The Topline

In today’s world, inclusivity is a marketer’s superpower.

Because of our roles in shaping brands, marketers have an opportunity — and a responsibility — to promote inclusivity at scale. But what does inclusivity really mean? Among the tectonic cultural shifts we’re seeing today, racial and gender equity have been at the forefront. Age and ability are two additional dimensions worth noting and addressing, among others.

Take these three statistics, for instance:

–       Baby Boomers hold more than half of all wealth, yet are often ignored by marketers who target younger generations.

–       2.2 billion consumers around the world are blind or partially sighted, yet most marketing campaigns are dependent on the sense of sight.

–       Introverts account for over 25% of the population, yet many marketing strategies don’t account for these personality differences.

Ignoring these groups and other various not-so-obvious segments would seem to be a clear detriment to a brand, yet it’s often the case. Marketers have an opportunity to combat that trend and drive greater inclusivity, for the benefit of their businesses and those consumers they would better serve.

To be clear, promoting inclusivity requires more than just a well-intentioned marketing campaign. It requires meaningful action. Marketers have the resources and networks, and we understand how to actually shape beliefs and thinking.

By innovating with all dimensions of inclusion in mind, we can provide equal opportunities for all to benefit in our increasingly digital world.

The Essential Truth

Inclusion has to start from within. As marketers, it’s our job to constantly reimagine and reinvent, and we’ll be better off doing that with truly diverse teams – across all dimensions of diversity.

Today, we’re facing a significant generational shift. There are now four generations under one proverbial roof: Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z. These groups are not only in different life stages, they also have different priorities, product preferences, needs, and values.

You may have seen me write about how ensuring marketers have the opportunity to constantly learn and advance their expertise is the key to being ready for — and relevant in — the future. What will set your brand apart is your team’s ability to do this by creatively leveraging technologies, innovating thoughtfully, and driving meaningful consumer engagement for your company. 

But knowledge itself is not enough. (Yes, I too am surprised to find myself writing these words!) Life experience is also critical — where you’re from, your race or gender, your abilities, your aptitude, age, or something else. While you can respect and appreciate these things in others, you can never truly step into their shoes or know all that they do. That’s why bringing diverse perspectives to the table is so essential to producing well-rounded marketing efforts.

Inclusion is about more than ensuring our CEOs have good sound bites in interviews and good proof points to mention in annual reports.

Done right, inclusion helps you get the viewpoints you need to thrive as a team and a company, with the ability to deliver innovative solutions to market. 


The Tidbit

One way to promote inclusivity at scale is by bringing products to market that enable accessibility in new and meaningful ways.

As marketers, we represent our company’s values to the outside world. We can help identify real human needs, ensure that the products we bring to market are inherently accessible, and drive going to market in an inclusive way.

This philosophy has direct real-world applications. When I was growing up in India, my grandmother lived with us, and she was blind. Attempting to do daily chores and navigating simple tasks were very tedious for her and made a distinct impression on me.

That personal experience gave me purpose and drove me to fight for inclusivity in my work. At Mastercard, that led us to explore how blind people use their cards. How do they know which card is which? How do they know the front of the card from the back of the card? How do they know where the chip is to insert into the slot of the point of sale terminal?

These questions — rooted in empathizing with real people and their real problems — enabled us to create Touch Card, designed with unique notches to help blind and partially sighted people differentiate credit cards, debit cards, and prepaid cards. It also was the driving force behind our “Spotlight” advertisement, which was designed and narrated such that the partially sighted could also enjoy the experience.

This accessible innovation helps real people in the real world and brings us one step closer to closing the disability divide.

My Take

This approach is more than theoretical — and it goes far beyond one product. Here are some examples of how our team at Mastercard has helped those in need while simultaneously demonstrating profits to the C-Suite and Board.

●      Touch Card helps blind and partially sighted people have confidence they are using the right method of payment, helping close the disability divide.

●      True Name enables transgender and non-binary people to put their chosen name on their card, helping them avoid harassment and anxiety.

●      Safe Waze 2 Shop used real-time payment data to let consumers know when grocery stores were crowded or empty during the COVID-19 pandemic, enabling shoppers to get what they need at lower risk.

●      Roadside Market helps local farmers get access to digital payments and new customers, while avoiding getting further squeezed by middlemen.

While these initiatives are specific to Mastercard and our company priorities and philosophy, any company can create similar programs.

Long Story Short

Inclusive marketing is not performative. It looks across experiences, ages, abilities, races, and genders to understand needs and address them. It’s profoundly meaningful in people’s daily lives, and if executed correctly, will be good for your business.

By empathizing with people and recognizing the everyday challenges they face, marketers can bring purpose to scale and build a more inclusive and accessible world. And they can do so via direct action, not just words.

If marketers work inclusively — building teams that reflect the diverse world around us and doggedly pursuing an understanding of consumers’ needs across all dimensions — profits will follow. 

Doing the right thing can be good for all parties involved.