Inclusive Design is Not a Passing Trend: A Call-to-Arms for Brands

By Tinuiti Team

By Tinuitans Rosie Buchanan and Scott Forman in collaboration with Tinuiti Creative Services


Inclusive design is not a passing trend.

Customers want to align themselves with brands that take an authentic approach to values that reflect their own.

In our recent Holiday Shopping Trends Report, nearly 40% of respondents ages 18 to 23 said their spending will reflect their support for racial equality.

This isn’t a storm to weather or a fad that will fade after the election.

As companies, creatives, designers, and advertisers, we have the responsibility to provide experiences that accurately represent the diverse audience our content serves. 

The brands that get it right will be rewarded with loyal customers and will set themselves up for success. One study showed that brands with higher “diversity scores” showed an 83% higher consumer preference.

THIS is why company executives should care.

Let’s delve into how we can make a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive world together for the long term.

Strive to Show Authenticity in Advertising

“Diversity in advertising comes down to one word: authenticity. A true brand that celebrates diversity looks a lot deeper than surface level and isn’t seasonal with their approach.”

Donovan Mansinon-Salazar, Senior Graphic Designer at Tinuiti

Customers want to support brands that accurately portray the world around them. If efforts to include diversity within your advertising are not authentic, your customers will see right through it.

When you establish yourself as an authentic brand, you will be rewarded with loyal customers, and that’s good for business. Understand that the world we live in is diverse, and honor that within your advertising.

This campaign for River Island is a great example of authenticity in design. The representation in this campaign is clear and effective. The clothes are advertised, yes, but by people that we don’t often see gracing the covers of magazines or plastered on billboards.

The same can be seen at Girlfriend Collective.

In an industry plagued by ideas of the “perfect body,” Girlfriend Collective takes a brand stance by featuring women of all shapes, sizes, and colors. This representation can be seen site-wide informing customers that their ads and branding are not a one-off event.

“Everybody should feel beautiful and see themselves represented.”

Savannah Wisham, Senior Creative Manager at Tinuiti



Start Inside and Build an Inclusive Team

“We need to not only look at the diversity in the final advertisement but also who gets a say in how it’s built.”

Francis Bonilla, Senior Manager, Creative Services at Tinuiti

Diversity in marketing comes more naturally when you have a diverse team.

Challenge the norms, and build diversity into your group from the bottom up; include and amplify the voices of individuals of all ages, ethnicities, backgrounds, gender expressions, and abilities on your team.

Having a diverse workforce can give you a unique edge when aiming to break into new opportunities. When you’re brainstorming content and gathering ideas, having diversity within will invite different perspectives and illuminate biases that you alone may not see.

Be Prepared to Follow Through With Bold Claims

“To convince me, the diversity of a company’s team needs to be deeply rooted and organic, not full of diverse-hires or diverse-consultants who speak for an entire community. It doesn’t work like that. Mindful consumers can see through it and seek true authenticity.”

Donovan Mansinon-Salazar, Senior Graphic Designer at Tinuiti

Consumers are only getting smarter about their buying practices. When considering whether to purchase from a brand or not, customers are now looking past price and quality.

They want the leaders and representatives of the brand to align with their core values as well. With renewed energy behind conversations around race, inequality, diversity, and inclusion, consumers are turning to the lineup of corporate executives to see if a brand has made strides to reflect their customer base. A stark lack of diversity in the higher-ups of a company can be a deal-breaker for consumers.

It is, however, important to note that authenticity is key. When making strides toward inclusivity, keep in mind that representation doesn’t happen overnight. If you see a problem,  make clear and actionable goals to increase the diversity of design and executive teams, and be willing to admit that lack of diversity.

One company that has baked this authenticity into their mission is Changing the Face of Beauty. This non-profit takes aim at the beauty industry to diversify its talent pool, specifically in regard to individuals with disabilities.

Show Your Claims in Action

“I wouldn’t necessarily buy from a company solely based on a statement of support, but I probably won’t from the companies who do not.”

Francis Bonilla, Senior Manager, Creative Services at Tinuiti

Think about companies that have, in recent months, decided to release a statement of support for the Black community. What did that statement contain? If it simply mentioned “standing with the Black community during these troubling times” chances are high that no one took that statement seriously. Where is the action? How will that company be standing with the Black community? How will they be supporting and uplifting? Will they put their money where their mouth is?

If you’ll be issuing a statement, put meaningful action behind it.

These are the questions consumers are asking, and make no mistake, they are asking. Therein lies the balance to strike. If you’ll be issuing a statement, put meaningful action behind it. Give consumers something tangible. And do it all year long. This is the part where authenticity comes back into play. Featuring and uplifting underrepresented communities isn’t an event; the Black community isn’t Black History Month, the queer community isn’t Pride Month, Native Americans aren’t Native American Heritage Month. To be truly authentic to your customer base, show them that you aren’t reacting to a movement but instead, you are the movement.

Again, Girlfriend Collective takes a stance here and features the actions they took to contribute to the Black Lives Matter movement. Importantly, they also give their customers the option to take similar action and contribute to the conversation by offering new actions to take.

Don’t Try to Make Decisions in a Void

“If intentions, transparency, and evidence show through the advertisement and the actions of a company, then here’s my wallet”

Francis Bonilla, Senior Manager, Creative Services at Tinuiti

You and your team are not going to know everything, you will make mistakes.

You are not going to be able to touch on every perspective but by questioning what may be missing or who may be missing from your team and ads, you’ll be able to examine your own biases and work toward a more inclusive brand voice.

Authenticity is key, and representing the diverse audiences that your advertising serves will bring the right kind of recognition to your brand.

Most importantly, if you’re unsure about what message you’re sending, ask. Someone is bound to know more than you, and it could mean the difference between a misguided or a meaningful message of inclusion.


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