Black Lives Matter, LGBTQI+ and gender-diversity are at the forefront of this discussion.

More and more brands are starting to put equity and diversity at the top of their agenda and there is a greater focus on creating a customer experience that is inclusive for all. But to actually deliver an inclusive customer experience, the focus has to lie on assuring every asset and content type against an inclusive set of rules. Given today’s proliferation of channels and the increasing sophistication of dynamic, personalised experiences, this puts a significant burden on brands and marketing teams when applied at scale.

However, the commercial benefits for brands doing this well are clear. Investing in inclusive content promotes an inherent sense of trust among suppliers, partners, employees and customers. In fact, 70% of customers prefer to buy from brands that are inclusive. In short, inclusion inspires growth.

“We found that highly relevant ads go beyond winking and recognising diversity and inclusion. These ads enhance brand perception, increase brand effectiveness, and significantly lift purchase intent and loyalty.” 

Carlos Santiago

Co-founder of the Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing  

What exactly is inclusive content?

Before delving into how brands can rise to this challenge, let’s understand exactly what inclusion means when applied to content and the customer experience. At Wunderman Thompson, we think about four foundational principles: accessibility, equal representation, inclusive language, and non-stereotypical portrayal. Let’s take a looker closer at each of these.

  • Accessibility. Taking care of the essentials such as legibility of text, contrast and spacing; ensuring content is accessible to all, including those with visual impairments.
  • Equal Representation. Content that features and therefore caters for people of all age, ethnicity, disability, gender and orientation.
  • Inclusive language. Simplicity of copy, absence of restrictive or sensitive languages and an absence of stereotypes and bias in copy.
  • Non-stereotypical portrayal. Ensuring the absence of any kind of stereotype or bias in imagery, voice and other portrayals.

When applying these principles at scale, brands need to consider content across all channels - web, apps, social, display, ecommerce, in store, outdoor media, internal communications, and the list goes on - and all markets and geographies to support the global footprint of the business.

The inclusivity maturity curve

The inclusivity maturity curve

As brands move up the maturity curve when it comes to providing an inclusive experience, they gain competitive advantage. Organisations that are inclusive are 1.7 times more likely to be innovative.

Most brands and businesses today have a good understanding of their responsibility when it comes to accessibility compliance across their owned digital experiences. Regulations such as WCAG compliance and section 508 in the US have promoted a well-designed and accessible web experience and penalised organisations that are non-compliant.

However, when we apply the maturity curve to representation, non-stereotypical portrayals and inclusive language, the picture is not so clear. It is not solved quite so easily with a list of checks and balances, it requires a non-biased approach that should lie within a company’s DNA. In other words, how an organisation operates and succeeds in inclusivity within the workplace, process and practices will have a direct impact on its success when it comes to designing and delivering inclusive content and experiences. We can already see leaders emerging in this space such as Unilever, Microsoft, Apple.

How can brands aspiring to deliver inclusive experiences get there?

Almost every CEO these days will ensure that their organisation has a well thought through D&I vision and strategy. In other words, most organisations can talk the talk when it comes to inclusion. But translating that into action is a harder call. In other words, how do they also walk the walk?

As with embedding any strategy, it’s important to clearly articulate the vision and goals and to understand what success will look like and how that will be measured through a clear set of KPIs.

But when it comes to assuring hundreds of thousands of assets and content types to ensure that every customer experience is accessible to and representative of a broad spectrum, manual processes and ways of working just aren’t enough.

AI to the rescue

Today, man and machine go hand in hand. To quality assure content at volume and at scale with tight delivery deadlines, plugging in the right technology is critical. Artificial Intelligence is transforming the content supply chain that fuels dynamic, personalised experiences.

Our proprietary tool, WPP Open Brand Guardian, is an example. It is an AI driven platform that gives marketing, creative and production teams total content quality assurance at scale. It plugs into your existing production process and provides valuable insights in minutes, ensuring complete peace of mind when it comes to access and representation for every single customer, while enabling the speedy delivery of personalised, multi-channel experiences.

More and more brands are turning to machine learning and AI to deliver on an equitable vision. Our Building Better Experiences survey tells us that where 46% of IT and marketing decision-makers are using AI to help with accessibility assurance now, 70% expect to in future. The application for representation is still less mature but is sure to become one of the key tasks for AI in the creative production process.

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