In his 2016 letters to shareholders, Amazon chief Jeff Bezos highlighted a few essential elements that have enabled the company to be relentless about growth and its day one startup mentality. One of those elements was the eager adoption of external trends, of which he noted, “If you fight them, you’re probably fighting the future. Embrace them and you have a tailwind.”
Inclusive marketing is the future of marketing. There is all kinds of data that shows shifts in the population, which will no doubt have an impact on the way consumers will receive, interpret, and engage with brand messages, products, services, and experiences you produce.
Of course, racial and ethnic diversity are only two dimensions to consider as it relates to inclusion, but even if you only considered this data, it means that mainstream marketing to a White majority will soon be a thing of the past.
A 2018 report by Pew Research showed that Gen-Z, the generation that comes after Millennials, are the most diverse generation ever in the U.S., with 48 percent of them being non-White. Trends show Gen-Alpha, those born between 2011 and 2025, will be even more diverse.
Along with the racial and ethnic changes in the population comes the expectation that marketing from brands will be reflective of those changes.
Research from CMO by Adobe showed that 61 percent of Americans feel that diversity in advertising is important. That same report found that 34 percent of respondents have boycotted a brand because they felt its advertisements weren’t representative of their identity.
In other words, the brand’s marketing didn’t make them feel like they belong. Business is about belonging. When your customers feel like they belong with you, they will reward you with their loyalty. When they don’t feel like they belong, they will go off in search of another brand that does make them feel that way.
You don’t have to wait until there is officially a minority-majority for you to start being more inclusive with your brand. There’s a spillover effect that impacts the caregivers of those in both Gen-Z and Gen-Alpha, who don’t currently have buying power.
For instance, my baby daughter is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Argentina. She’s multi-racial, and once she starts talking will be bilingual. As her mom, it is important for me for her to see herself positively reflected in the imagery she sees and in the environments she’s put in. As a result, the brands that I engage with will be those that are intentional about being inclusive of an increasingly more diverse population.
When you look at the changing makeup of the population, and the values they hold, particularly as it relates to diversity and inclusion, it becomes clear that marketing that doesn’t take inclusion into account will soon become a thing of the past.
Over the years, and this year in particular, more companies have started to get more serious about diversity, inclusion, and belonging. Much of that work has been internally focused. While that is important work to do, it shouldn’t be where diversity, inclusion, and belonging efforts end.
It needs to flow through to your marketing and every aspect of the customer experience you deliver. That means you need to build and nurture an inclusive brand.
Smart businesses embrace external trends. Shifts in the population aren’t just trends, though. They are reality. That’s why independent of what is happening within your company and the vision you have for it, it is important to recognize there are outside forces that are changing the way business is done.
Inclusion is the future of marketing. Don’t fight the future. Those that fight inclusivity now will have to scramble to catch up when they are forced to embrace it in time. Brands that lean into inclusivity now will reap the benefits of a tailwind.