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Why your brand is not inclusive, whatever you think

Published 22 Apr 2021 2 minute read

Strategic Thinking
Select Child

I know what you’re thinking but hear me out.

Your brand, (and I’m not picking on you at all), is probably not inclusive.

You may think it is and you certainly hope to communicate inclusion with all your consumer-facing activity, but I’d like to challenge you on this.

First, the only way your brand can seriously – genuinely – be inclusive is if you understand every segment of the consumer audience you serve.

Inclusion is not the default position. You can’t just assume that you are inclusive simply because there has not been a backlash in the media, you believe your products or services are ‘really for everyone’, or you wish to argue that you are ‘colour blind’.

Sadly, it’s not that easy. Inclusion is something you arrive at after you have taken the time to seriously engage with diverse audiences to understand what they think, feel, need, want and dream of and expect from your brand. After you have learned about the various subcultures that make up the diversity of today’s society and will become ever more vocal.

It doesn’t matter whether these insights come from my company, conducting virtual qualitative studies, quantitative surveys, mobile ethnography, semiotics, market and trend analysis or any other source of discovery, or with your incumbent and rostered favourite.

Understanding the truth of your emerging reality among these diverse audiences is what matters. Don’t be a KitKat Vegan and get it all wrong. And, don’t think it is going to be easy.

Alex Mahon, CEO of Channel 4, had this point down when she told us: “If this is going to tell me that Muslim people watch shows that have the word ‘Muslim’ in the title, I am out.” No wonder Channel 4 is recognised as a leader in this space.

You need that granular understanding of your brand's emerging reality before you can reach the point when you can meaningfully say that your brand is inclusive.

Then, of course, there’s the need to integrate these insights, relate them to your brand values, embed them in how you brief your agencies, so that diversity can become normalised.

Second, inclusion and diverse appeal – and we’re going to steer clear of the word ‘diversity’ and its human resource associations – are two different things.

Inclusion is a universal concept that can often miss the real point. With the kind of audiences we talk with on a daily basis, your brand could never meet their specific needs or excel at every one of the core values they hold, because that would be broad-stroking the audience.

Moreover, the inconvenient truth was highlighted in a Stackla survey just a few years ago, which showed that while more than half of consumers believed that most of the brands they interact with offer content that doesn’t feel exactly authentic, nearly all marketers were sure the majority of their brand content resonated as authentic with all of their consumer base.

pie chart (1)I’m not going to tell you all about my companies work - how our years of experience in connecting with diverse audiences to identify exactly how to engage confidently with them, how we surface the latent views and attitudes, how we replace the myths and fears with a magic ingredient called evidence.

No, that’s for another conversation when you can ask me more about Channel 4’s Pascale Waltho’s comment that our work “will have a direct impact on how Channel 4 addresses diversity and inclusion in all of its programmes from here on in.”

For now, if it’s enough to say that facing the inconvenient truths of your brand’s emerging reality is going to take some bravery, some deep breaths, and open eyes.

But, clearly, if you have to try to be authentic, you’re not authentic at all.

To be able to be yourself – and I’m talking to your brand directly now – you need to embrace Diverse Appeal fully, and not be side-glanced by the belief that communicating the right message will solve this challenge for you.

So there, I’ve said it. Inclusion means nothing to your brand, unless you do this work to underpin the foundation of your essence.

Consider yourself challenged.


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