As a multifamily marketer, your campaigns and materials should reflect the diverse makeup of your prospective residents. While inclusive marketing can overlap diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, it focuses more on dismantling exclusion through marketing initiatives.
It’s important for multifamily teams to embrace inclusivity in this area, just as you would embrace diversity or inclusion in operations, recruitment, training and leadership. There are many factors to consider, including cultural background, ethnicity, gender identity, nationality, age, language and physical and mental ability.
According to a Deloitte Trends 2022 Global Marketing report, population growth is largely being driven by people who identify as multiracial, Hispanic and Asian, and in 2020, the number of people who identify as LGBTQ was 5.6 percent, up from 3.5 percent in 2012.
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Inclusive marketing helps your audience see themselves in your materials and messages in an authentic way, rather than just through preconceived, limiting representations. Language and imagery are a primary indicator of whether your marketing is inclusive. “Your marketing should reflect everyone within your community, and you need to know who your target audience is to make sure you’re serving everyone,” said Jessica Lee-Wen, chief marketing officer at Casoro Group, a 100 percent-minority-owned real estate investment firm.
To understand your prospective renters and build a connection with them, you should avoid gendered terms, such as “businessman” and “doorman” or specific pronouns in your materials, instead referring to races and ethnicities using the broadest possible language and being conscious of how certain groups prefer to be identified.
Language that is person-first rather than identity-first is preferred because it doesn’t define someone solely by a disability or physical or mental condition. With inclusive language, you remove the barriers than can limit who understands your message. For example, unfamiliar acronyms and jargon can leave people feeling left out if they don’t understand. Taking these nuances into account will produce more authentic marketing messages that transcend identities and social “norms.”
Demographic data is often the first consideration for marketers when it comes to visuals and messages, but relying on demographics alone can introduce exclusion. Nicole Jones, senior vice president of marketing and communications at Veris Residential, said her team goes beyond demographics and explores customers’ psychographics, or psychological attributes. “This gives us a group that’s more diverse because we’re not focused on demographic targets, which can be limiting,” said Jones.
You can’t reach all your customers through the same campaign or the same media channel. Part of being inclusive in your marketing is also diversifying your campaign on different platforms. “You might end up getting all Millennials or Gen Zers,” noted Jones.
When it comes to imagery, your website should be representative of everyone in your community and provide a positive user experience for all visitors. Marketers need to be proactive about including images and videos with people from underrepresented communities on property and corporate websites and in campaigns, and the visuals should be intentional. “One person shouldn’t represent your entire campaign,” said Jones.
Finding a balance
Website accessibility is also important when it comes to inclusive marketing practices. In keeping with ADA compliance for digital accessibility, all visitors should be able to access your website without hindrance. Potential residents with vision or other impairments should be able to consume your content and have the same user experience as everyone else.
Creating marketing campaigns around holidays that celebrate minority groups or diverse communities is a great way to incorporate diverse voices. Aside from the major holidays, develop authentic and content that will resonate with different groups.
Building a team
In addition to appealing to residents, job descriptions for the company should also feature inclusive language. “A job posting shouldn’t isolate any one group of people,” said Lee-Wen. Inclusive hiring practices being part of your company values will produce diverse teams across the company, who will bring different ideas and perspectives to discussions.
Your team should reflect a diversity of thought and ideas and form a collective inclusive mindset that aligns with your marketing initiatives. Applying this mindset when creating and planning campaigns and materials will produce more diverse thinking and help you connect with your audience.
As a company, your commitment to inclusivity in all areas should be ongoing, said Lee-Wen. “It’s not just a fly-by-night trend.” Inclusive marketing should be a clear component of your marketing goals, from brainstorming to campaigns. It should start at the firm level, with a marketing team and company culture that prioritizes inclusivity.
Do your company values and culture promote inclusive thinking? When you have a framework that prioritizes diversity, all your employees are working toward the same mission, and demonstrating these values in all areas of business, including marketing, can impact on your company’s bottom line. “If inclusion is part of your company’s DNA, it’s easier to translate that to not only your customers but also your employees,” said Jones. “You may need to regularly reevaluate your brand values to stay up to date and refreshed.”
The Deloitte report cited that 57 percent of consumers are more loyal to brands that demonstrate a commitment to addressing social inequities, in addition to marketing inclusiveness. Hiring and retention practices are a valuable way for firms to show their commitment. “Customers (get) excited about a brand that supports diversity and inclusion,” said Jones.
Ensure you’re taking the time to truly understand your audience. If not, your displays of inclusivity may come across as performative. Lee-Wen stressed the importance of continuing to learn and be part of the conversation. Regardless of your specific strategy, consistently acknowledging the nuances of your audience will help your firm highlight inclusivity through its marketing.