First Published: 20 June, 2022
In 1971, Coca-Cola did something huge. It spent $250,000 ($1.6 million today) to put 65 people on a hilltop in Manziana, Italy, and bought them a Coke. What resulted was one of the most iconic commercials and marketing campaigns of all time:
It was so groundbreaking, the company received over 100,000 letters from people praising the commercial — think of how many tweets that would be today — and, with radio stations flooded with calls requesting the “I’d Like to Buy The World a Coke” song, a pop version was produced (earning $80,000 in royalties).
Well, many point to the fact that it is one of the earliest examples of diverse and inclusive marketing.
“It was us saying [Coca-Cola] could be a little social catalyst, that [it] can bring people together, [to] talk things over,” reflected co-creator of the commercial Bill Backer when asked about the ad’s global impact.
Released while much of the United States was growing tired of the Vietnam War and division, the commercial showed people of all shapes, colors, and ethnicities singing about coming together over a Coke.
It was a message of unity and joy, and even more significantly, it was an ad that buyers all around the world could see themselves in.
This is the power of inclusive and diverse marketing.
And, with a 2019 report conducted by Adobe showing 61% of Americans find diversity in advertising important and The Heat Test finding 69% of brands with representative ads saw an average stock gain of 44% last year, it’s something every marketer should be taken seriously.
Diverse and inclusive marketing is marketing that aims to speak to a larger audience of potential buyers by looking past preconceived notions of gender, age, race, income, sexuality, language, and religion (among other things).
It targets individuals from all walks of life, by seeking commonalities outside of these social labels.
Take a makeup brand that has always assumed only young women buy its products. In an inclusive effort, it may create a video featuring an older gentleman who moonlights as Gene Simmons in a Kiss cover band after his 9-to-5.
Unexpected? Most definitely, but inaccurate? Not necessarily.
Diverse and inclusive marketing forces you to throw everything you assume about your audience out the door and think deeper about why and how your product may be used.
Typically, this involves using more diverse imagery, messaging, and even tactics, but this can take many different forms. To help you start brainstorming how your brand and marketing can be more diverse, I’ve compiled 15 stunning examples of inclusive marketing done right.
When you think of “diverse and inclusive,” you likely think of race, right? Well, that’s what many get wrong about DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion).
Diversity is about so much more than that. In fact, in this example, it’s about dietary restrictions. Introducing the Impossible Whopper, Burger King aims to draw in vegetarian, vegan, and non-beef eating consumers who may have never sought them out previously.
With the rise of plant-based diets and preferences, this is a smart pivot by Burger King that lets the public know they’re not just for meat lovers.
“When it feels like the world doesn’t get you, a gift from Etsy can make you feel seen.”
Etsy is a go-to for many seeking custom or unique gifts you may not find in-store (including yours truly), and this line from its ad’s description simply but powerfully explains why.
In this example, the e-commerce platform brilliantly touches upon a major pain point for many people — feeling excluded for having an uncommon name — and showcases how Etsy offers a solution.
In another piece from the campaign, Etsy showcases a relatable scenario of a couple spending the holidays together for the first time and the discomfort that can ensue. In the end, it is a custom gift from the Etsy platform that made the visiting partner feel welcome.
What’s so groundbreaking here? Etsy told this story with a same-sex couple and the gift may not be one they could have found from many other vendors.
After receiving backlash in recent years because of its “unhealthy” beauty standards, Victoria’s Secret bid farewell to its annual fashion show this year, and out of its ashes rose Rihanna’s body-inclusive Savage x Fenty fashion show on Amazon Prime.
Unlike its predecessor, Savage showcased models of different body types, genders, and racial backgrounds. This is a strategic move continued from the brand’s use of curvy in-store mannequins that has been highly praised by consumers. (Similar to Nike.)
Savage x Fenty’s body and racial inclusivity reach out to an audience that may have previously felt alienated by the lingerie industry and because of it, the brand has estimated annual revenue of $150 million.
Shaving for the first time is a right of passage for many men. In this touching ad, Gillette presents this shared experience through the eyes of a trans, male teen and his father.
Similar to the hypothetical example I gave earlier, Gillette ignores traditional assumptions about its buyers and welcomes a new, engaged audience that other brands may be ignoring.
This is a particular favorite of mine.
For those of you not familiar with it, Holi is the Hindu/Indian festival of color celebrating the arrival of spring. Celebrations usually involve playful fights with colored powder that, while beautiful, can take days to fully clean off your skin and hair.
Holi celebrations and “fun runs” inspired by the holiday have become increasingly popular in the western world. In this simple Instagram post, Neutrogena recognizes this and reaches out to this audience by positioning its makeup remover wipes as a solution to this pain point:
My only qualm here is that I would’ve appreciated seeing an Indian or South Asian model used to acknowledge the roots of the occasion.
In 2019, The White Collection Bridal Boutique in Portishead, England, caught eyes by showcasing one of its dresses on a mannequin in a wheelchair in its window display.
With nearly 40 million people living with a disability in the United States alone, seeing a bride in a wheelchair is nothing uncommon, but it’s rarely something we see shown in marketing and advertising. So, locals and global media took notice:
You likely remember this adorable Amazon ad from a few years ago.
A young couple realizes their baby is frightened by their pet dog, leaving both them and the pup saddened. Thinking quickly, the father turns to Amazon and has a faux lion’s mane delivered to their home to disguise their dog as the stuffed lion their baby loves, and they all live happily ever after.
What you may not know is that this ad is originally from Japan. The commercial showcases a story and experience that can transcend all backgrounds, but with a Japanese family. It’s subtle but effective and unifying.
If you haven’t noticed, beauty brands are definitely leading the way when it comes to diversity and inclusion, and I’ve got another one for you.
Last year, nail polish brand Essie made history by naming Queer Eye star Jonathon Van Ness (known affectionately as JVN) as its first male ambassador.
With this move, Essie not only targets buyers from the LGBTQ+ audience but from the greater male audience as well, which typically goes unacknowledged by nail polish brands.
Speaking of smashing gender stereotypes, in this example, Pampers keeps the effort going.
In this playful ad, music artists John Legend and Adam Levine are shown changing the diapers of their real-life children, only to be joined in a song about the struggles of a diverse group of fathers, all cuddling their own little ones.
The commercial aims to reach young modern dads and male caregivers who know that diaper duty isn’t just a concern for women.
Next up, we have the skincare brand Curology.
In this user-generated video, Curology shows a real-life customer going through their skincare routine, which includes the product. The customer is shown removing their makeup and applying Curology, then shows the improvement in their acne over time.
What makes this special? The customer is a young male in an industry that usually focuses on young women. Men can and do struggle with acne and skincare just like women and this ad lets them know that this product is for them as well.
Next, we have an emotional ad by Google.
In this commercial, we are introduced to a diverse group of Google Pixel users and shown a few photos and videos they took with their phones. We are given a glimpse into their seemingly happy, everyday lives.
Then, we learn that each of these individuals has experienced suicidal thoughts and sought help.
Not only did this ad extend an understanding hand to a segment of buyers who may have similar thoughts, but it shed light on a greater mental health crisis.
As mentioned earlier, individuals with disabilities are extremely underrepresented in advertising and marketing.
In this example, cosmetic company Urban Decay shares a social media video featuring Grace Key, an entrepreneur, artist, makeup artist, actor, philanthropist, and founder of the clothing brand Candidly Kind who is widely known for her advocacy around Down Syndrome, a condition she was born with.
This post draws attention to a "new" face of beauty and cosmetics that rarely gets highlighted in mainstream media and gives a nod to the community that they too are valued and loved members of the Urban Decay family.
It doesn't matter who you are or where you are in the world, COVID-19 had pretty much stuck us in our homes for much of 2020.
With that in mind, in this commercial, Phillips (in partnership with TBS) shares the story of the Wellingtons, a family of four struggling with being quarantined and working from home.
The company cleverly shows how many of its home products (such as an espresso machine, a nightlight) helped make the Wellingtons' day-to-day more delightful and easy. They stress right off the bat that this family is "just like yours." Their pain points are relatable and universal.
The fact that the family is made up of two fathers and two young children, all from minority backgrounds, is an afterthought.
In another touching holiday example, Hallmark does a smart job of showcasing the relatable holiday experiences of making cookies and sending greeting cards but calls upon two underrepresented groups to tell that story.
Not only does the ad feature a young girl with a hearing impairment at the center of the action (+1 for representation) but, in turn, also has the entire dialogue signed making the message more accessible to those in the community.
Last, but not least, we have Nike.
In this example, Nike strives to remind mothers-to-be and women in general, that even amid stereotypes of being "delicate" or "soft", they are strong, enduring athletes.
Behind a voiceover from Serena Williams, it highlights women and mothers of all ages, races, and walks of life (including real female athletes) training and exercising in Nike attire to create a truly inspirational call-to-action. Nike supports their goals and wants to give them the tools to succeed.
If there are two lessons you take from each of these ads, make them these:
All of these ads work because they focus on experiences and pain points that buyers of the products can relate to regardless of their race, gender, age, and so on, but bring representation to new audiences. They answer the questions everyone has and make underrepresented groups feel welcome and understood by the brands at the same time.
Like the diverse faces on the hilltop enjoying the taste of a Coke, customers likely get the same value from your brand no matter what their background is, so make your marketing reflect that.
At the end of the day, not only will diverse and inclusive marketing help your audience grow, but your potential bottom line as well.
Sign up to receive updates on events, training and more from the MA.