In this era, inclusive marketing and branding should be the standard. Yet, many online entrepreneurs fail to give an accurate representation of their ideal audience in their marketing and branding.
The recent Black Lives Matter protests shook the world and made some of us realize how our actions, and especially inaction, kept the system alive.
Online entrepreneurs and influencers, big and small, were forced to take a stand and speak out. Some were praised for their efforts while others were called out for their lack of knowledge. Many entrepreneurs showed true leadership, while some had to see their reputation get burned on a stake.
The BLM-movement on social media made it painfully clear that as entrepreneurs, we still have so much to learn about diversity and inclusion.
I’m not coming to you as a diverse, equity and inclusion expert (I’m not one). I’m coming to you as a black woman that too often felt out of place on social media and disconnected from marketing campaigns.
I can’t speak for all the black population around the world either, but I can give a different perspective as a POC. A perspective that can help you grow a more inclusive and diverse brand.
Because to grow a brand that makes a meaningful impact it’s crucial that we learn how to adopt inclusive marketing and branding strategies and tactics. If we want to connect with our ideal client on a meaningful level and pull society up, we have to make intentional actions to include everyone, starting by understanding what inclusion means in business.
What is Inclusive Marketing and Branding?
Diversity and inclusion is a complicated and delicate subject. Not long ago this subject couldn’t even be discussed in family homes, let alone be a topic of conversation among business owners.
However, as the younger generations are demanding brands to be more purposeful, brands are slowly stepping up. Applying inclusive marketing and branding to their communication.
There is no one definition on inclusive marketing but this definition by Hubspot gives a fairly good explanation of what inclusive marketing is.
Inclusive marketing describes campaigns that embrace diversity by including people from different backgrounds or stories that unique audiences can relate to. While some inclusive campaigns make an effort to break stereotypes, others simply aim to reflect or embrace people in the real world.
I’d like to add that inclusive marketing is also being deliberate with your actions to include and engage minorities in conversations. It has to be intentional outbound engagement, instead of expecting inbound engagement from minority groups.
It’s not only about being open to allowing minorities to engage with your brand, but you need to seek them out. Ask for them to be part of the conversation. In a world, where minorities are often left out, you have to proactively welcome them and embrace them.
DEI-expert, Vernā Myers, once said, “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.” Showing, for example, POC in your images isn’t enough. You need to include their culture in not only your marketing but also in your branding, the core of your business.
Branding is the emotional attributes and added values attached to a brand. We use branding elements to evoke emotional associations, but people interpret branding elements differently depending on their perspective. As a POC, the color nude never represented ‘natural’, instead, it represented neutral because it’s quite a bland color.
To have inclusive branding you have to be aware of how the minority groups, who are certainly part of your audience, view your branding elements.
Inclusive Marketing & Branding Ideas for Online Entrepreneurs
Large brands have guidelines, consultants, strategies, and old lawsuits to guide them. However, inclusive marketing and branding isn’t the responsibility of only corporate brands. Online entrepreneurs bear the same obligation as a Nike or CrossFit, if not more.
As a small business owner, you have the ability and flexibility to change your brand’s culture and actions while still creating a mighty impact. You have a platform and direct access to your community.
While your strength makes you also more vulnerable to personal critique, inaction is even more detrimental to your brand and society.
Do the research and make it a point to be inclusive and welcome diversity. Consider these ideas a starting point:
- Diversify your (social media) network & team
To gain insight from different perspectives, you need people around you coming from all walks of life. Take a look at your team and assess the diversity among each person. Look at the podcast you listen to, the book you read, the business leaders you follow. Is there diversity among them?
Inclusive marketing and branding can’t happen when we don’t open our world to welcome experiences that are different than ours.
- Include the lifestyle of minorities in your brand and communication
I often hear entrepreneurs talk about wanting to add more diversity to their images by including different types of people. I wish we understood that inclusion means more than that.
To embrace and celebrate minorities, include their stories or environment in your marketing and branding without cultural misappropriation. Especially on social media, where every visual portrays the curated version of a white person’s life, it’s hard not to feel like you don’t belong.
- Participate in communities and events that are inclusive
If you are leading, participating, or attending an event, look around the room and assess the diversity. For a minority, it wouldn’t be a surprise to look around and not see anyone like them.
We have to encourage organizers to practice inclusion. To actively seek speakers and invite attendees from different walks of life.
- Use your platform to amplify the voices of minorities
Just as minorities are intentionally excluded in the past, they should now be intentionally included. If you’re a podcast host, make sure that there is diversity among the people you interview. If you’re active on social media, make sure that there is diversity among the people you highlight.
Extend an arm to pull someone up, because that’s the responsibility that comes with your privilege.
- Adopt a culture of diversity and inclusion
A fellow entrepreneur and activist, Monisha Bajaj, recently pinpointed the importance of translating diversity and inclusion into your business’ culture. Having inclusive marketing and branding just for appearance is being a hypocrite and it’s unsustainable.
This has to be part of your everyday operations and a continuous process to be better every day.