Get inspired by inclusive marketing from big brands

Get inspired by inclusive marketing from big brands
Mar 22

Lusanda Futshane

Digital Marketing

Inclusive marketing is here to stay, and these brands are already ahead of the curve.

Radical innovation is often thought to be reserved for scrappy startups. Any missteps cost less when you’re just starting out and fewer people are watching you. So, you might assume the same is true for a fundamental change such as adopting inclusive marketing and language, but the opposite is true.

Brands with long legacies are betting big on inclusive marketing. We’ve already covered the major reasons why. Promoting inclusive language as a business improves employee satisfaction, helps you engage younger customers, gives your brand a cause, and, critically, protects your future revenue.

Inclusive marketing is more than just a “risk worth taking”. It’s the direction the world is moving in, and powerhouse brands are proving that it works. Here are some examples to inspire you.

Tampax and Gillette rethink gender

Did you know that women didn’t always shave? A combination of advertising and evolving beauty and fashion ideals pressured women over time into believing that hair on their legs and under their armpits was undesirable. And thus a new market was open. But the industry wasn’t selling them the same safety razors as men. Women’s razors were smaller, more colourful and, confusingly, more expensive.

There’s a long legacy of advertising sticking to and even enforcing the gender binary through products. Brands like Tampax and Gillette are making small strides toward changing that.

While Gillette still segments its safety razors according to the binary, its definitions of men and women have evolved. In the 2019 ad “First Shave”, Samson, a trans man, takes us into his story of transition while we watch his dad teaching him how to shave. The ad sends a clear message that Gillette respects the identities of all men and was launched to rave reviews.

In 2020, Tampax tweeted:

Since then, they’ve made a conscious effort to refer to “people” and not “women” in the social media posts as a way to acknowledge that some men also use their products. It was a huge move for trans inclusion and set the standard for marketing in the sanitary products industry.

Apple and Salesforce embrace race-neutrality

The words “whitelist” and “blacklist” are so common that you may not consider them racially loaded. But when you have only negative associations for words that contain “black” and only positive associations for words that contain “white”, you create a fertile ground for unconscious or implicit biases. (We covered these briefly in an earlier blog.)

You might not be thinking about race when using these words, but your mind is forming connections you’re not aware of. You can read about this subject further in this compelling study from the University of Limerick and the Limerick Institute of Technology.

Apple and Salesforce have both committed to replacing the words “whitelist”, “blacklist”, “master” and “slave” with “allow list”, “deny list”, “primary” and “secondary”, respectively. Salesforce has taken it a step further by establishing their Inclusive Product Language team to continuously monitor their language and update any exclusive or offensive terms.

Mastercard honours the identities of gender diverse people

When people transition, they face a lot of administrative red tape and obstacles. Changing your gender marker on your ID or your name with all institutions you’re registered with is notoriously difficult. This means trans folks often have to explain to multiple authorities why who they say they are doesn’t match their documented information – a systemic barrier that’s invisible to those of us with cis privilege.

One way Mastercard is addressing this is with the True Name campaign which lets transgender and non-binary people have their chosen names displayed on their bank cards instead of their deadnames. It’s a small change, but one that shows solidarity with the LGBTQI+ community backed by action.

Pearl Milling Company undergoes the ultimate transformation

There’s a popular brand of pancake mix, syrup and other breakfast goods in the US called Aunt Jemima. Or at least there used to be.

As of 2020, the brand has been renamed Pearl Milling Company following a wave of backlash to the racist origins of its name. The name “Aunt Jemima” was appropriated from a minstrel character who portrayed the problematic mammy stereotype in vaudeville shows in the 1800s. Many pointed out that the name was tantamount to calling a brand Uncle Tom or Rastus, two other offensive minstrel characters that were popular during slavery.

Pearl Milling Company made the choice not to continue to have its products associated with slavery or feature any characters that made light of the historical oppression of Black people. Several other organisations, such as the Washington Commanders (formerly the Washington Redskins), have chosen the same route, which shows a promising trend of brands making race neutrality a priority.

Nando's serves all pronouns

A more recent (and more local) example can be seen from one of South Africa’s favourite brands, Nando’s. Its “He/She/They Are Welcome” ad makes clever use of the contentious singular “they” pronoun used by non-binary and gender non-conforming individuals. In it, a youngster tells her grandmother that her cousin is coming over for lunch and identifies them as “they”. The grandmother mistakenly assumes she means more than one person and orders a feast. But when Nthabi arrives, they’re alone but not any less welcome.

It sends a clear message that Nando’s is aware of evolving social conditions and is choosing to position itself as a brand that welcomes all.

We hope that these brands are more than enough inspiration for you to start your own inclusive marketing initiatives. When you’re ready, get in touch with us so we can lend our expertise to your campaign.

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