Inclusive Marketing: 4 Strategies From Brands Doing It Right
Analysis of recent ads from Nike, ThirdLove, Savage X Fenty, and Olay reveals that brands must first understand their target market before focusing on diversity and inclusion when creating successful inclusive marketing campaigns.
Pallah Burdis, founder of mental wellness business Pallah.Co, was a loyal Victoria’s Secret customer for nearly two decades. However, the past several years have shed light on some of the brand’s values and practices around diversity, representation, and body positivity. The popular lingerie company has a few black models, but recent events had Burdis questioning the extent of the brand's commitment to diversity and inclusion: How many Victoria’s Secret stores have black managers? Is there diversity on their board? Burdis wasn’t impressed with the answers.
When Rihanna debuted her own lingerie line, Savage X Fenty, Burdis made the switch. She appreciated the upcoming brand’s values, putting diversity and body positivity at the forefront of both their staffing decisions and their product marketing strategy.
“The models aren’t all size 2,” Burdis said.“They are not perpetuating white body supremacy or internalized inequity to the masses, and more importantly, to young girls of color.”
Brands that authentically lead with diverse and inclusive values benefit from: Deeper customer connections
- Larger reachable audiences
- Increased revenue
- Stronger brand loyalty
Top Design Firms surveyed 501 consumers to test these findings. We presented consumers with advertising and branding images from four brands considered to be diverse and asked how likely they would be to make a purchase.
Turns out, inclusive marketing isn’t quite that simple. Successful strategies must first address the target consumers’ needs, then seamless weave in diversity and inclusion.
- After Nike’s emotional and inclusive “You Can’t Stop Us” campaign video, 46% of consumers were likely to purchase from the brand — the likelihood is equal (52%) across both white and non-white consumer groups
- ThirdLove’s diverse advertising resonates most with women. While 45% of all consumers were likely to purchase from the brand, that percentage jumps to 55% when looking at only female consumers.
- Only 31% of consumers were likely to purchase from Savage X Fenty’s menswear line, however, a viral campaign featuring plus size models won over younger consumers — 41% of consumers ages 18–34 would buy from the brand.
- Olay’s empowering “Make Space For Women” campaign convinced 41% of all consumers and 49% of female consumers to make a purchase.
1. Nike Targets Universal Audience With Emotional Campaign
Nike is known for playing to consumers’ heartstrings with moving ad campaigns that make a statement about the power of sport. Most recently, the brand responded to the tumultuous events of 2020 with the “You Can’t Stop Us” campaign. The ad uses split screen animation, aiming to bring people together when many feel disconnected due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. It includes shots of sports teams kneeling on the field, referencing the growing #BlackLivesMatter movement. And, it features Megan Rapinoe as narrator, a professional soccer player and advocate for women’s rights and the LGBTQ community.
After viewing a snapshot of this campaign, 46% of consumers were likely to make a purchase from Nike for themselves or for someone else.
This campaign played to Nike’s strengths — moving stories and messages designed to reach a universal audience. With that as its backbone, the brand then chose to feature athletes of different races and cultural backgrounds to illustrate diversity and inclusion. Their strategy paid off. The “You Can’t Stop Us” campaign resonated with both white and non-white consumers equally.
Just over half (52%) of both groups were likely to purchase from Nike.
By first understanding how to emotionally connect with their target audience, then focusing on diversity and inclusion, Nike created a universally appealing campaign.
Michelle Ngome, diversity and inclusion marketing consultant at Line 25 Consulting, recognizes the ad’s emotional appeal. “They did a good job telling a story and making the viewer feel part of the journey,” she said. “Nike depicted diversity well by including people of different genders, ethnicities, and cultures, people with disabilities, and people from different environments.”
Nike depicted diversity well by including people of different genders, ethnicities, and cultures, people with disabilities, and people from different environments.
Burdis agrees, complimenting Nike’s honesty about it’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.
“Nike sets the tone for other athletic companies to step outside the status quo,” Burdis said. “The company is also transparent when called out on its corporate issues surrounding diversity.”
In the past, Nike has faced allegations of poor labour practices and discrimination in the work place. They have responded honestly with planned actions to improve. Nike replicated their standard campaign strategy to reach their target audience, then blended elements of diversity and inclusion to create a successful ad campaign that resonated and built trust with consumers.
2. ThirdLove Reaches All Women With Diverse Representation
Bras have been a wardrobe essential for women for centuries, but it wasn’t until the late 1900s that the garment industry introduced new sizes, patterns, and styles. ThirdLove recognizes the need for a perfect fit. The lingerie brand is committed to offering a product that meets each consumer's unique needs.
Just under half of consumers (45%) were likely to make a purchase from the brand after seeing the way their products are presented on their website.
The brand advertises its 80 different sizes with racially diverse and body inclusive models and a strong focus on women empowerment. Their belief that every woman deserves to feel comfortable and confident drives their company’s decisions. The message resonates more strongly with women — 55% of female consumers were likely to make a purchase from ThirdLove.
Given the nature of the product, this makes sense. ThirdLove understands the needs of its target consumer group and leads with that — the perfect fit. Ngome finds that message assuring. She’s been following the brand for a couple of months to get a better understanding of its purpose.
“ThirdLove does a good job showing women of different shades, shapes, and sizes,” she said. “Most women appear to be middle-aged, it would be interesting to see older women, women with disabilities, or a campaign with cancer survivors.”
ThirdLove does a good job showing women of different shades, shapes, and sizes.
While the brand could expand its idea of representation, it’s mission has definitely resonated with Yvette Dubel, a personal innovation mentor. She has an order from ThirdLove on the way.
“I chose them because their expressions of diversity and inclusion seem more genuine,” Dubel said. “The very nature of the products and how they market them honor dignity and humanity.”
ThirdLove has donated over $40 million in bras to the homeless and other groups in need of basic essentials — something Dubel considers to be one of the most needed expressions of inclusion considering over half of the homeless population is non-white.
The brand’s commitment to providing a body-inclusive product reached all women, and their decision to diversify their models broadened their target audience, appealing to consumers who value inclusion.
3. Savage X Fenty Breaks Norms With Body Inclusive Advertising
Rihanna first made headlines with Fenty Beauty because it’s products cater to all skin types and tones. Years later, she debuted Savage X Fenty — a lingerie and loungewear brand that carries product lines for both men and women and demonstrates the same commitment to diversity and inclusion.
When shown an image of products from the men’s loungewear line, only 31% of consumers were likely to make a purchase.
While the brand women’s line receives the most praise, the Savage X Fenty menswear line went viral earlier this year for the body inclusive models chose to advertise their products. Fans of the singer and supporters of the brand voiced their excitement and appreciation on social media.
Savage X Fenty’s inclusive marketing strategy relied heavily on social media. Additionally, Rihanna also released a two-volume fashion show on Amazon Prime that caused even more conversation and coverage across Twitter and Instagram.
The brand’s body positive and racially inclusive really resonated with younger audiences —the group that uses social media the most. Looking at only consumers between 18—34, 41% were likely to make a purchase after seeing the male models — nearly 10% more than any other age group.
Because Savage X Fenty primarily relied on the power of social media to raise brand awareness, it is understandable that its diverse and inclusive messaging was most successful with younger consumers.
“Savage X Fenty does have an edge with popular culture for going against the status quo,” said Burdis, a fan of the brand's women’s line. Savage X Fenty does have an edge with popular culture for going against the status quo. While Burdis praises the company’s willingness to feature bodies outside the norm, she still recognizes some room for improvement.
“I would like to see more Asian and Native inclusion in the male models,” she said. “There is a stereotype apparent in pop culture that Asian males and their bodies are inferior.”
Dubel agrees that Savage X Fenty hits on diversity and inclusion at a surface level, but feels that something is missing. “There was some diversity in male model representation,” she said. “But there is no indicator that diversity and inclusion were internalized as an organizational value or a part of the value-add for customers.”
Savage X Fenty is the newest brand included in this report, and the company is still working to find footing with a broader audience. While most people were not likely to purchase from the brand’s menswear line, Savage X Fenty still achieved what it set out to do — reach younger consumers. The brand led with a body positive message and used social media to start a conversation about what diversity and inclusion looks like for lingerie companies.
4. Olay Connects With Women Through Empowering Message
The beauty industry is known for how quickly trends come and go. However, more and more brands are gradually shifting to body-positive, inclusive, and empowering messages to sell their products. Olay is no different.
The skincare brand has been around for decades, and their most recent Super Bowl ad campaign centered around empowering women. The “Make Space For Women” campaign features four celebrities and an astronaut, using a space theme to raise awareness and funds for Girls Who Code, an organization dedicated to building a strong pipeline of female engineers.
When presented with a snapshot from the ad, 41% of all consumers were likely to make a purchase from Olay.
While Olay is a beauty brand, it's using the company platform to raise awareness about the lack of female engineers and advocate for more women in tech. As expected, female consumers resonated most with this messaging. Nearly half (49%) of females were likely to purchase from Olay after viewing this ad.
Olay lead with a message centered around women’s empowerment to reach its target audience. While there was effort to feature a diverse group within the commercial, Burdis believes there is room for improvement.
“They did not have an astronaut of color, and there are at least four currently active black woman astronauts,” Burdis said. “As a black woman, I’ve seen us be promoted as entertainers, but not as scientists.”
Nicole Stott is the astronaut that appears in the campaign alongside celebrities Taraji P. Henson, Lilly Singh, Katie Couric, and Busy Philipps.
Ngome agrees that the ad missed the mark with diversity. “The main image has two white-passing women,” she said. “The messaging and images are not in alignment.”
While she won’t be purchasing from Olay in the near term, Ngome did participate in the Twitter campaign — for every tweet that includes #MakeSpaceForWomen Olay pledged to donate one dollar to Girls Who Code with a max of $500,000. Olay’s campaign was successful in resonating with women, and while their efforts to embody diversity and inclusion didn’t hit all of the marks, the brand raised awareness and advocated for an empowering cause that resonated with consumers.
Strong Brands Balance Consumer Needs With Diversity and Inclusion
The product ads and inclusive marketing campaigns from Nike, ThirdLove, Savage X Fenty, and Olay differ on many levels, but there is one constant — they show a deep understanding of who they are trying to reach.
Nike stuck to its proven strategy of using emotional and moving stories to inspire consumers.The “You Can’t Stop Us” Campaign also featured athletes of diverse backgrounds to appeal to those that value inclusion.
ThirdLove spoke directly to women, emphasizing the importance of the perfect fit. Then, the brand chose to diversify their models to appeal to women of different races and backgrounds.
Savage X Fenty used social media to reach younger consumers. Their body positive message spurred conversation about inclusive representation means for lingerie companies.
Olay focused on women empowerment with the “Make Space For Women” campaign. While the brand could’ve chosen a more diverse cast to feature, the cause behind the campaign strongly resonated with female consumers. Burdis recognized the efforts of each of these brands.
“Each brand was successful in embodying diversity and inclusion in terms of their target audience,” Burdis said. “Being culturally aware of your audience and applying theories of racial equity with collected data can help guide companies to be more diverse.”
A successful inclusive marketing campaign or brand advertisement first speaks directly to the brand’s target audience, then uses elements of diversity and inclusion to build stronger connections with consumers.
About The Survey
Top Design Firms surveyed 501 people across the U.S. about their views on diversity and inclusion in advertising and marketing in October 2020. Less than half of respondents (43%) identified as male, 38% identified as female, and 19% did not identify. Half of respondents (50%) identified as white or caucasian, 17% identified as non-white, and 33% did not identify their race. Twenty-one percent (21%) of respondents are ages 18–34, 31% are ages 35–54, and 29% are age 55 and above; 20% did not share their age. Most respondents live in the South (35%), 29% live in the Midwest, 24% live in the West, and 12% live in the Northeast.