The importance of diversity and inclusion in marketing and advertising
Inclusive marketing encompasses diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in advertising. Learn why inclusivity in marketing is important and how to get started.
For advertisers and marketers, crafting inclusive marketing plans should be a top priority, and is not an easy feat. And consumers are becoming more attuned to inclusive marketing: According to a study of 5,131 consumers that Amazon Ads conducted with Environics Research across five key global regions, 44% of survey respondents say that diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) has become increasingly important to them over the past three years.1
Inclusive marketing is marketing that includes diversity, anywhere from your brand and company’s internal structure to external ad campaigns.
“You can have diversity and you can have equity, but if you don't have inclusion, it's not sustainable,” Jameka Pankey, the Head of Global Change Management, Operations, and Strategic Events at Amazon Web Services, told Amazon Ads prior to the 2022 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. “For example, if you come to a party, you can walk in a room and have diversity. You have guests from different backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, and ages, but you can still walk in and not feel included … and inclusion matters. You build sustainability and have cultural change with inclusion and making others feel like they belong. We don't want to just invite you to the party; we want to ask you to dance. We want to see if you want something to eat. We want to make you feel engaged. We’re going to say to you, ‘Hey, what should the DJ be playing?’”
Internally, it’s crucial that your work culture embraces DEI but that it also applies externally. Inclusive content means that you’re creating brand messaging and advertising that both depicts and relates to a broad audience. This type of content can help your customers feel appreciated and included. According to that same Amazon Ads and Environics study, 7 in 10 consumers say DEI is an important factor when choosing a brand to purchase from, and 45% of consumers said they’re willing to pay more for a product from a brand that reflects and promotes DEI.2
Advertising can be more inclusive by incorporating more voices, creative, and perspectives that are representative of a wider audience. For example, in ad campaigns, inclusivity could mean including diverse imagery and language.
Diversity and inclusion are important in marketing because they help celebrate audiences of different backgrounds. This type of marketing helps audiences discover brands that align with their values, which more consumers say they are interested in doing.
For example, 67% of consumers say it’s important that brands act to promote DEI. 3 That can start within a brand’s corporate culture, which customers consider along with the brand’s ads and products themselves: 46% of consumers go out of their way to choose brands that have corporate commitments to DEI. 4 That includes cultural diversity in corporate leadership, for example. Corporate DEI can directly affect marketing, since it can be challenging to have diversity in your marketing without also embracing cultural diversity within your company.
But it’s not just a one-step process. DEI initiatives need to be followed by actions. Whether it’s reflected by brands by improving inclusivity in advertisements, hiring a diverse staff, or creating products for all audiences, 61% of consumers say it’s important that the brands they buy from act on promoting DEI. 5 It’s also a continual process of improvement. And although DEI can influence purchases (49% of consumers in the US, 42% of consumers in the UK, and 38% of consumers in Canada said DEI factors strongly into their purchasing behaviors) 6 , that shouldn’t be the main incentive for embracing your inclusive marketing.
There isn’t a set of predetermined principles of inclusive marketing, but there are several key topics you could consider in your marketing strategies. Here are just a few examples of suggested principles that could help you to prioritize and integrate inclusive marketing.
Use leadership to promote inclusion from within
One of the first and best places to start incorporating inclusion is within your company’s corporate culture and staff. “I see this in big ways, like leaders’ commitment to attracting diverse talent, and less obvious ones, like when senior leaders stop a meeting to ensure a more junior team member has a chance to contribute to the conversation,” said Natalia Alfonso, Principal Product Manager on the Global Advertising Partner Development team at Amazon Ads, on how her team leadership promotes inclusion, in an interview for the Inside Voices series with various Amazon Ads leaders on DEI. “I really love how our leaders seek opinions from team members from different functions, backgrounds, and levels of seniority.”
Ensure diverse opinions are welcome
Promoting DEI includes both listening and communicating. “To me, diversity is when we have many different insights and perspectives on one thing because of the … variety of backgrounds and experiences,” said Kumiko Arai, Senior Program Manager on the Global Advertising Partner Development team at Amazon, during a chat with Inside Voices. And the result? “I strongly believe diversity makes teams stronger and helps us better support our diverse customers. Equity to me means we are recognized equally. And inclusion is to be mindful about the individuals’ situations and backgrounds, and making sure different opinions are heard.”
Create campaigns that reflect our diverse world
Being seen in advertising campaigns is not only crucial for customers; it helps to expand the mindsets of society as well. Latasha Gillespie, Head of Global Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for Amazon Studios and Prime Video TV, opened her keynote at unBoxed 2021 by sharing her thoughts on inclusive campaigns: “As brand storytellers, your campaigns and creatives can challenge traditional ways of seeing the world, and allow us to imagine new possibilities for ourselves and others. They can help make our world more equitable and inclusive.”
Use inclusivity to broaden your perspectives
Using inclusive marketing can even lead to more opportunities for your brands and products. “Companies that are inclusive have a greater range of perspectives through which to view complex challenges, and thus find meaningful solutions,” said Akama Davies, the director of global solutions and innovation at Xaxis, part of GroupM and WPP, in a blog he wrote for Amazon Ads. “In a consumer-led business, listening to a wide range of voices helps inform your ability to understand, empathize, and communicate with your customers. I don’t think you can be truly customer-centric and innovative without being inclusive.”
Commit to embracing authenticity
A key aspect of inclusive marketing is realizing that you will never be finished with it. “There’s always going to be more work that can be done,” said Zach Harris, Vice President of Marketing for the water portfolio of PepsiCo Beverages North America, as part of an interview for the series My Best Advice for Amazon Ads. “But I think the biggest thing that marketers can do right now is to truly respect this idea of authenticity. Real change is going to take time, but as long as we remain committed to embracing authenticity in everything we do, we’ll continue to move in the right direction and create an industry that is inclusive, welcoming, and empowering for all.”
Diversity is used in marketing in a variety of ways, from making hiring decisions to offering diverse options of products. Here are four examples of ways diversity can be exemplified in marketing.
Also, Claire Paull, Director of Global Marketing at Amazon Ads, shared at the annual unBoxed conference in October 2022, “We need more female leaders. You need to be able to look around and see yourself to believe that you can be there. It’s important that companies are looking at their hiring practices and setting goals around these things.”
The key components of diversity marketing include all three parts of DEI: diversity, equity, and inclusion. All three need to be acknowledged and highlighted in order for an inclusive marketing strategy to be functional and effective.
“Inclusion is acknowledging a lived experience, leveraging unique skills and perspectives, so that everyone has experience ownership and empowerment,” Pankey told Amazon Ads about diversity marketing prior to the 2022 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. “And then, when you think about diversity, it’s about representing a full range of visibility for all identities, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, class, physical ability, religion, language, military status, and more. That’s diversity. Then, equity is about access and opportunity. It’s about removing the barriers to success on an individual basis and interrupting bias. It’s about ensuring that policies and practices and systems provide all employees access to the opportunities, resources, and recognition of being successful.”
All three of these components should be found not only in your advertising, but in all aspects of your company, brand, and messaging. In doing so, it can help translate to customer satisfaction and dedication. According to 51% of consumers, the most authentic way for a brand to demonstrate commitment to DEI is through broader actions and causes it supports beyond their products and services.7