More brands than ever are engaging in inclusive marketing. And increasingly, consumers are starting to take notice. And while it is a good thing that marketers are making more of an effort to serve a broader range of people, consumers from underrepresented and underserved communities aren’t just automatically flocking to those brands.
They aren’t desperate and waiting for brands who’ve long ignored them to finally throw some attention their way. Marginalized consumers want brands to prove they are worthy of their attention and dollars.
Consumers from underrepresented and underserved communities are often more loyal to the brands who take the time to serve them in a way that makes them feel like they belong. They’ll often pay more, go out of their way to get and support the product, and will spread the word to their friends and family about the brands that are doing right by them.
But belonging isn’t something that happens just because a brand decides to make their photography more diverse. Diverse consumers, the people who care about them, as well as others who value inclusion overall want brands to do more than just focus marketing efforts on their communities.
Diverse consumers have higher expectations of the brands that are working to win their attention and get them to swipe their credit cards.
Here are five expectations diverse consumers have of brands that want to earn their loyalty.
Uplift Their Community
Last year, Codeword Agency commissioned a survey to find out how people felt about brand campaigns for Hispanic Heritage Month. One of the questions they asked Hispanic-identifying respondents specifically, was what brands could do to mark Hispanic Heritage Month. The most popular answer was “investing in Hispanic communities.”
Arturo Gutierrez, Senior Vice President of Strategy at Codeword expounded on why these consumers in particular, feel like brands need to show up for them and their communities — not just for Hispanic Heritage Month, but all year long.
“There may be some sense of, ‘I’ve invested so much in your brand. I’ve purchased your product. I’ve become a brand ambassador. I’ve talked about it. I’ve been shopping at your store for fifteen years. We have these stated needs and priorities in our community. It would be really fantastic if you came through.’”
This insight doesn’t just apply to the Latino community. Many within the LGBTQ+ community for instance have expressed their disdain for brands that show up only for PRIDE month, without doing anything to show their support for important issues impacting people within the community.
This principal extends beyond cultural awareness celebrations as well. Communities have their needs and concerns all year round — not just during one particular month, week, or day of the year.
Consumers from underrepresented communities want to know that brands care about them as a whole person, beyond just the problem their product helps them solve.
The ones who will earn and retain their loyalty will be the ones who don’t just focus on marketing and selling to these communities, but uplifting them at the same time.
Community support can include funding organizations that fight for causes the communities care about, providing education on important issues, engaging in advocacy, volunteering, and even sponsoring events that bring them joy.
The more you spend time with the community and develop a deeper degree of intimacy with them, the easier it will be to know how to uplift them.
One thing I’ve heard over and over again from consumers, is the importance of not just wanting to have representation in marketing, but on internal teams as well from the brands selling to them.
The people you serve need to see themselves or who they aspire to be reflected in the visual imagery your brand puts forth. Part of that visual imagery is what your team looks like. Representation matters.
In addition, consumers find it much more easy to believe that you truly value diversity, inclusion, and belonging when you demonstrate it by having a diverse and representative team, rather than just showcasing diversity in your marketing efforts.
Another important reason to have a representative team is that it also helps you do a better job of serving consumers from underrepresented and underserved communities. When your team has similar lived experiences as the people you serve, it equips you with the insights needed to deliver better customer experiences.
For many consumers that don’t fit cleanly into what is considered mainstream, they’re a bit jaded when it comes to brands they feel have snubbed them in the past, but now want to show up for them.
They want to see you build a solid track record of serving people like them before they trust that you really care about them. How long that needs to be varies for each consumer.
But know that for each day, week, month, and year that you show yourself consistent in your commitment to them, the closer they will get in establishing a commitment to you.
More Accurate Narrative
Many consumers who are part of marginalized communities have endured for too long a narrative about themselves that doesn’t correspond to what they know and feel about themselves.
For instance, many Black women are accustomed to a harmful narrative that they don’t fit the standard of beauty, or that they aren’t desirable as romantic partners by people of other races.
To combat these negative narratives that flow from negative stereotypes, brands should first invest in the cultural intelligence to know these negative narratives exist, and then actively work to combat them in their marketing.
Changing harmful narratives doesn’t always have to be blatant. They can be combatted simply through casting, visual imagery, and story lines that showcase a different, more accurate portrayal of the communities you want to serve.
Not a Subpar Customer Experience
Because so few brands served people from underrepresented and underserved communities in the past, they often had few options available to them to get their needs met.
And often enough, those limited options were less than ideal.
But as more brands start to turn their attention to consumers from these communities, they are starting to see that it is possible for brands to serve their needs, and serve them well. They see that they don’t have to accept lesser customer experiences, while often paying more for them.
As you work to engage consumers from these communities, take the time to plan out an experience that makes them feel like you designed it with them in mind, rather than an afterthought.
Inclusive marketing is the future of marketing. And as consumers continue to recognize and exercise their power, they want to use it to ensure the brands they support meet their expectations.
Make sure your brand hits the mark.
This article first appeared https://www.forbes.com
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