The Importance of Inclusive Branding for Businesses

The Importance of Inclusive Branding for Businesses

Today’s consumers are no longer willing to be passive when it comes to the brands they purchase from. They want brands that care about the same things they do, and they want to feel like they matter. As such, this voice or power of the customer is having a significant impact on the marketing industry. 

A company’s brand identity and their marketing strategy can no longer simply focus on what is best for the business and how to make the most money, but instead must be consumer-focused with the intention to be more equitable, accessible, and inclusive of all customers and their varying and diverse identities and needs. 

Consumers with disabilities and limitations, in particular, are taking a stand and demanding more inclusivity and accessibility from the brands they support and engage with. In turn, disability branding and marketing is going mainstream as companies put more effort and consideration into understanding their customers and finding better ways to meet their needs. 

However, there is still a long way to go before seeing those who are differently-abled in marketing is considered the “norm.” Including people with disabilities and developing a brand identity that is more inclusive shouldn’t feel different or unique; it should simply be natural. And the only way to create a world where this feels natural is for brands to continually push for more inclusive and accessible marketing and branding.  

What is Inclusive Branding?

Inclusivity itself refers to the act of respecting and embracing the entire spectrum of human diversity. It is not only about acknowledging that other humans exist based on sex, gender identity, ethnicity, body type, physical and mental ability, race, etc. — but it is about respecting them and including them as well. 

So in regards to branding, being inclusive means developing a brand identity that centers around the respect and inclusion of all humans. It’s about recognizing your unique and diverse customer base and showing them that your brand cares about their individual needs. Inclusive branding respects diverse voices while also projecting a diverse voice itself. So don’t just “show,” but “do.” 

For a brand to fully embrace inclusivity and call itself an inclusive brand, it must walk the walk in addition to talking the talk. Your internal operations and practices must also be inclusive in addition to your external, customer-facing branding and marketing. 

How is Branding Different From Marketing?

Understanding how to create an inclusive brand identity also requires understanding the difference between branding and marketing. Developing your branding and brand identity is a part of your marketing strategy, but it is also separate from your marketing. This may seem confusing, but it’s really quite simple.

Essentially, your branding is everything that your company stands for. It’s your identity, your story, your philosophy. It’s who you are, and it dictates how you operate. In contrast, your marketing is concerned with the actions you take to promote your company or your brand. The two overlap, but they are separate things. 

For example, your marketing content can help you convey your brand message and your identity to your customers, but it is not the identity itself. Your branding is the identity of your company. To develop quality marketing content, you must first develop your identity. Without the brand identity, your marketing may seem aimless and lack a central idea or focus — which is necessary to attract your target audience.   

Why is Inclusive Branding Important?

Most consumers today admit to avoiding brands that do not share their same principles and philosophies. That said, the population of individuals specifically with disabilities is around 1.3 billion, which means they have incredible spending power and the ability to have a significant impact on a brand’s success. If brands do not seek to become more inclusive of these individuals, they will undoubtedly start to lose business and struggle to retain customers. 

However, being an inclusive brand shouldn’t just be about meeting your customers’ needs to improve retention rates and make more money; you should be more inclusive because it’s the right thing to do. Pretending that your customers aren’t made up of a wide range of humans with varying identities and abilities is unethical. 

All customers matter and all types of customers exist. You cannot control who your customer base is, nor should you. Everyone should have access to your products or services no matter who they are and what they are capable of.  

What Are the Benefits of Inclusive Branding?

There are numerous benefits to developing inclusive branding. From a business standpoint, it will help you outperform and achieve greater success, but it can also make a difference and help you build better customer relationships, which in turn helps the lives of others. 

Some of these many benefits include:

  • Expanding your reach. The more inclusive and accessible your brand is, the wider your customer base will be. 
  • Improving brand loyalty. Attracting customers is one thing; retaining them is another. By becoming a truly inclusive brand, you greatly improve customer satisfaction and relationships. 
  • Improving employee satisfaction. Inclusive brands are also more likely to have happier and more productive employees. This is because inclusive brands tend to have more ethical practices and operations, which improve company culture and the workplace environment. 
  • Boosting your reputation. Of course, the more loyal customers you have, the more customers you will continue to gain. When a customer is loyal to a brand, they will happily spread the word and leave glowing reviews that will boost said brand’s reputation. 

How Brands Can Be More Inclusive

To become a fully inclusive brand, your identity and your content must be ethical, inclusive, and accessible. Inclusive branding goes beyond aesthetics. Your branding and visual design do certainly still need to be aesthetically appealing, but your content must also be functional and accessible for you to be truly considered inclusive.

When trying to develop a brand that is more inclusive, consider these tips:

  1. Be mindful of visuals and audio. Individuals with visual disabilities are often left out when it comes to branding and marketing. Yet, these are people who still want or need your products or services. So when creating your branding and your content, consider elements that are both visual and audio based. For example, if you talk about your brand identity and philosophies on your website, use visual text as well as a video or audio for those who are hearing impaired. 
  2. Don’t forget about traditional marketing materials. Physical branding and marketing content is still really important, especially if you want to be more inclusive and accessible. Just because we are living in a digital age does not mean we can forget about those individuals who have a harder time accessing digital content. Business cards, for example, are still a great way for you to put your brand out there for people who have limitations. Physical content and materials are often much easier for people with disabilities to understand and access. 
  3. Be mindful of your wording and language. When developing your brand identity, be cautious of the words and language you use. You might have the best intentions, but your message might not come across if your language is not inclusive. For instance, people with disabilities often prefer “differently-abled” versus “disabled” as it shows that you acknowledge that they are still just as capable as anyone else, but they simply have a different way of doing or accessing things. 
  4. Make sure your website is just as functional as it is visually appealing. Branding and marketing content today is so heavily focused on visual design that usability and functionality often get sidelined. While it is true that consumers are more willing to forgive functional flaws if the content is aesthetically pleasing, this line of thinking completely dismisses those customers who have disabilities. So when developing your website, make sure your design has elements and systems that make it usable and accessible for all consumers. 

Final Thoughts

To sum up, your brand strategy must consider inclusivity from every angle for you to be considered a genuinely inclusive brand. Think about all of your customers and the many ways they can and should be able to access your brand and your content. Adopting language and visual content that is more inclusive is a start, but your company must be inclusive and accessible in all practices, functions, and operations if you want to be a truly authentic and inclusive brand.