5 Brands That Got Inclusive Marketing Right in 2020

This is a guest blog post from Tasha Reasor, VP of Demand Generation & Customer Marketing at Iterable – a Movable Ink Exchange Partner.

These days, we live in a world of nearly infinite supply: Markets are flooded with businesses and brands offering the same solutions, services or products. How are marketers supposed to stand out in a sea of similarities? 

By listening to consumers, of course! And 71% of consumers are saying that they prefer to buy from companies that embrace their values. If you think that’s a big number, embrace another; 85% of Millennials stress the importance of value alignment. And they exercise that conviction.

Marketers who want to appeal to today’s consumers, and stand out, need to master the foundation of mission-driven marketing: Inclusivity. 

How can you make your marketing more inclusive? Read my list of five brands that got inclusive marketing right in 2020 (and why they made the list)!

And if you’re a visual learner, you can watch my overview of inclusive marketing, which I shared at the (Re)Think conference by Movable Ink.

1. ThirdLove Shows that Love Is Love

Consumers have evolved from wanting to be sold an unrealistic dream and, instead, they want to see themselves in the brands they support—from models to marketing. Just take a look at ThirdLove. The intimate apparel brand has built a robust following with its body-positive, inclusive “To Each, Her Own” messaging to women of all ages, ethnicities, shapes and sizes. 

But the brand doesn’t stop there! Its marketing campaigns during COVID-19 were just as inclusive and evocative as their pre-pandemic advertising. Take, for example, this evocative “Love is Love” commercial during Pride Month 2020. Multicultural, multi-lingual, emotionally empowering and artfully done.

Considering that 70% of Millennials are more likely to choose one brand over another if that brand demonstrates inclusion and diversity in its promotions and offers, it’s no surprise that ThirdLove’s “Love Is Love” is on my short-list of 2020’s best inclusive marketing campaigns.

2. Rare Beauty Is Makeup With a Mission

A beauty brand with a mission, Rare Beauty is dedicated to producing products that make people feel amazing in their own skin. Launched this year, the brand’s makeup line features 48 shades of foundation and a swath of products that cater to a wide range of skin tones. But the difference between Rare Beauty and other inclusive makeup brands is the brand’s focus on mental health and promoting a healthy body image (in addition to having accessible palettes). 

This was the intention of the brand’s founder and CEO, Selena Gomez, who has had a very public struggle with lupus, anxiety and depression. Selena’s personal struggle inspired the launch of the Rare Impact Fund, with a “goal of raising $100M over the next ten years to help give people access to mental health services.”

Rare Beauty’s #WeAreRare campaign spotlights inclusivity and authenticity.

Strength and community are strong components of Rare Beauty’s brand narrative; when social distancing norms meant that a traditional makeup photo shoot for her company launch was impossible, the brand made a virtue of it by asking a diverse range of models to send selfies showing off the brand’s makeup with no lighting, professional help or Photoshop in its #WeAreRare campaign.

From marketing to mission, Rare Beauty’s commitment to inclusivity resonates with a deeply personal company message: self-acceptance.

3. Rothy’s Crowdsources COVID-19 Relief Efforts

Rothy’s, the direct-to-consumer shoe brand known for its stylish, comfortable flats made from recycled bottles of plastic, is doing inclusivity right. Not only does Rothy’s offer an eco-friendly brand promise and a wide variety of colors and patterns (up to 400), but the brand is also  powered by an effective consumer engagement strategy.

How effective, you may ask?

As the name of one of its Facebook groups, “Rothy’s Addicts”, suggests, they have built a cult-like following; especially amongst women. Rothy’s densest markets are where women commute in close proximity, and there’s even a rumored “head nod” that fans do when they spot a fellow Rothy’s wearer. Pretty cool, huh?

The power of community is a central component of Rothy’s value proposition, and also a key indicator of a mission-driven and inclusive brand. Their new volunteer ambassador program, “The Collective” creates groups of passionate, empowered, influential women willing to spread the word about the brand. 

This year, its community approach showed critical during COVID-19, when Rothy’s crowdsourced ideas from their social networks on how they could repurpose their manufacturing operations to support healthcare workers. They also leveraged their platforms to share opportunities for consumers to get involved and support organizations providing COVID-19 relief.

Look no further than Rothy’s Sustainability section of their website to see how they have committed and contributed to COVID-19 relief efforts.

Rothy’s emphasis on community engagement had built an inclusive brand, founded on a sustainable product. And what’s more? They’re partnering to magnify their impact (no surprise that ThirdLove is also involved)!

4. Peloton’s Incline to Inclusivity

Peloton, the fitness technology company, has for a long time focused on the expected: exercise. They also came under fire during the holidays in 2019, when they released a controversial ad that was deemed outdated and sexist. So what does an “expected” and “incendiary” fitness company have to do with my list? Read on.

The Incredible thing about inclusivity is forgiveness. Brands that make mistakes can learn from them. So when Peloton launched a new campaign featuring real riders for the first time, instead of actors, we celebrated.

Peloton's new ad campaign features real members for the first time.
Peloton’s new ad series featured a school teacher, an NFL agent, a military veteran, a baker, a public defender, a grandpa and a nurse. Inclusive steps in the right direction and away from “model marketing.”

But Peleton’s ride for inclusivity didn’t stop there. They recently partnered with Beyoncé, a long time icon of diverse and inclusive communities. As part of the collaboration, Beyoncé and Peloton will deliver a series of themed workout experiences commemorating Homecoming season, a tradition at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and build relationships with schools for internship and undergraduate career opportunities.

The lesson here? In the pursuit of inclusivity, diversify your circle of influence. Sure, you don’t have to partner with Beyoncé to be inclusive, but you can form meaningful and authentic collaborations with those who have already established trust in the community.

5. Calm Keeps Us Cool and Collected

Peloton, the fitness technology company, has for a long time focused on the expected: exercise. They also came under fire during the holidays in 2019, when they released a controversial ad that was deemed outdated and sexist. So what does an “expected” and “incendiary” fitness company have to do with my list? Read on.

While perhaps best known for their star-studded sleep stories (“Dream With Me”, featuring Harry Styles certainly comes to mind), Calm’s brilliant ad placement this year, front and center of CNN’s U.S. presidential election coverage, is what really puts them on the “Top 5” list.

Calm’s advertising was a brilliant, tongue-and-cheek way to recognize the stress of the U.S. presidential election, which reminded people to “take a deep breath, and tune into themselves” while the vote counts continued. 

From COVID-19 social distancing restrictions to political divisions, now is an apt time for Americans to encounter Calm’s resources. In early October, the American Psychological Association reported that 68% of U.S. adults said the 2020 presidential election was a significant source of stress in their life, up from 52% who said the same prior to the 2016 presidential election.

Calm’s marketing has always been strategic and insightful; they actively leverage celebrity spokespeople and social media to reduce the stigmas associated with mental health. But their political ad placement was a major inclusive milestone in normalizing these very real struggles with stress and stability, and I applaud them for keeping us calm in the most tense of moments.

How to Get Inclusive Marketing Right

When you work in marketing, you might think it’s your job to answer a core question: “How do you get your message to resonate with everyone?” But that’s a trick question. You can’t!

However, what’s completely within your power is making sure your marketing is built for everyone. 

From presidential politics to the body politic, inclusive campaigns have been integral to upholding equality and representation. And with a year as disruptive as 2020 has been, it’s the brands that have gotten diverse and inclusive marketing right that skyrocket to the top of my list.