Brand inclusion isn’t just a dream, it’s the destination

First, what exactly is brand inclusion and why should you care?

Brand inclusion is the intentional act of leaving no audience behind … no money left on the table … no opportunity on a dusty trail to nowhere. It’s also about doing good in the world. Inclusive brands do not cause harm. Instead, they make social responsibility and good community stewardship a top priority, acknowledging that all people (regardless of race, gender, sexuality, ability, age, religion, nationality) deserve to be seen, respected and treated humanely.

Inclusive brands enjoy countless benefits, from the inside out. They thrive where others falter. They share important characteristics:

  • Commitment to diversity: Organizations catering to diverse interests and motivations fare much better than those who don’t. Inclusive brands consistently recognize and celebrate diversity.
  • Always accessible: Inclusive brands make their products, services and brand experiences accessible to everyone, regardless of ability or disability.
  • Authentic representation: Marketing campaigns representative of diverse communities is key to successful outcomes. Inclusive brands avoid stereotypes and tokenism at all costs.
  • Welcoming culture: When employees from all backgrounds feel welcomed and valued, they’re more likely to show up in promising and productive ways. They thrive, and so does the organization.
  • Socially responsible: Inclusive brands often support social causes for communities. They use their platform to raise awareness and action for social justice and equality.
  • Deeply curious: Authentic feedback from both customers and employees is critical. Inclusive brands are open to constructive criticism and are not afraid of change.

Inclusive brands are becoming more important to organizations of all types and sizes. Maybe that’s because the rewards are as big as the dreams themselves, like:

  • Improved brand perceptions across the board
  • Stronger customer resonance and loyalty
  • Employees who are more engaged
  • Fewer communication and culture gaps
  • Better reputations with customers and employees
  • Greater relevance with inclusive-centric customers
  • Increased profitability
  • Access to more new markets
  • Inspiration for furthering innovation

So, why do some organizations fall short of inclusive triumph?

While 72% of organizations strive for inclusion, only 12% are successful*. The truth is it takes intentional and consistent action. There are some tangible reasons why organizations strive for inclusion but fall short. They likely don’t have inclusion at the heart of their brand strategy or a clear, action-oriented roadmap to guide them on a path to success. They may not understand that “inclusion” is a verb — one that takes diligent action time and time again. Many think of inclusion as an HR function or occasional marketing effort when, in fact, it’s absolutely critical to the brand strategy. Some confuse multi-cultural marketing (an antiquated concept) with inclusive marketing. To truly be an inclusive brand, you need:

  • A strong commitment from leadership
  • Adequate resources
  • Real understanding of diversity and inclusion
  • The desire to overcome unconscious bias
  • To think well beyond “checking the box”
  • And above all, accountability at all levels
    *Source: Bersin by Deloitte, Deloitte Consulting LLP

Inclusive brands lead to better outcomes

A recent McKinsey & Company report found that companies with more diverse workforces are 33% more likely to have higher profitability compared to companies with less diverse workforces. Furthermore, a Deloitte survey reported 83% of millennials believe that diversity and inclusion are important factors when choosing an employer. That gives them more buying power than ever before.
(insert: buying power illustration from the marketing inclusion deck)

Another report by Deloitte found that organizations with inclusive cultures are twice as likely to meet or exceed financial targets, three times as likely to be high-performing, six times more likely to be innovative and agile, and eight times more likely to achieve better outcomes. That’s good business.

71% of consumers prefer buying from companies that are aligned with their inclusive values. They know the difference between stating DEI commitment and demonstrating it.

67% of Americans state that their social values shape their buying choices.

72% of people feel most advertising does not reflect the world around them.

33% of employees are likely to leave a company based on lack of inclusion.

76% of new hires seek to work with an inclusive organization.

Source: World Federation of Advertisers webinar

Here are your must-follow steps to inclusive brand success

  1. Gain insights from all audiences: Be inclusive in your approach to understanding current perceptions and desires about the organization, products, services, culture and values. You can get inclusive feedback in many ways, like one-on-one interviews, focus groups, workshops, surveys and/or ethnography And make sure to create a safe environment for people to provide open and honest feedback.

  2. Create an inclusive brand strategy: An inclusive brand strategy will help you build trust and credibility with a growing and more loyal audience base. This will help you differentiate your brand from competitors, build trust and credibility with an increasingly inclusive conscious customer base and talent pool, and increase loyalty and revenue. You can get there with a brand blueprint. It’s a smart strategic tool that guides any number of business and marketing decisions, from attracting and retaining the right people to making sure your marketing efforts stay on a consistent brand course and much more.

  3. Build an inclusive culture plan: Inclusive culture plans align brand strategies with employee actions. It helps employees understand what’s expected of them from a brand perspective, both internally and with customers. Truth is, it’s not uncommon for employees to be unaware of the company values or to not know what value action steps they should take. An inclusive culture plan will help turn your values into marching orders. When all employees live inclusive values with authentic action, you’ll see a new way forward with a whole lot more customer-loving success.

  4. Activate your inclusive brand: Bring your brand to life with memorable authenticity. That means breakthrough campaigns, relatable messaging and proof points that resonate with all audiences. With socially conscious brand approaches backed by inclusive values, just watch how your organization thrives.

Brand inclusion success is within your grasp

Whether it’s an internal culture dive, a new audience engagement approach or spotlighting your brand in a bold new light, inclusive due diligence must occur. For us, it’s all about Inclusivity Marketing™ — the holistic process of bringing different perspectives, histories, experiences, needs and motivations together under one cohesive brand development approach. Bottom line, there’s no getting around the work it takes to get on the right road to inclusive brand success, but the rewards are great.

As a leader in inclusive brand development, Neka Creative has taken purposeful steps to make sure we’re walking the talk. Download our Seven Tenets of Brand Inclusion to help you on your inclusive brand journey.

Neka Creative is a full-service brand development firm in Minneapolis, anchored on the promise of inclusion. We’ll help you get on, stay on and thrive on the road to brand inclusion success.