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Why It Matters and Where to Start


It's difficult to understate the impact that advertising and marketing has on modern society, it doesn’t just  reflect the views and culture of our world, it shapes our culture as much as, if not more than, it mirrors it. This affords advertisers and marketers the ability to boost and enhance the inclusivity of marginalized communities in the eyes of the public. That is why showcasing diversity in your advertising becomes an important responsibility for legitimizing and publicizing the inclusion of these groups. 

But it’s not enough for marketing to simply broadcast a message of inclusion, it’s important to practice what is being preached. While “Nothing About Us Without Us” began as a political slogan used by marginalized groups to advocate that those affected by a policy should be directly involved in its development, this statement is also true in areas outside of politics. Marketers need to make room for diverse voices to be heard, both internally and in the messages they promote to the public.


Though there are nuances in crafting a truly inclusive message, there are three steps that are key to engaging marginalized communities with your brand positioning and marketing campaigns:


Audit your current organization to find actionable opportunities for change


Engage marginalized communities in an open and authentic way


Build an inclusive marketing plan designed with diversity at the forefront




Before engaging marginalized communities with your marketing campaigns, you will need to audit your current marketing practices. Take a look at your marketing and campaign materials, your brand positioning and media and marketing plans—were they designed with a multicultural audience in mind, what are they saying to those communities? Breaking up the auditing phase into three separate stages—reviewing, researching and restructuring—helps to make the process more manageable and also ensures nothing is left out.



A review of current market practices will achieve a number of goals: Firstly, your audit should help you gain a thorough understanding of the material that you currently have in the market, along with your overall brand standards. It is important that your brand standards are inclusive and acknowledge the diverse communities they serve. Secondly, you should come to understand the history of your communications and marketing with your target audiences—this will offer insight into how to best expand into new markets. And finally, review all of your current and recent campaign materials. This will help you establish goals and set inclusive standards that will power each of your brand campaigns. We recommend you review the last three years worth of campaign materials to see where the brand started and how it has evolved over time.



The restructuring stage of the auditing process revolves around actually enacting change by showing up, leveling up and leading.


To “show up” is to be seen by marginalized groups. You can start showing up by conducting your marketing in such a way that these groups see themselves represented in your brand messaging, be it via inclusive language, diverse representation, accessible communications, or any number of other pieces.


To “level up” refers to investing more resources to help elevate members of the marginalized group. Instead of investing in traditional promotions, consider engaging with initiatives that will help build up the community you’re looking to engage. Leveling up should also include identifying ways to make your brand more authentic. Look at any diversity initiatives you have underway and identify ways to make these more authentic to your brand.


To "lead" is where the hard work comes in. It’s all about setting an example through authentic initiatives and making improvements to your own brand. Ask yourself, what are some new initiatives that we can develop alongside diverse communities that will not only help us connect with our audiences, but set an example for other organizations to follow?



After reviewing your own brand strategy, taking stock of your existing collateral and recognizing any questions that you now have as a result of your audit, the next step is to conduct research that will fill in the gaps in your existing knowledge. It’s important to leverage both primary and secondary research in order to glean the most insight possible from the resources that you have available to you. Below is a brief overview of both forms, as well as examples of research methods associated with them.


Primary research is the collection of first hand (primary) data. For the purposes of your audit, this research can be collected by interviewing community leaders, conducting focus groups with marginalized community members, online surveys or speaking with employees and clients who identify as members of marginalized communities. Keep in mind the importance of fairly compensating people for both their time and emotional labour and be prepared to anticipate these costs when beginning this process. Primary research methods will be explored in greater detail in the Community Engagement phase. 


Secondary research is data that has been collected by other organizations about topics relevant to your questions. This can come in the form of published statistics, previously conducted market research or by partnering with companies that are able to both provide insight and identify possible opportunities. Working with an external organization can lead to recommendations that would otherwise be difficult to formulate internally as there are often inherent unintentional biases in solutions developed solely by an internal team.




After completing the audit of your current marketing practices you will have gained some clarity and understanding as to where your brand is positioned and where it needs to go. In the Community Engagement & Authenticity phase we begin to look towards how your organization can identify authentic opportunities to become more diverse in your marketing efforts. 



Maintaining authenticity is critical to any marketing effort. The last thing anyone wants to do is run a campaign that makes it look like their brand does not actually care about the community they are advertising to or believe in the message they are promoting. Therefore, it is important to strike the right balance between being authentic and creative in crafting your messaging.


In order to be authentic, you have to understand your brand’s motivation and needs. Only then can you identify the opportunities that are authentic to your intentions and construct a plan to execute them. Ask yourself, why is this a market I wish to focus on? If your motivation is to ensure that your marketing and sales efforts are reflecting each community’s specific identity, then you need to learn about the communities that you are targeting, understand the individuals that comprise it and messages that will resonate best with its members.


To lead, you have to learn


To learn, you have to listen




To begin engaging with your decided upon community, you must first identify and engage with community leaders that are willing to work with your brand and better equip you to interact with your target audience. The next step is to engage the targeted community as a whole and work with collaborators within the community. Finally, you’ll need to establish clear values, vision and plans for your marketing efforts that reflect the work you’re doing.



When choosing a community leader to work with, you want to ensure two things: that the leader is an appropriate representative of the target community and that you properly compensate that community leader or guarantee that there’s some benefit for them as a result of the project’s success. Having someone from your target community serve as a leader will help ensure an authentic link to the community you’re seeking to engage with and will result in a grounded and realistic approach.


As an organization, try to identify at least one person from your internal team to be the direct contact with the community leader. Make sure to choose someone who has the time and resources available to actively engage with the chosen leaders. Remember, this person is a leader in their community whose word is respected, so treat them like a new hire to your team and provide them with the resources that they need to succeed.


Interacting with the community as a whole is a critical part of authentic community engagement. You can achieve community engagement by leveraging your resources to show community support, making sincere connections with community members that are aligned with your goals and always displaying a willingness to learn and listen. Altogether this sets the tone for your brand's authenticity and the connections that you foster here will be invaluable when it comes to developing more inclusive marketing strategies.


When it comes to engaging a community at large it is imperative that you make sure that anyone you collaborate with shares a genuine desire to work with the community. Chances are there are people in organizations and businesses tied to your target community stand to gain from your efforts; whether it’s by exposure or business opportunities, so make sure that you work with your community leader to choose the right collaborators.


Once you have fully collaborated with both community leaders and the community as a whole, the final step is establishing the values, vision and plans for your marketing strategy. This is where you will set the tone for success within your campaigns. It will be easy to establish values and a vision if your brand is genuine in its efforts, which in turn will help provide authenticity to your campaign. Ask yourself, why should the community buy into my efforts? If you don’t have an obvious answer, it's time to learn more about their interests and goals for their community.




In this next section, we will show you how to gear your marketing plan towards a marginalized community and highlight some important areas to focus on while constructing it. While the process of constructing your marketing plan doesn’t change when you're marketing to a marginalized community, there are a number of subtleties in the details.




The vision of your campaign is what you will center your marketing efforts on. This vision should be challenging, inspiring and believable so that your audience—in this case, the marginalized community that you’re engaging with—can connect with it.


In terms of developing your strategic vision, here are a few tips to consider:


  • Quantify your vision with some hard numbers. How many customers do you want to reach? How much do you want your brand to be worth in five years? The more specific your goal the better. 

  • Be descriptive with your vision. What will you offer to people? Your vision needs to be easy for your stakeholders to visualize.

  • Picture what you want your stakeholders to say about your brand in five years. What have you done well? Why do people like your brand? Having answers to these questions will go a long way towards developing a vision that is specific and realistic for your brand.



Once you have established your audience, you will want to bring together some SMART goals for reaching out to your audience. Evaluate how any previous marketing efforts towards your target community have performed and look ahead to where you want to be in one years time.


A 1-Year SMART State is a type of goal that maps out where you want to be with your audience in one year’s time. Each goal should fit within all of the SMART categories—Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.



The buyer's journey is divided up into four stages: Awareness, Consideration, Decision and Retention. You’ll want to create tactics that target people in each stage of the buyer's journey with the goal of moving them along the path towards the point of purchase and retention.



Focus on identifying common challenges that your target community is facing and provide them with valuable content. Be careful to avoid disproportionately focusing on costly awareness tactics that just inform people of your presence without giving them a call to act. Make sure that you are being specific with what you’re attempting to raise awareness about and include calls to action in your messaging to encourage customers to move towards the next stage.



Now that your audience knows who you are, it’s time to start letting them know what you have to offer them. Focus on communicating the fit between your goods or services and the potential customer. Try stepping away and consider why members of a marginalized community should choose to patronize your business and what you have to offer them that is different and better than the status quo.



Ensure that your audience feels confident enough with your offer to proceed to the point of purchase. Present information about your goods or services that are easy to understand and make the customer feel comfortable. What will cause your audience to make a decision to act now and what will make them choose your brand? At the end of the day, pricing is one of the most important aspects of the decision phase, therefore, make sure that you put a lot of thought into choosing your price point.



The retention stage is often neglected in favour of sales and awareness. One of the many benefits of marketing to marginalized communities is that, once you have developed a relationship with the community, members of that community are more likely to feel loyalty toward your brand. Given all of the work that is put into engaging with a community and creating authentic marketing opportunities, it’s of little surprise that brands that successfully create authentic messaging focused on a specific community, see high amounts of brand loyalty from members within that community. Given this, retention becomes an increasingly important part of your marketing journey.


Your key messages are the messaging within your marketing that helps develop tactics for your buyer’s journey. Ideally, you want to craft messages that appeal to the audience's logic and rationality—or Head Appeal and the audience's emotions—or Heart Appeal.


Head appeal messaging should focus on speaking to the logical part of your audience’s mind. Outline the tangible benefits of your products and why your audience should choose your product or service. Examples of head appeal messages include statements like: “Our products cost 25% less than the leading competition.”


Heart appeal messaging should focus on speaking to your audience on an emotional level. This is where you build a connection between your audience and your brand that goes beyond being just another purchase on their grocery list. When it comes to marketing to marginalized communities, this is where you will outline your brand's connection to that community.


Your branding and messaging plays a big role in setting your customer’s expectations about your product or service. Your messaging—both head and heart—needs to empathize with customers. Especially when it comes to marketing to marginalized communities, showing empathy is a valid way of creating authenticity between your brand and the community. 



Tactics are the tangible actions and approaches that you take in order to reach your audience. They can range from organic social media campaigns to buying large billboards. The size of the tactic doesn’t matter, what matters is correctly determining what stage of the buyer's journey each tactic is best suited for and what messaging should accompany that tactic to move customers to the next stage of their journey.


Determining what type of tactics to use for any marketing campaign is also dependent on how well you know your audience. If the community you are trying to reach has a strong and established web presence, then try leaning into tactics like social media, video ads in streaming channels and search engine ads. If your community has a strong public presence, then consider media relations, tradeshows and public sponsorships. 


Once you have your tactics selected and planned out, you’ll want to map them out in a calendar and set your budget. Put everything into one table that outlines all your tactics and their associated expenses. Avoid stacking all of your campaigns into a single quarter and check on the progress of your plan at least quarterly. After you have put together one year’s worth of tactics, make sure to reserve a portion of your budget (10%-20%) for opportunities that come up unexpectedly throughout the year that you can invest in.







Anne Mulaire is an established, Métis-owned clothing company that has built a reputation for customized, sustainable clothing that can be worn and loved for years. Though they were already designing clothing up to size 18, they realized it wasn’t enough to truly call themselves inclusive. At the beginning of 2021, the company launched an initiative focused on extending their inclusive sizes from XS to 5X.


The launch of their Better Fit for a Better World campaign aims to challenge the fashion industry and continue the conversation about the significant lack of good-quality clothing in larger sizes—an obstacle that has remained in place for women throughout the history of fashion. 


Extensive research done by both Anne Mulaire and UpHouse highlighted the severity of the issue—only eight percent of fashion brands are size-inclusive. With so many companies neglecting this demographic, not only were there fewer options for consumers, but fewer options for plus-size women to be featured in fashion marketing and advertising. This disparity served to reinforce the lack of inclusivity within the industry. 


Through workshops, focus groups and brainstorming sessions with women affected by the lack of inclusivity in fashion, Anne Mulaire was able to create authentic and honest connections. As a result of their research and community engagement, they were able to distill the problem into a clear message: Every woman deserves to have clothing that makes them feel great and every woman deserves to see women like them in clothing that looks beautiful.   


This sincere message translated into success for the brand. The plus-size market represents nearly a third of Canadians, a demographic that has been systematically ignored by the vast majority of fashion brands.. By creating an authentic campaign focused to this audience, Anne Mulaire was able to connect with a group of women that want to purchase beautiful, sustainable fashion designed with them in mind.





We’re UpHouse. Since 2017, we have worked collaboratively with our clients to invigorate their brands, create achievable marketing plans and tell authentic stories. We are a CGLCC certified diverse supplier and that’s why we understand––and champion––the importance of supplier diversity. We work to engage the people who matter most to you. At our core, we are storytellers and we’re pretty great at what we do.


When you’re ready to take the next step and learn more about how your company can start to integrate diversity into your marketing, get in touch with us! We would love to map out our process with you and create a custom proposal that speaks to the value offered your brand.

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Alex Varricchio is the co-owner of UpHouse, an award-winning marketing firm in Canada.


With co-owner Kiirsten May, he has recently published a leadership and marketing book, The Proximity Paradox, and launched Crainstorm, a crowdsourced brainstorming web app that allows people to gather insight and ideas from marketers and other innovators.