August 10, 2021

Inclusive Marketing: 7 Considerations for Reaching Underrepresented Audiences

Photo of five hands with different skin tones

Every brand likely has an underrepresented audience – a demographic subgroup that is significantly impacted by a condition but is bundled into the general population without consideration of their unique motivators, barriers, or media consumption. Are you reaching yours?

As marketers, our work focuses on leveraging data and technology to craft more personalized experiences for patients, caregivers, and healthcare professionals, but understanding the nuances of their experiences (which can differ greatly based on body type, generation, culture, race, gender identity, visual acuity, physical ability, intellectual ability, hearing loss, geography, economic status, language, or many, many other factors) is required to truly elevate that personalization.

Consumers are flocking to brands that mirror real-world demographics, and marketers who continue to exclude and stereotype are doing so at their own risk. Recent research proves this out:

  • 65% rated diversity in advertisements as important, and 38% of consumers are more likely to trust brands whose advertising is more diverse.
  • 30% of LGBTQ+, African American, and Millennial consumers said that diversity has a major impact on their likelihood to purchase from a brand.
  • Of the 75 million Millennials in America (ages 25-40), 43% identify as nonwhite; 20% identify as LGBTQ+
  • Only 10% of people with disabilities have access to the assistive products and services they need.

A note on language: “Diversity” and “inclusivity” are often used interchangeably, but inclusivity sets a higher bar – connoting not just the presence of difference, but the fact that difference is sought out and valued.

We all want to see ourselves and our world accurately reflected in our marketing experience. To deliver on this need and create content that really does speak to underrepresented audiences authentically and effectively, we must think inclusively at every level of the work, from data, to insights, to content, to campaigns. For instance:

  • Offering trans, nonbinary, and other gender identification options for indications traditionally considered “women’s health”
  • Addressing how different skin tones can present skin conditions differently or how skin tone affects accuracy of devices like pulse oximeters
  • Assessing access to specialists in rural regions when considering doctor-locator tools and telehealth options
  • Ensuring that websites are ADA compliant and can be accessed properly by people with disabilities.

Here are seven areas of exploration to begin to improve the inclusivity of your brand. (This is a high-level summary – but we’ve identified 20 key factors that can help determine overall inclusivity. Contact your Intouch team for an inclusivity assessment to help your brand!)

  1. Understand your demographics. Level-set on your disease indication and its affected populations. This might include patient and HCP demographics, behaviors, opinions, and cultural moments.
  2. Leverage search-engine data. SEO research can help you identify key trends for target audiences, determine what content is available for traditionally underrepresented communities, improve the cultural specificity of your language, and measure strategic placement of content additions.
  3. Assess your data collection. Shift the process to be more inclusive internally, and to make the language used to collect that data more inclusive externally – on everything from registration forms to polls and quizzes, to other interactive elements and tools.
  4. Review your imagery. Determine who is being presented, and who is missing – everywhere from website, to banners, to social media, to sales aids. Are your images and videos authentic, showing real patients that your drug treats? Does your indication present differently in different populations, and, if so, are those represented? Is alternative text present for the visually impaired, and does it reflect inclusive language?
  5. Break down language. Assess your content (forms, support programs, tools, campaigns, social media, and more) to determine the tone, the authenticity, and the implied audience. Update it to reflect your patients, and the wider world, more inclusively.
  6. Survey your channels. Where are your patients, caregivers, and HCPs being engaged? Consider whether your media mix is representative of your affected populations. Recommend changes to target more appropriately and specifically: to meet our audiences where they are.
  7. Collaborate with your compliance team. Bring in your medical, leadership, and regulatory experts to encourage collaboration and a cohesive team effort. Make sure to include discussion about AI and other advanced technologies.

For more on this, read our recent articles on this topic, “What Every Healthcare Marketer Needs to Know About Inclusive Marketing,” “Digital Accessibility in Pharma,” and “Reaching LGBTQ+ Audiences With an Inclusivity Assessment.”

At heart, inclusive marketing is really just what we should all already know: customer-centered experiences drive business impact by meeting audiences where they are. It’s time to understand our customers better.

Author information:

Portrait of Amy Toft, Group UX Director
Portrait of Matthew Griffith group director, content strategy