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3 keys to creating more inclusive marketing

Mar 17, 2021 / Marketing & Sales

Banks and credit unions are taking a more vocal and transparent stance about improving their diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts. Following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, many financial services organizations spoke out—some for the first time—about their commitment to driving positive change in their communities.

Not only is this good for society, it’s also good for business. Just under half of Generation Z and 44 percent of millennials are minorities, according to reports from the Brookings Institution and the Pew Research Center. This emerging population is looking for a financial institution to which they feel a connection and one that can properly serve them.

As organizations work on developing a more diverse, equitable and inclusive employee base and culture, they also have the opportunity to ensure their brands are seen as welcoming for all customers, including people from marginalized or underrepresented groups. Truly inclusive marketing means more than picking the right stock photo for an ad – it requires an integrated process, proper resources and business integration to succeed.


To create authentic, inclusive marketing campaigns, leaders must apply a strong DEI lens throughout the development process. From the creative brief to concept reviews to final edits and approvals, inclusivity must remain top of mind. Yes, imagery is important, but language, tone and context are even more critical.

Maintaining an inclusive mindset throughout the process will help the campaign resonate and avoid stereotyping that might alienate the very groups you’re trying to welcome into your organization as customers.

For example, Starbucks faced a backlash in 2015 after it announced their “Race Together” initiative, an effort to spark a national dialogue about race. The company encouraged its baristas to write “Race Together” on cups and engage in race-related conversations as people waited for their coffee. While well-intentioned, the campaign wasn’t properly vetted or executed, resulting in a firestorm of negative comments on social media—2.5 billion impressions in less than two days, according to Fast Company.


Having a diverse marketing team is valuable in creating more inclusive marketing. If diversity gaps exist on your team, consider training, partnering with an agency and leveraging employee resource groups to help bridge those gaps.

Sources for training are increasing as the demand to improve skills in this area builds. Look for credible sources, like the American Marketing Association (AMA), to help serve as a guide. Jessica Delgado recently led an AMA training titled, “The DEI Imperative: Fundamentals for Marketers.” Top takeaways included awareness of key acronyms and terms, understanding how to examine market-ready work with an eye toward DEI, and goal-setting to connect marketing and DEI strategies.

If you choose to engage with an agency, take the time to understand its process. How does it ensure inclusivity in its work? Are you confident this process will deliver the right outcomes? Having credentials as a multicultural agency will not guarantee success.

You may also want to consider tapping your internal employee resource groups or employee networks. These groups can help you better understand the needs of specific audiences and can serve as focus groups to provide feedback on campaign strategies and messaging. The fact that they know your brand personally can also help provide a check on authenticity and values.

Business integration

Integration and alignment between marketing, product and sales are another critical component of authenticity. Does the product or service you’re promoting resonate with your target market and address unique needs within the market?

When people respond to your message, is your sales team prepared to further the conversation appropriately? Do the team’s members understand the prospects’ needs and motivations? Do they reflect the diversity of the market they’re trying to serve? These are all important considerations to work through to get the best results in the end.

Another element of business integration is highlighting your organization’s efforts to support diversity, equity and inclusion in the communities you serve. Don’t assume your customers know the good work you’re doing in this area. Tell them.

Bank of America features its DEI efforts on its website, and has received a lot of positive coverage  for its $1 billion pledge to assist economic and racial inequality intensified by the pandemic. Make it part of your strategic communication goals to share this type of information externally as part of your marketing efforts.

While the headlines will change over time, it’s important to keep a consistent focus on diversity, equity and inclusion to drive positive, lasting change. Know the diverse needs of the markets you serve and address those needs in real, authentic ways.

Holly Hughes is chief marketing officer at BAI.