In recent years many companies have made strides in increasing social inclusion in marketing. While these efforts are appreciated it begs the question: how is social inclusion defined when practicing inclusive marketing? Social inclusion has various definitions each an iteration of words such as improved opportunity and acceptance.
In the 2018 article “Subjective Social Inclusion: A Conceptual Critique for Socially Inclusive Marketing” authors Licsandru and Chi Cui chronicled what the full extent of social inclusion entails. The article focuses on the example of ethnic marketing which can be split into two categories: mono and multi-ethnic. Mono-ethnic marketing communication utilizes “cultural representations from one ethnic background to reach a narrowly defined ethnic audience.” In contrast, multi-ethnic marketing communication represents multiple ethnic backgrounds to reach an ethnically diverse target audience. The present lack of social inclusion within ethnic marketing demonstrates its importance as an increasingly relevant subject considering “the ethnic minority population are projected to be the numerical majority by 2044.” This estimate indicates that companies and organizations will very soon need to gain a better understanding of how to properly market to a more diverse audience.
To effectively market to multi-ethnic consumers, companies must first recognize the meaning of social inclusion. Licsandru and Chi Cui evaluated and expanded on extant literature concerning perspectives of inclusion on mental health, disability, sociology, poverty, feminism, and education. These areas of analysis aided in developing an all-encompassing definition of subjective social inclusion(SSI). The authors define SSI as an “individual’s feelings of belongingness to a host society in which he/she feels accepted, empowered, respected and fully recognized as an equal member.” The definition was developed through extensive research on the terms above and evolved from understanding the definitions of the following words:
Empowerment – increasing personal and interpersonal power that allows people to take action to improve their life situations
Social Acceptance- other people signal that they wish to include you in their groups and relationships
Equality– concerning fairness, justice, balance, and sameness being equal before the law and having equal opportunities to having equal social relationships with a non-vulnerable individual
Respect– something to which we should presume every human being has a claim, namely in full recognition as a person with the same basic moral worth as any other
The understanding of these individual words coupled together in relation to SSI helps craft the newly developed definition. Now that the meaning of SSI is clear, there is a more accurate picture of how social inclusion should be marketed. There is no denying that a semblance of inclusivity has been integrated into marketing in recent years however, it appears in a fairly broad context. In terms of ethnic marketing, broad inclusion disregards variety. The danger of mono-ethnic marketing communication is that it often mistakes stereotyping for inclusion. While any presence of attempted inclusion is valued, the intention of such is counterproductive. Being inclusive of only one ethnic background leads others to feel misrepresented within their community. Social exclusion has a multitude of negative effects on an individual’s behaviors. The desire to withdraw from the cause of social exclusion is just one example of its effect. Therefore, companies that exclude individuals can lose their association almost entirely. The exclusion of individuals in target markets can affect their “self-perception, self-esteem and social status.” The lack of portrayal results in a loss of buying power from those individuals. Not only does this exclusion negatively impact those left out but it can depict companies and their represented target market as “prejudicial and non-inclusionary.” This calls for an overhaul of mono-ethnic marketing in favor of utilizing the benefits of multi-ethnic marketing.
While SSI may not be a core value in the practice of marketing for companies at present, in the coming years its importance will become increasingly significant. By employing subjective social inclusion in marketing, companies can expand their consumer base. When consumers feel represented in marketing efforts their loyalty to the brand increases. Beyond being what’s right, the inclusion of multi-ethnic consumers in marketing will be necessary due to the projection of the ethnic minority consumer base becoming the majority by 2044. Inclusion is a subjective word but understanding its meaning completely will allow companies to acknowledge where their efforts of inclusion are lacking and how to adjust to incorporate this newfound definition.
Kaitlyn Schissler is a senior at UNCW majoring in Communication Studies with a concentration in IMC and is working toward her business minor. She hopes to utilize her knowledge of IMC to guide clientele into furthering their reach beyond what is expected by focusing on inclusivity within branding.
Licsandru, T. C., & Cui, C. C. (2018). Subjective social inclusion: A conceptual critique for
socially inclusive marketing. Journal of Business Research, 82, 330–339. doi: