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From tokenism to true inclusion: The evolving role of brands in society

Nicole Beremovica Research Analyst in Research, Insight and Consulting 29/09/2023

Brands have an important role to play in facilitating a shift in cultural norms to embrace all identities – they are able to create a space for dialogue where all identities feel welcome, accepted, and represented.

Gen Z is leading the charge in reorienting expectations for brands to go beyond a corporate DEI strategy, calling for authenticity and real commitment that comes from action. Brands need to start thinking about how they will contribute to the systematic change in society towards a truly diverse, equitable, and inclusive future.

As a society, we need to move away from the tokenization of diversity and start including people who not only represent what we might classify as diverse but also those who live at the intersection of diversity and embrace their social norms.

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Through ethnographic and community-based participatory research and strategy, we can uncover how brands can acknowledge and celebrate the nuances of intersectional identities. Are we designing for women of color who are also from a low socio-economic background? Are we supporting queer immigrants? Are we creating a safe and empowering space for single mothers who have disabilities? Are you considering your customers with mental health issues?

When we develop our goals with this lens of inclusivity, they become mailable and sustainable. Bringing in the complexity of the lives of customers will enable a wider audience to relate and identify with your product.

Research that focuses on inclusivity can illuminate new pathways for new, inclusive perspectives that can drive product development in a way that makes everyone feel invited to be part of the brand.

Recently, I saw an Instagram ad for hands-free sneakers. It seemed excellent for me – an able-bodied young woman who is always in a rush or going through airport security. But how excellent is this product for people with certain physical disabilities or chronic pains? How amazing is it for a pregnant person or a parent carrying a baby in their hands? This was a great example of designing for one extreme that is beneficial for a much wider audience.

While this is an example of a consumer product, this approach can be applied across an organization, from employee experience to supply chain, from brand strategy to product development.

Dive into our latest report, a compelling exploration of 5,000 voices from six nations, unraveling the true narrative of diversity and inclusion. Download now to uncover key challenges, behaviors, and advances on the road to global inclusivity.

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