Finland: Inclusive marketing - who do your commercials speak to?

Marketing campaigns are often full of stereotypes: girls playing with dolls, boys playing with cars. Slim women in bikinis, larger women in oversized dresses. Dark-skinned people as exotic and different, white people as the society’s norm. Hetero couples as happy parents, gay couples as partying hipsters.

Inclusive marketing means presenting different people, cultures and social structures in a truthful and non-stereotypical way. It aims to understand and respect the diversity of our society, not the stereotypes attached to diversity. For companies, inclusive marketing is a way to communicate values and build a sustainable brand. Through inclusive marketing companies can also take a stand on social justice.

The business case for inclusive marketing is clear: if consumers cannot relate to a brand’s marketing, they will take their money to a brand that truly sees their individuality and complexity, not just simplified stereotypes related to their age, gender, skin colour or relationship status.

Every now and again there are marketing campaigns that completely ignore the vast diversity of our societies, or reassure negative stereotypes of different people, cultures or social structures. Consumers analyse companies’ communication more and more thoroughly, which has led to a number of stirs in social media lately.

In the aftermath of such stirs, company representatives often find themselves perplexed, honestly wondering what went wrong. Inclusive marketing is not easy. It requires a comprehensive understanding of cultures, connotations and underlying attitudes.

Despite the challenge, some companies have succeeded in including different customers to their marketing:

L’oréal Paris’ True Match Foundation -campaign includes 15 video clips featuring different foundation users from Scandinavia. Among them there are people of different gender, colour, culture and looks, but despite the differences, the videos do not exotify or reassure stereotypes. There’s really no need to make a point if a boy wears foundation anymore!

Vodafone has taken a strong stand to promote diversity & inclusion in their staff, but also among their customers. Their campaign Belong celebrates diversity in a very authentic and natural way.

Dove has made inclusive marketing their competitive advantage over the past several years. For instance, their recent campaign #MyBeautyMySay challenges stereotypical perceptions of beauty and showcases the variety of magnificence that can be found in us all.