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A Comprehensive Roadmap to Inclusive Marketing

January 27, 2023
An illustration of four people with different body shapes and skin tones consuming media through their phones, computers, and TV's


What is inclusive marketing and why is it so important for your business? We've outlined everything your brand needs to know about inclusive marketing in 2023.

We have made a great deal of progress over the years in terms of embracing diversity and inclusivity, but we still have a long way to go.

The corporate world has generally favored a specific demographic above all others in the past. For hundreds of years, white men have had a distinct privilege when it comes to hiring, wages, and connections in the workplace. They are the most often exempt from workplace discrimination and are allowed to rise the highest and the fastest up the corporate ladder.

The Current Workplace Climate

While the situation has certainly improved, there is still not enough diversity in the workplace in the 2020s. People of color, people with disabilities, and women are just some of the groups that often struggle to be seen and heard in professional environments or even considered for qualifying roles.

Systemic Racism in the Workplace

Taking a look at the current professional world, we’ll find that there are only six Black CEOs at Fortune 500 companies as of 2022. This makes up only 1% of ranking businesses, a minuscule percentage considering the diversity of the general population.

Unfortunately, discrimination is still a prevalent societal problem. Oftentimes, people who are born into a lower socio-econimic class have less access to resources like education. Black neighborhoods across the country face issues like these, and therefore don’t receive the same opportunities as others.

Ableism in the Workplace

People with disabilities also face their own set of professional barriers. For example, they often have trouble getting hired due to employers' biases and assumptions. In 2021, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities was 10.1%, almost double the general unemployment rate of that year.

Unfortunately, this is largely due to misunderstandings about the complexities of mental and physical disabilities on the part of employers.

The Rethink Mental Health Charity conducted a survey of 500 hiring decisions. This is what they discovered:

  • 83% of employers were severely concerned that someone with a mental illness would not be able to succeed in the position
  • 68% worried that someone with a condition would not be able to fit in at the office
  • 74% of employers were afraid that someone with a mental health issue would have to take too much time off

It's essential to make an effort to learn more about the nuances of mental illness and how generalizations do far more harm than good.

Misogyny in the Workplace

The wage gap, or the difference between the average pay for men and women, has been a major issue for decades. In 2022, women earned only 83 cents for every dollar men earned, with women of color making even less. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Black women were paid 64% as much as white men and Hispanic women were paid 57%. But what’s contributing to this pay discrepancy?

There are a few factors contributing to this situation, namely discrimination toward working and expectant mothers and an abundance of women in lower-paying positions. Teaching, for example, is a female-dominated field, and teachers are famously underpaid for the amount of work they do.

The main issues girls and women face along the career path are:

  • Girls are often discouraged from heavily pursuing STEM subjects during childhood and adolescence. These areas tend to be male-dominated. Women often feel unwelcome and many of those who break into the field face a new set of issues such as sexual harassment.
  • Cultural practices can also be at play. Throughout history, women have been expected to be the homemakers while men have been the breadwinners. While this dynamic has improved drastically, there is still a societal view in many cases that a man’s contribution to society is more valuable than a woman’s. Sadly, this can lead to the unfair assumption that women are less competent than their male peers.
  • Maternal duties are some of the most common reasons women face unfair expectations and treatment in the workplace. While more women are entering the workforce than ever before, many heterosexual couples still struggle to distribute domestic duties evenly. This dynamic often leads to the women bearing the majority of the childcare and housekeeping duties despite working one or more jobs.

The Importance of Company Culture

An illustration of five people around a conference table having a meeting. The leader of the meeting is a woman. The four other participants have thought bubbles over their heads that include a smiley face, handshake, equal sign, and thumbs up.

Understanding the societal issues that bleed into the workplace helps us realize the shortcomings our own businesses might face, even if no conscious effort was made to offend or discriminate against.

The first step in building a diverse marketing strategy is looking inward with your own team. You can’t create an inclusive marketing strategy without a team behind it providing unique insights and ideas that include their own experiences.

There are quite a few ways to ensure that your workplace is actively embracing diversity and inclusion:

  • Be extremely clear about your policies. Don’t tolerate hate of any kind.
  • Ensure that people can report harassment anonymously and effectively.
  • Take an honest look at your hiring practices. Consider adjustments if you notice issues like implementing blind hiring practices.
  • Ensure that everyone is treated equally.
  • Set rules in meetings: Do people have to raise their hands before speaking? Ensure that everyone feels comfortable and is respected.
  • On occasion, send surveys to your employees so that they can provide you with feedback about what is working and what isn't.
  • If your team is doing a great job and you're crushing your goals, reward them with small gifts, such as free coffee and pizza. It's amazing how much this motivates people.
  • Consider implementing a remote or hybrid workplace model if appropriate and applicable. Some people are simply more productive in a remote space.

In short, it's important to ensure that everyone on your team feels as comfortable as possible—While you can't run a perfect operation, you can certainly facilitate a smooth one by having efficient strategies in place that minimize gossip, drama, and discomfort while boosting productivity, acceptance, and collaboration. After all, it would be deeply ironic to publicly market yourself as an inclusive brand if your internal processes did not reflect that.

Inclusivity in the workplace is essential for your internal processes so that your employees can positively communicate, which will boost your productivity as an organization.

That said, it's paramount to spread your message wide and far: Your company should be dedicated to recognizing and uplifting the voices of people in marginalized communities while making them feel seen, heard, and authentically represented. That is where an inclusive marketing strategy can make a world of difference.

What Is Inclusive Marketing?

Inclusive marketing is marketing that includes a wide range of people from all walks of life, races, and cultures while actively avoiding stereotypes. There are so many demographics that have historically been excluded, misrepresented, and appropriated by marketing and advertisements. All modern marketing should aim to be as inclusive as possible.

Too many companies have been ignoring relevant demographics with their content, like fashion campaigns solely featuring one body type.

Inclusive Marketing Is Necessary for All Brands

We have reached a point in our collective culture where we can recognize and call out harmful words, phrases, and imagery. This means you need to review your content with a fine-toothed comb to ensure it’s appropriate and inclusive.

The bottom line is that inclusive marketing is the right thing to do, but it will also benefit your brand in the long run.

Whether you sell shoes or classes on an LMS, consumers are increasingly looking to do business with companies that prioritize diversity, accessibility, conservation, fair labor practices, etc. And if you already prioritize values like these, make sure you’re making them a public part of your platform.

It's also essential to remain consistent with your marketing, even when something may not be “trendy.” A lot of companies show their support through diversity campaigns during Black History Month or Pride Month and then retreat to a less inclusive approach during the rest of the year. This can lead to a lot of resentment amongst your clientele, as it often comes across as inauthentic.

The best way to connect with your customers is to consistently engage in meaningful, purposefully inclusive marketing campaigns, regardless of the political and societal climate at a specific time.  

Why is Inclusive Marketing Important

Inclusive Marketing, when done correctly, is easy to identify. People can see when you’ve taken the time and effort to create campaigns meant for them, and they will react accordingly.

Create Authentic Relationships With Your Audience

As businesses, it is essential to focus on building trust with your consumers. This trust is built through a variety of ways but often includes being upfront and honest about your products, stellar customer service, competitive pricing, personalized discounts, etc.

One of the best ways to start things off on the right foot with new customers is to connect with them on an emotional level. If they feel you’ve gone that extra mile to create a positive and inclusive atmosphere from the inside out, they’ll be all the more inclined to proceed through your marketing funnel – especially if they’re used to seeing people like themselves overlooked by the majority of marketing campaigns.

Empowering Underrepresented Groups

There are many different groups that feel underrepresented or misrepresented within digital media. People of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and people with disabilities are a few of the groups often treated unfairly within these spaces. Harmful depictions have the ability to affect the way people perceive others as well as themselves.

Inclusive marketing aims to fight discrimination with inclusive language, authentic casting, and representations that go against stereotypes.

Embracing diversity empowers individuals, normalizes inclusion, encourages empathy, and encourages everyone to practice not only tolerance but genuine acceptance towards one another.

People Want To Do Business With Brands They Believe In

Consumers are increasingly seeking out ethically minded businesses who support, facilitate, or encourage environmental conservation, fair-trade practices, sustainably sourced items, ect.

They also look for companies that embrace diversity within their content and a strong mission statement which resonates with them. This is why implementing inclusive marketing strategies will almost always improve your bottom line.

And not only will people want to work with you, some will want to work for you. Companies that practice the above will attract potential employees along with potential business. People search their entire professional lives to find a work environment where they feel accepted and appreciated.

How To Create an Inclusive Marketing Campaign

An illustration of the leader from the above meeting standing in front of a whiteboard. The white board has six points. They say, "use inclusive marketing imagery, study the data to determine who your audience is, analyze the diversity of your team, check in with your audience, ensure your content is accessible, and update your content when necessary."

It’s clear inclusive marketing campaigns are extremely important and, at this point, maybe a little intimidating. There’s a lot of pressure to get it right, but making an effort is the first step.

Use Inclusive Marketing Imagery

It's essential to ensure that your content features inclusive imagery, meaning that they represent a wide range of people from your target audience.

Using authentic images of real people who are successful in their industries is deeply inspiring, and telling stories of unity through your advertising campaigns can make a world of difference. The images throughout your channels should reflect the diversity and mission of your company and its partners.

Study The Data To Determine Who Your Audience Is

While diversity is always important, the demographic you are targeting should influence your marketing strategies. For instance, your visuals will likely change if you are targeting Millennials versus members of the Baby Boomer generation. Each group has a very different outlook on life, so it's important to study the general trends, desires, and the diversity within your given audience.

Update Your Buyer Persona When Necessary

Your buyer personas should be updated regularly. You will want to consistently conduct market research to determine who your ideal customer is and adjust your marketing strategies accordingly. It's important to ensure that you are appealing to your current audience as well as potential customers who might be drawn to the brand if your campaigns were targeted toward a more diverse demographic.

Analyze The Diversity Of Your Team

Ideally, you would have a diverse team so that your company could benefit from different perspectives. Admittedly, this is sometimes more of a challenge in certain locations, but you can still take a look at your hiring practices to ensure that they are fair to all applicants.

According to a Deloitte report, organizations with an inclusive company culture were six times more likely to be innovative, eight times more likely to achieve stronger business outcomes, and twice as likely to exceed their financial goals. In short, discussing solutions from various perspectives is almost always highly beneficial to organizations.

Check In With Your Audience

Conducting temperature checks with your audience is a great way to evaluate the success of your campaigns. You might want to send a survey to your company's mailing list asking if they feel properly represented in your content. You could also post a poll on a social media platform like Twitter or LinkedIn. This will let people know that you care about their experience and truly want to improve it if needed.

Sometimes, the fact that an organization is trying to embrace diversity—even if they still have some work to do—is heartening, so consumers might be more patient as these changes take place and will likely want to continue doing business with you because they appreciate your concerns pertaining to the matter at hand.

You might want to consider providing your customer base with a space for additional thoughts or asking the tough questions on your surveys in a respectful way, such as:

  • Do you feel properly represented in our marketing campaigns?
  • Where can we improve?
  • Did you find anything offensive in our marketing campaigns?
  • We strive to use inclusive language in all of our content. Was there anything we missed?
  • Do you believe our photos and videos are inclusive?
  • Do you feel that we represent diversity sufficiently? If your answer is yes, how so? If your answer is no, please tell us how we can improve.

Ensure Your Content Is Accessible

When it comes to digital accessibility, there are a lot of little details that make an enormous difference. Web accessibility ensures that individuals with disabilities can still peruse your website and consume your content. It includes aspects such as:

  • Image Alt Text - Adding alt text to each photo ensures that people with visual impairments can understand the significance of any image that accompanies your content.
  • Keyboard Accessibility - Your website should be accessible without requiring a mouse. You should also incorporate a visible keyboard focus and appropriate tab order while avoiding keyboard traps.
  • Sequential Heading Structure - This simply means that your content should be clearly ordered so that your users can easily follow along. Listicles are quite popular for this reason.
  • Accessible Hyperlinks - You will want to embed links in words or phrases instead of simply copying and pasting them to optimize your content.
  • Consistent Navigation - Navigational mechanisms should be consistent across each page of your website. This makes it more accessible for those with cognitive and visual disabilities.

Diversity is about including people from various ethnic and cultural backgrounds, but diversity also includes those who have disabilities. This is why it's so important to ensure that your digital content is available and accessible to everyone.

Update Your Content When Necessary

Sometimes, the cultural landscape changes or an event takes place that affects one community disproportionately. Sometimes, a series of events take place that make brands take stock in their content and values.

On the other hand, you might realize in retrospect that a certain blog post or video was unintentionally insensitive to a particular group and decide to update it.

There's nothing to be ashamed of. We all make mistakes, and society changes fast, but it's important to make that effort so that your audience knows you care. It's not about being perfect all of the time; it's about putting your best foot forward every day to facilitate equality, respect, and diversity.

Inclusive Campaigns Doing it Right

Let’s take a look at brands that have fully embraced inclusive campaigns.

Fenty Beauty

Fenty Beauty is a prime example of a brand that embraces diversity. Their makeup is known for including shades that match an extremely wide range of skin tones.

The visuals are cohesive with the company's mission. You see people with varying skin tones and gender identities. There is an entire section of their website dedicated to how the company aims to reduce its environmental impact by using the three Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle. This company embraces diversity in every way, and it's wildly successful as a result.


Google’s Picture Perfect campaign successfully embraces diversity through their video. It includes racial diversity as well as a realistic view of individuals struggling with their mental health. It captures the nuances of depression and bipolar disorder: not everyone shows their symptoms, especially when they’re in public. The video aims to help the audience understand how complicated mental health can be.

The people in the video that struggle with their mental health appear incredibly “normal.” They have hobbies, jobs, families, but still struggle just the same. After watching, the viewer may see the world through a different lens, or they might have even seen themselves within the video.


It's important to do your part to foster diversity in your personal and professional life, but doing so isn't always easy. Accenture’s Inclusion Starts With I campaign aims to remind all of us that it’s never too late to try.

The most important thing you can do is focus on learning and improving while being transparent about areas you are unfamiliar with and asking questions as respectfully as possible whenever necessary. Part of the journey includes forgiving yourself and others and encouraging progress instead of condemning someone due to a cultural misunderstanding.

Inclusive Marketing is for Every Brand

An illustration of a brand icon being backed by six, diverse individuals

Fostering diversity and inclusion internally should be a priority for all organizations. At the end of the day, we are all human, and we simply yearn to be seen, respected, and accepted for who we are. We want our differences to be viewed as strengths rather than weaknesses.

Diversity and inclusion practices foster a sense of belonging, acceptance, and comfort associated with your brand. They help you streamline your processes, increase productivity, and come up with innovative solutions for the problems you may be facing. When it comes to marketing, consumers are increasingly interested in forming meaningful relationships with brands based on their missions.

Perhaps even more importantly, you will be making a difference in this world by ensuring that people from underrepresented groups feel acknowledged, represented, and cared for, which will have an enormous impact on the ethos of society at large.

The best marketing campaigns solve a problem for audiences. They tell a captivating story that consumers can relate to in an empowering, helpful way. As a brand, it's essential to create effective, meaningful content that resonates with a variety of people.

At Steel Croissant, our mission is to act as your digital marketing partner, and we are here to help you put your best foot forward professionally. We offer a myriad of services, including assistance from experts in every facet of marketing during each step of your campaign. Contact us to learn more!


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