You’re a conscious entrepreneur. You want to make the world a better place with the work you’re doing:
That’s wonderful! And it can be overwhelming to know where to begin. That’s why at Crafted Communications we practice mindful marketing. We believe that today, some of the most problematic marketing messages and strategies have risen out of mindlessness – simply following algorithms, or doing what’s always been done, or speaking from a privileged perspective without listening to different human experiences.
But when we are mindful about our marketing, we stop and think about the words we’re using. We think about the real live people we’re speaking to and how they feel interacting with our brand.
We want to help our customers practice mindful marketing, so that they can use their platforms and influence to care for their audiences well and represent the diversity of human experiences.
Marketing has often been used in service of problematic, even dangerous stories throughout history. It’s been the problem, but we also believe it’s powerful enough to be the solution (when a diverse group of mindful marketers take charge of the stories that are being told).
Read on to see how you can build an inclusive mindset into your marketing practices.
Much like other histories we’re finally reckoning with, marketing has had a sordid past of crossing many ethical lines – into grey areas, and overt racism.
The truth is that since the rise of advertising and marketing a few hundred years ago, many companies have used words to serve one very specific agenda – their bottom line (without any thought for the well-being of society). That’s left us with a problematic history in marketing. We don’t have to look far to see examples of:
Whether they were hiding knives in their words or blatantly brandishing their weapons, marketing has been used in service of a misogynistic, racist, and patriarchal agenda. (Hint: this agenda does not take into consideration diversity and nuance within the human experience, nor does it create space to expand our understandings of it).
Can it be done?
We believe so. It’s why we dedicate our work to the mission of spreading integrity, compassion and empathy on marketing channels. We feel a responsibility to do this in fact, because when the average person is seeing between 4 and 10 thousand marketing messages a day, we really want to make sure those stories are contributing to helpful stories for humans and the planet, and not the destructive ones that create isolation, division and shame.
Selling your life’s work and telling good stories do not have to be either/or choices. They can co-exist.
And marketing also has its redeeming qualities. In fact, marketing has also been used in service of positive social change in many ways:
And sometimes, we see everyday people speaking out against toxic marketing strategies, and demanding change.
As marketers, we believe it’s our responsibility to make content consciously, and to help others do the same.
While many of us were trained that “good marketing” is about having seven different tools to collect analytics, using the right hashtags and spending money with Google, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn … we see it a little differently.
Before we plan strategies based on whatever Google determines are the best practices, we need to take a few steps back and look at the foundation we’re marketing from. We’re going to be talking a lot more about this in the coming weeks, but today, one of the things we want to focus on is how to bring a more inclusive mindset to your marketing content so that you can welcome people to your brand in a more meaningful way.
When we look back on those historical examples of advertising – that were at best manipulative and at worst hate-speech – we want everyone to remember the importance of the words they choose.
In the words of Dumbledore:
Words are, in my not so humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic, capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it.
Have you heard of the curse of knowledge?
Here’s the plain and simple truth – entrepreneurs are too close to their businesses.
We’ve seen too much.
We know too much.
We’ve birthed this thing from an idea to a vision to a living organism. (Sister.is has literally written a book and designed a whole course around this.)
So when we’re ready to take our businesses from a living organism to a thriving ecosystem of growth and abundance, we have a hard time knowing how to see beyond our magnifying glasses (you know the one – it keeps you chained to every little problem that hits your email inbox, gets you overthinking a social media post and confusing people when you try to explain what you do).
But as marketers, we have a social responsibility to understand a diversity of human experiences so we can create a welcoming platform to those who want to be a part of it.
We get this question a lot. How can I be inclusive while still speaking to a relevant target audience?
The first thing we like to remind our clients is that the two things are not mutually exclusive. You don’t have to pick one over the other, because it’s not an either-or situation.
It’s about forming an inclusive target audience. And here’s how:
Draw your lines around psychographic information first, and then attribute demographic information to see if there are any patterns that you can learn from.
I know this probably goes against everything you’ve learned about marketing. But we believe that a demographics-first approach to marketing is a dangerous breeding ground for lazy marketing tactics, thoughtless word choice, perpetuating stereotypes, ignoring people who are in the margins and ultimately disconnection with your clients.
We still believe that when it comes to marketing: “if you try to speak to everyone, you won’t connect to anyone.”
By this we mean, having a thriving business isn’t about trying to make everyone like you. When you sell tea, it isn’t about trying to convert coffee-lovers. It’s about knowing:
So yes, we still think it’s really important to define your target audience, recognize their similarities and differences, and what draws them to your business.
In the past, marketing has left it at this.
But – every business today has an opportunity to be part of creating a new kind of standard for the business community to raise itself to:
Inclusivity, which is felt through a sense of welcoming, empathy, understanding and compassion for all.
And the funny thing about learning how to make your marketing more inclusive INEVITABLY helps you become more aware of the gaps, inequalities and privilege in our society.
There are always algorithms. Marketing platforms are not a place designed to make you the most informed, unbiased, ethical person in the world – they’re run by algorithms (not humans) that are designed to serve up what you want based on demographic assumptions and tracking your patterns of behaviour online.
There’s a lot of conversation emerging around the inequality in data. We loved a recent conversation about the gender inequality in data between Erica Chidi and co-authors of Data Feminism, Catherine D’Ignazio (an assistant professor of urban science and planning at MIT) and Lauren F. Klein (an associate professor of English and quantitative theory and methods at Emory University).
As we’ve been learning and doing the work ourselves, we’ve been compiling a list of thoughts, rules and ideas that we want to share with you, so we can make a louder noise in our efforts to demand change across marketing platforms.
We can’t hide our heads in the sand of algorithms and blame it on them – we must hold ourselves to higher standards of practice in creating marketing content.
This is not an exhaustive list and we commit ourselves to evolving this list regularly as we continue to educate ourselves and learn from others’ experiences. Also note, that in this list we’ve focused on the ways you can be more inclusive in your writing and use of words.
Education is an important part of this journey as well. Please consider looking into the following online courses to learn how you can be more inclusive, respectful and mindful in your marketing efforts.
Being inclusive does not mean compromising the specificity of your marketing – it means making it accessible to anyone who could benefit from your work. When you avoid jargon, are intentional about the way you’re representing your audience and practice empathy with an avid willingness to learn (and perhaps realize you were wrong) you can begin marketing with a more inclusive mindset.