
Goldieblox is a young girl’s toy and entertainment brand that strives to break traditional gender perceptions passed on by typical girls toys like Barbie dolls. Instead, the company is focused on developing an early interest in engineering and problem-solving in girls through the use of toys and games.
In line with their mission to redefine what is considered womanly, they featured an ad of young versions of popular and powerful female figures. The video ad shows a young version of Hillary Clinton, Beyoncé, Amy Schumer, and Ruth Bader Ginsberg with hashtags like #thisiswhatapresidentlookslike and #thisiswhatapresidentlookslike.
4. Kleenex’s disability ad
This ad, which garnered over 23 million Facebook views in under a week, is perhaps the most heartwarming ad you will ever see and quite possibly might move you to tears. The ad, called Unlikely Best Friends, features a disabled dog whose back legs don’t work and who nobody wanted. Until one day, the dog is adopted by a disabled man who uses a wheelchair to get around.
Shortly after, a wheelchair is designed for the dog and now both he and his owner can get around together. The special bond the owner and his dog has is beautiful and will for sure make improve Kleenex’s brand image.
5. JCPenny body-loving ad
JCPenny launched the “Here I Am” marketing campaign last year in an attempt to be more inclusive of plus-size women. The video ad associated with the campaign features powerful plus-sized women telling stories of negative comments and interactions they have received due to their weight.
To show that these women shouldn’t be defined by their weight, JCPenny encouraged them to celebrate their individuality and personal beauty across social media. The ad was a success and prompted many to change their outlook on plus-size women while also drawing customers to JCPenny stores across the country.