A common question I get when talking to brands about inclusive marketing is whether this means involving all types of customers who have the problem your brand is solving.
It’s difficult for any brand to serve everyone well. The goal of inclusive marketing is not to serve everyone. Rather, inclusive marketing is about deliberately determining who you serve and who you don’t. And then of course you have to own those choices.
Inclusive marketing is about being intentional
Rihanna has stated that with her ultra-inclusive brand Savage X Fenty, she wants everyone to feel included. Jennifer Rosales, Senior Vice President at Fenty, commented on the brand’s targeting approach in the 2019 Savage Fenty X Fashion Show Special on Amazon Prime:
There is no target group. It’s for everyone. Everything she does is for everyone. She wants everyone to feel beautiful, for everyone to feel empowered, for everyone to feel this strength in order to become the best version of themselves.
When you look at the marketing for Savage Fenty X it is clear that they are working hard to achieve that goal. Her fashion shows include supermodels, plus size models, and other models and dancers who are lesbian, transgender, pregnant, disabled, and even male. The brand goes to great lengths to ensure that the customers they serve are reflected in their marketing of all shapes, sizes, skills, genders, and sexual orientations.
They also ensure that their products meet the requirements of these groups. The brand has gone so far as to include lines at different prices in order to be economically inclusive. From a distribution standpoint, they ship to 200+ countries to be geographically inclusive.
Even with the aim of getting everyone involved, the brand is not for everyone. The brand has a certain style and aesthetic. Those who want something different will not feel like they belong to Savage Fenty X. However, this is not because the brand sent the “You don’t belong here” signal due to a difference. It will be because of personal preference.
Inclusivity at this level requires a lot of resources. Every brand is not expected to embrace inclusivity to this extent, especially if you don’t have the resources to do so. Your goal is to pinpoint who you serve and who you don’t and make those decisions in your marketing.
Victoria’s Secret has taken a different approach when it comes to inclusivity. Before this year, they didn’t include plus size or transgender models in their shows or marketing. But after some recent changes in both ownership and leadership, this has gradually changed.
Prior to these changes, Victoria’s Secret marketing directors knew they made a deliberate decision not to market to plus size or transgender customer groups. Ed Razek, now the former chief marketing officer at L Brands, the former parent company of Victoria’s Secret, came under fire for making comments to Vogue a few years ago upon discovering the brand did not contain oversized or transgender models their fashion shows because the brand “sold a fantasy”. In his opinion, plus-size and transgender models did not fit their brand vision.
Despite the backlash, Victoria’s Secret made a clear decision about who to serve and who not to serve at the time. The brand was inclusive in other areas, just not in these dimensions. They owned their choices, even though some found them unpopular.
Inclusive marketing means making sure your brand promise is true
The challenge is that many brands exclude many people with differences, not because of their choice, but because they don’t even consider or realize that they are sending signals that you don’t belong here. As a result, they lose customers who could potentially stay loyal to them if they had tried instead to send signals in their marketing that you belong here.
For example, if a brand finds that it serves women but excludes women with color in their products, services, and promotions, they are failing to deliver on their brand promise.
The brand either needs to revise who to target to exclude women of color as a target segment if that’s their intent, even though it may be an unpopular choice. Or they should adjust their buyer personalities to include this large group of customers.
Inclusive marketing is the future of marketing. Your brand can begin to use the resources available in a more inclusive way by making your decisions intentionally and then taking them into account in all areas of your marketing.