Crafting a DEI Marketing Strategy for Greater Inclusion  

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January 18, 2024
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7 min read

The world is becoming more diverse, and that is especially true in the US. The racial and ethnic diversity of the country has been increasing since 2010, and now more than two-fifths of Americans identify as people of color. That share increases to over half for American youth.  

This means that brands must approach their marketing strategies with a DEI mindset, if they aren’t already. Those who don’t are leaving a considerable amount of the population—and their spending power—behind. At The Mixx we always say embracing DEI is good for people and profits. Which means that, for marketers, a DEI marketing strategy is not a nice to have; it’s a necessity. 

What is DEI?  

DEI is defined as “the fair treatment and full participation of all people... including populations who have historically been underrepresented or subject to discrimination.”  

Diversity is about representation as it pertains to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, language, culture, religion, age, and ability.  

Equity refers to fair treatment, and differs slightly from equality, as McKinsey points out. “While equality assumes that all people should be treated the same, equity takes into consideration a person’s unique circumstances, adjusting treatment accordingly so that the end result is equal.” 

Inclusion refers to a meaningful embrace of people to ensure they are seen and heard.  

The University of Michigan’s inaugural Chief Diversity Officer Robert Sellers put it best when he said:  

  • Diversity is where everyone is invited to the party. 
  • Equity means that everyone has the opportunity to dance/experience the music. 
  • Inclusion means that everyone gets to contribute to the playlist. 

Put simply, it’s about understanding, acknowledging and embracing our differences.   

Why Is DEI Important in Marketing?  

There is a direct relationship between a brand’s embrace of DEI and its positive perception in the marketplace. The appetite is there; people want to feel included and see themselves represented in advertising and marketing. In fact, consumers will stop supporting a brand if they perceive it to be excluding them. Fifty eight percent of LGBTQ+ people surveyed by Statista stopped supporting a brand due to lack of representation of their identity in advertising. Alienating diverse audiences can quite literally cost your brand.  

On the flipside, brands that do embrace DEI can win a loyal following. Forty three percent of respondents to another survey said they were much more likely to stand behind a company supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, either financially or by making a statement to show solidarity. 

But consumers don’t just want to be included; they want the brands they buy from to support the issues they care about. Forty five percent of respondents to a 2022 survey said they wanted to see more brands publicly support racial equality in the US.  

Brands can reap rewards when they go beyond inclusion to actively advocate for and provide equitable treatment for diverse audiences.  

How to Make Your Content More Inclusive 

1. Assess Your Current Marketing Content 

It’s clear that DEI is important to US consumers, and brands that craft a DEI marketing strategy can create more harmonious, fruitful and longlasting relationships with their audiences. To get to that point, you need to know where you stand. Start by reviewing your current marketing materials for representation and conduct an audit to determine where you are excelling and where you see room for improvement in terms of diversifying your content. And check your bias—the more inclusive you are, the more people are likely to pay attention to your content. 

2. Diversify Your Creative Team 

The benefits of having a diverse creative team are many. A broader range of backgrounds means broader perspectives informing your decision-making and idea generation. This leads to enhanced creativity, innovation and problem-solving, which in turn can improve team morale and engagement, company reputation and revenue. The sky is the limit when it comes to the impact a diverse team can have on your content and your company.  

3. Understand Your Diverse Audience 

It’s important to recognize and respect different consumer personas and their different content needs. That’s why it’s crucial to tailor content for diverse target groups. Consider who you are targeting—what are their backgrounds? What are their motivations? What they are coming to you for? Are they hoping to learn something, develop skills, or be part of a community? Pay attention to what your audience is saying, responding to, and doing, for proof of what’s working—and what isn’t.  

4. Develop Inclusive Content and Imagery 

Prioritize inclusion in your storytelling and visual representation. As a best practice, avoid using stereotypes, unnecessarily gendered language (such as “mom and dad,” instead of “parents”), and ableist language (which suggests that having a disability is “abnormal” or makes someone inferior). While this may represent a large proportion of the population, being straight, white, and college educated is not a default, and creating content that assumes your audience meets that criteria can be alienating. Being more mindful of differences can make your content more relatable and successful with a wider range of people.  

5. Prioritize Accessibility 

Making your content accessible to as many people as possible is key to a successful DEI marketing strategy. Pay attention to best practice when designing content to ensure it’s not exclusionary to people with different abilities. From using design elements such as contrast to content hierarchies that display the most important information first, there are many steps that can be taken to improve accessibility. For example, creating content that is easily translatable and doesn’t rely on idioms or jargon opens it up to an audience that goes beyond native English speakers. By prioritizing accessability when crafting your content, you are likely to attract a larger audience.  

6. Seek Input from Underrepresented Groups 

Incorporate ideas, advice and feedback from marginalized groups in your content creation. Involving more people from diverse experiences and backgrounds means there is less opportunity for missteps, as you aren’t making guesses or assumptions. This makes your content more likely to be successful and relevant to a wider range of people. It also allows you to empower underrepresented voices to be a part of the process.  

7. Promote DEI in All Communications 

After taking all the above steps, it’s in your best interest to share this work you are doing with the world. Don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk! Incorporate DEI in the messaging and tone of all of your content moving forward.  

You may also wish to run a DEI-focused campaign to really show your commitment to DEI. For example, you may create an ownable brand story and strategic platform that embodies and expresses your values, like European beauty brand essence did with their Pride platform “Dare to be you” and tagline “Pride applied.” The celebratory tone and inclusive imagery proves to its diverse audience that the brand values authentic self-expression and the LGBTQ+ community.  

Go Beyond Content: Integrate DEI Into Your Company Culture  

If DEI is embraced internally within your company, then communicating these values externally should come easily. So take steps to cultivate an inclusive culture in your workplace by making it accessable and inviting to people from all walks of life, and you’ll find people feel free to express themselves. It starts with a mindset shift and it grows through ongoing intention, commitment and a willingness to learn, grow and be openminded. When this is embraced, you can cultivate a truly open and inclusive company culture.  

Keep Evolving Your DEI Strategy 

Learning is the key to life. And like anything, your DEI marketing strategy must evolve with time. Make a plan to regularly reassess your DEI strategy to ensure it’s adapting to changes in society and your audience. 

The Future of DEI in Marketing 

Looking ahead, there will be an ongoing need for DEI in marketing. If you want assistance building your DEI marketing strategy, talk to The Mixx. Our expertise is rooted in 27 years of experience in guiding brands with strategic creative, insights, and activations that cultivate stronger, closer communities. We have designed, developed and delivered countless DEI marketing strategies for brands including American Express, Uber, and Smirnoff. As members of the very audience you are trying to reach, we create DEI marketing campaigns that cut through the noise and deliver tangible results.  

Reach out to us today to discuss taking your DEI marketing strategy to the next level. Let’s do this!  

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