Inclusive Marketing ≠ Purpose Marketing

November 3, 2023
min read

We recently saw Unilever - a company famed for infusing purpose marketing across all of its brands - do an about face. The message to the market: purpose does not need to be central to all brands, we’ll elevate purpose where it’s meaningful but won’t try to put a round peg into a square hole otherwise.

I want to go on the record and say - I fully support this strategy.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve shed more than a few tears over Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty ads, and love what Vaseline has done with the See My Skin project. I continue to be awed and inspired by smaller purpose infused brands like Londre Bodywear, Undefined Beauty, and so many more.

However, I agree that not all brands need to take a stand on social issues.

I also want to make the clear point that purpose marketing and inclusive marketing are not the same thing. Inclusive marketing doesn’t need to take a stand on an issue, it just needs to include people from historically underrepresented groups. Inspiration for inclusive marketing is as easy as looking at the diversity of gender expressions, ages, skin tones, body sizes, sexual orientations and visible disabilities around you. 

Let me give you an example:

This ad from Dove talks about the cost of toxic beauty standards and the influence of social media on teenage girls. It’s powerful, heartbreaking, and raises much needed awareness. It starts (or continues) a conversation that we need to be having as a society to effect change. 

This is purpose marketing.

This ad from DoorDash talks about how DoorDash gets groceries. It’s not a social issue, it communicates a product offering. BUT, it features 3 people and includes representation of large body sizes, darker skin tones, and women. People with larger body sizes, darker skin tones, and women tend to be underrepresented in ads. It’s not making a statement about people with these attributes, these people are simply the people in the ad. 

This is inclusive marketing.

Inclusive marketing can be as easy as rethinking what the family sitting around the table eating soup looks like. What are their skin tones? What are their body sizes? Are there grandparents at the table? Does someone have a disability? Are the parents straight or gay? Choosing to include people from groups that are typically underrepresented is a great first step.

Both inclusive marketing and purpose marketing are extremely important. The difference is - some brands can (and, dare I say, should) do purpose marketing, but all brands can do inclusive marketing.

I’ll go even further - it’s in every brand’s best interest to do inclusive marketing. Have you heard? Inclusive marketing drives business results. See our blog post for more.

Once you commit yourself to inclusive marketing there are ways to be more effective, and there are pitfalls to avoid. We’ll tackle these in some upcoming posts.

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