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 The Power of Culture and Inclusion in Marketing

Feb 28, 2024
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In our increasingly diverse society, understanding culture and inclusion is foundational for successful marketing and long-term brand success. Learn more about the power of culture and inclusion in marketing and how the Medill IMC Professional master's program can prepare you to lead marketing strategies that welcome everyone.

Why Diversity and Inclusion Matter in Marketing Campaigns

Today's cultural landscape is more heterogeneous than ever. In this environment, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is a critical element of marketing strategy as well as a core ethical consideration. Shifting toward an authentic and inclusive marketing strategy can help an organization connect with diverse communities in a global and varied consumer base.

Population Demographics Are Changing

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows a historical decline in the white population, contrasted by growth in Black, multiracial, Hispanic and Asian populations.1 This demographic shift underscores the growing need for marketing strategies that reflect the world's diversity. The median age among multicultural consumers is notably lower than that of non-Hispanic whites, highlighting these groups' significant influence as current and future market drivers.2 With projections indicating non-Hispanic whites will make up less than half the U.S. population within 25 years, crafting inclusive marketing strategies has never been more vital.1

Acknowledging and embracing these societal shifts is indispensable for modern marketing success. A 2022 study conducted by Amazon Ads and Environics found that 44% of consumers deemed diversity, equity, and inclusion more important than they had three years previously.3 The results of this global study emphasize the universal demand for brands to engage authentically with diverse audiences.

Inclusivity Elevates Brand Perception

Why does inclusivity matter for marketing professionals today? To engage effectively with a changing world, an organization must embrace diversity and ensure its campaigns reflect the realities of an increasingly diverse audience. Organizations that overlook the significance of representing their diverse customer base risk alienation and loss of customers.4 Conversely, brands that successfully navigate the nuances of inclusive marketing can unlock unprecedented opportunities for growth, engagement and loyalty. Thus, as the consumer landscape evolves, so must the strategies employed to connect with it, making diversity and inclusion not just a matter of social responsibility but a cornerstone of modern marketing success.

Culture's Influence on Marketing Strategies

Culture profoundly impacts consumer behavior and expectations, making it imperative for marketers to grasp and embrace cultural diversity in their strategies. The ongoing shifts in U.S. demographics, with younger generations becoming increasingly diverse, necessitate a marketing recalibration to authentically represent and connect with varied audiences.5 That necessity arises from consumers' nuanced relationships with culture, which directly influence their purchasing decisions and brand loyalty.

Avoid Stereotypes and Cultural Bias to Create Connections

A thoughtful, respectful approach is required when marketers want to connect with diverse audiences. The challenge is to move beyond superficial multicultural campaigns that risk caricature, and instead develop marketing strategies that genuinely understand and celebrate cultural distinctions. This approach fosters consumer trust and brand reputation, and positions brands as leaders in a socially conscious marketplace.

Understanding and catering to the cultural diversity within target audiences is no longer optional—it's a strategic imperative for marketers aiming to stay relevant and competitive in today's ever-evolving consumer landscape.

Creating Content That Resonates Across Cultures

To genuinely connect with its target audience, diverse marketing content must go beyond mere visibility. Crafting thoughtful and respectful content—messages, visuals and narratives that reflect a spectrum of cultures and identities—helps customers feel valued and included. Inclusive marketing transcends showcasing diversity; it's about producing content that resonates with the audience by acknowledging and appreciating their unique perspectives.

Understanding and celebrating the cultural nuances of target audiences is crucial. Marketers must deeply engage with the cultures they wish to speak to, striving for authenticity and relevance in their content.2 This commitment involves a shift from conventional portrayals to embracing the diversity of cultural identities, incorporating language, imagery and themes that avoid reinforcing stereotypes or cultural insensitivities.

Moreover, inclusive marketing prioritizes the empowerment of storytellers and creators from varied backgrounds. Brands can enhance their messaging by incorporating diverse voices and viewpoints, ensuring they expand their reach to wider audiences.8

Representation Matters in Marketing and Across the Organization

Effective diversity marketing hinges on cultural awareness and the meaningful integration of diversity, equity, and inclusion across all facets of an organization, including everything from employee recruiting and engagement programs to charitable causes and more. Embracing these elements enhances the functionality and effectiveness of marketing strategies and fosters customer loyalty and satisfaction. Amazon has found that 51% of consumers believe the most sincere expression of a brand's dedication to DEI lies in its support for more comprehensive actions and causes, extending well beyond its product or service offerings.2

Ultimately, creating culturally sensitive content is a strategic advantage that deepens brand connections and broadens market appeal. Such content signals a brand’s commitment to an inclusive culture and diverse customers, laying the groundwork for more meaningful customer relationships.

Building Teams for Diverse Perspectives

Incorporating diverse talent within marketing teams is not just beneficial—it's essential for innovation and authentic engagement with a broad audience base. Organizations that embrace diversity in their teams unlock creative potential and build stronger connections with their audience by reflecting a wide array of viewpoints and experiences.8 Diverse perspectives within teams lead to more innovative ideas and marketing strategies, ensuring that marketing campaigns incorporate inclusive content that resonates with people from different backgrounds.3

Moreover, a diverse team is instrumental in identifying potential sensitivities, thus avoiding cultural missteps and fostering an authentically inclusive brand message.

The benefits of diversity and inclusion extend beyond marketing to support all organizational departments. Akama Davies, director of global solutions and innovation at Xaxis, wrote in an Amazon Ads blog, “Companies that are inclusive have a greater range of perspectives through which to view complex challenges, and thus find meaningful solutions.”15

Inclusive Marketing: A Strategy for Growth and Engagement

Inclusive marketing goes beyond ethical considerations, presenting a compelling business case for expanded market reach, enhanced brand image, and more robust business performance. Studies by Amazon Ads and Environics Research, along with insights from Deloitte, highlight the economic advantages of embracing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in marketing campaigns and internal company values: A striking 67% of consumers underscore DEI as a critical factor when selecting a brand, with 45% willing to pay more for products from brands that actively promote DEI.2,6

Inclusive Marketing Can Increase Purchase Intent

The growing buying power of minority groups, forecast to reach nearly $7.5 trillion by 2026, reinforces the increasing importance of inclusivity to brand preference and loyalty.7 High-growth brands, defined by annual revenue growth of 10% or more, are notably proactive in establishing DEI objectives, correlating diversity and inclusivity directly with market success.6

Further, embracing diversity in advertising resonates strongly with younger generations, such as millennials and Gen Z, who expect companies to engage in social issues and reflect authentic diversity.8 This expectation is not trivial—64% of consumers report taking action after seeing ads they consider diverse or inclusive, a figure that rises significantly among specific demographic groups.8

Inclusion in Action: Successful Marketing Campaigns and Strategies

Two well-known companies stand out for their successful inclusive marketing campaigns that influence positive social change while also supporting strong business performance. Pinterest and Procter & Gamble (P&G) have helped change the media narrative around culture and inclusion while growing the value of their brands.

Pinterest Offers A Platform to Diverse Voices

Pinterest's commitment to inclusion and diversity is evident in its "Pinclusion" philosophy, which aims to help diverse staff "flourish through representation and belonging."9 Initiatives, including the internally focused "Count Me In" program and the customer-facing Creator Inclusion Fund, extend the Pinclusion philosophy. The Creator Inclusion Fund is an incubator program to help creators from diverse groups and underrepresented communities find success on the platform.

Pinterest's embrace of inclusive culture and commitment to offering a platform to diverse voices contributed significantly to the company's recognition in Fast Company's “Brands That Matters” list and its global popularity.9,10 Pinterest currently has 445 million users worldwide, and they perform 5 billion searches each month, securing Pinterest's status as a major player in the online community platform space.11

Procter & Gamble Campaigns Raise Awareness and Brand Performance

Procter & Gamble’s inclusive brand messaging has helped raise awareness of the concerns of Black Americans in the broader audience while supporting strong brand performance and the company's $367.4 billion market capitalization.12

The "My Black is Beautiful" campaign and the Emmy-winning commercial "The Talk" exemplify P&G's commitment to fostering conversations about bias and promoting understanding. These initiatives are part of P&G's broader marketing strategy to challenge beauty stereotypes and improve the representation of African Americans in popular culture, solidifying its reputation as a leader in corporate social responsibility and improving brand image and customer satisfaction among a wider audience. 13,14

Pinterest and P&G's inclusive marketing campaigns bolster their brand images and drive tangible business outcomes, demonstrating that prioritizing diversity and inclusion can catalyze both social impact and substantial market performance. These companies illustrate the profound influence that thoughtful, inclusive marketing can have on brand success, setting a benchmark for the industry.

Measuring the Impact of Inclusion

Measuring the effectiveness of inclusive marketing initiatives highlights their impact on brand reputation and market reach. High-growth brands often establish key performance metrics for DEI objectives, correlating inclusivity with market success. This approach gauges campaign effectiveness and demonstrates a brand's commitment to continuous improvement and authenticity in its DEI efforts.6

Analytics and metrics offer quantitative insights, while qualitative feedback provides a deeper understanding of audience perspectives. Tools like the Cultural Insights Impact Measure (CIIM) enable brands to assess how multicultural consumers perceive their marketing efforts.16 By effectively measuring the impact of inclusion, brands can refine their marketing strategies to ensure they resonate with diverse audiences, ultimately driving engagement and loyalty.

Prepare for Inclusive Marketing Leadership with Medill's IMC Professional Program

Transitioning to marketing leadership in today's diverse world requires more than technical skills. The Medill IMC Professional program uniquely prepares you for this challenge, with its innovative hybrid format that lets you blend 10-week online courses with optional 5-day in-person immersive courses. Each course delivers executive-level insights that professionals can instantly apply to advance their careers and businesses in the dynamic field of marketing.

The Culture and Inclusion in Marketing course, led by IMC Professional Academic Director Danielle Robinson Bell, exemplifies the forward-thinking curriculum design. Her background— leading sophisticated campaigns for industry leaders, including P&G North America, Kraft and Verizon Wireless—imbues the course with unparalleled depth. Bell's expertise enriches students' insights into the importance of diversity and inclusion in marketing, preparing them for leadership with an understanding of these crucial issues.

Speaking at an online event for the Chicago chapter of the American Marketing Association, Bell encapsulated the central requirement for authenticity in inclusive marketing as “values over everything.”17 Values-aligned organizational conduct strengthens employee engagement, which supports better business outcomes. Brands that stand behind their values also tend to have stronger bonds with their customers and other external stakeholders, which, in turn, amplifies brand successes and reduces the risk of reputational damage from misfortune and missteps.

Follow Your Unique Path to Leadership

The flexible curriculum of Medill's IMC Professional program includes three core classes on essential marketing management topics and the students' choice of 10 electives, allowing them to focus on what’s essential for their careers. With courses regularly refreshed to reflect cultural changes and incorporate industry innovations, this curriculum design enables marketing leaders to meet tomorrow's challenges with today's learning. Connect with an admissions outreach advisor to learn more about how Medill can help you take the next step in your marketing career.

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