Understand your audience

All marketing requires that you get to know your audiences in depth. Inclusive marketing requires not only this, but an understanding of how your audiences have historically been excluded, stereotyped, or otherwise misrepresented.

Beyond the basics

Key demographics and aspects of diversity are often overlooked. Knowing the nuances behind your audience’s identities helps you build marketing that your audience can see themselves in.

Think about the race, socioeconomic status, age, ability, gender, sexual orientation, religion, geography, culture, political perspective, military status, languages spoken, and other aspects of the identities of the people you’re trying to reach.


Nearly 1 in 7 people in the U.S. speak Spanish. Any campaign for the general U.S. population has the opportunity to factor Spanish-language creative and media placements into the marketing plan.


“Urban” and “inner city” are often used to offensively refer to Black people. Furthermore, Black characters are overwhelmingly absent in children’s books about nature. These stereotypes reinforce perceptions that Black people are exclusively city-dwelling, when just 45% of Black Americans live in cities.


GLAAD’s 2017 Accelerating Acceptance report found that 20% of 18-34 year olds identify as LGBTQ+, significantly higher than older demographic groups.

Understand who might not be represented

Don’t overlook people who are not currently customers. Understand why underrepresented people may not use or even know about your product, and work to address those issues.


1 billion people in the world experience some form of disability, making them the world’s largest minority group. Consider how every product and marketing campaign you produce takes accessibility into account.

User research

Establish expectations around diversity in user research

  • Try to understand the unique cultural habits or insights of your audience that your product can embrace.
  • Make sure you’re getting perspectives from all angles. When planning consumer qualitative or quantitative research, make sure underrepresented groups are part of your panel.
  • When analyzing your data, think about what insights may be specific to underrepresented groups and what can be applied universally.
  • Make every effort possible to test your creative with intended audiences as well as the people featured in your work.

Landscape audit

A landscape audit is a useful way to learn from the successes and challenges of other brands, gain a deeper understanding of ongoing cultural conversations happening in the news, and inform future creative decisions. These questions are a good place to start:

  • What is the current state of marketing around the audience you’re looking to represent and reach? How has it changed in recent years? What are the up-to-date key statistics, research, and thought leadership?
  • Who are the leading people and organizations advocating for improved portrayals in media and marketing creative for your intended audience? What are they advocating for?
  • Is public discourse happening around the group or topic your creative is focusing on? What do you expect to see in the future?
  • What are the best examples of marketing that subvert stereotypes and portray real-life nuances? Which brands are consistently doing this well, and what can we learn from their examples? How do different creative strategies perform, and what do we know about the creative process that went into making them? How have responses differed among audiences?

Landscape audits don’t always need to be in-depth, but it’s always useful to keep a pulse on how your marketing creative will play in the current moment. For example, in 2020, during the beginning of COVID-19 in the U.S., we realized several of our ongoing campaigns were no longer relevant – and could be potentially offensive.

  • We held off on campaigns that featured slapstick humor.
  • We pulled back on creative that showed interactions like handshakes, hugs, and high fives, since social distancing was important for slowing the spread of the virus.
  • We reviewed our ad copy to spot phrasing that suddenly became out-of-place, such as “virus checks.”
  • Knowing we couldn’t do it alone, we also looked to partner with others. This led to the “#Stay Home. Save Lives." campaign, created in partnership with the World Health Organization, and an industry-wide collaboration with Ad Council, ANA, and 4A’s.