The Power of Inclusive Brands

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From Barbie to Dove and Dasani to Sephora, brands are constantly shifting to reflect their markets and make their customers feel seen. Emory University's Goizueta Business School Professor Omar Rodríguez-Vilá joins to discuss the power of brand inclusivity, how to serve the needs of historically underrecognized communities, and what sets inclusive brands apart. We'll also talk about integrating diversity and inclusion into marketing strategies, ensuring these efforts foster long-lasting connections rather than fleeting trends. 
Omar serves as a professor in the practice of marketing at Goizueta. He has 13 awards for teaching excellence, including six as Core Professor of the Year, and most recently, the Provost Excellence in Teaching Award. He has also shared his wealth of experience and expertise in leading media outlets, including the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and Ad Age
The Basics: What Defines an Inclusive Brand? 
Omar begins by defining inclusive brands as those intentionally attuned to the needs of historically underrecognized communities. He explains how companies should first determine the role of inclusion by assessing the diversity of their customer base and identifying any whom they are not serving well.  
He uses the story of Gillette vs. Bevel in the razor industry as a way to highlight how a singular focus on innovation—specifically, increasing the number of razor blades - led to suboptimal outcomes and the underserving of Gillette’s consumers with wavy hair. 
He also highlights best practices in building inclusive brands, using Dove and Barbie as leading examples.   
The Beauty of Inclusivity Practices 
Omar encourages companies and managers to conduct an assessment to calculate their "inclusion maturity score" and discuss what changes are needed to be more inclusive in serving diverse customer segments. He discusses BRIDGE IMAX, the industry-first framework for operationalizing inclusion and driving growth. He explains how Sephora, whose score was “off the charts”, reflects their inclusive practices across stores, products, culture, and community engagement. His findings suggest that both diversity and inclusion increase engagement, with inclusion having a significantly stronger effect. 
Understanding the Inclusion Opportunity 
Omar focuses on the importance of understanding the size of the "inclusion market" - the opportunity to serve diverse customer segments that may be underrepresented in a company's current customer base. Datasets are a critical piece of the puzzle in order to make a stronger business case for investing in inclusive practices. 
Approaching Inclusion Effectively 
The framework for success in inclusivity is seen through understanding the market. Omar suggests understanding the composition of your customer base and identifying underserved groups. This will allow the brand to serve the market by creating innovative products and services to meet these needs. Lastly, Omar encourages listeners to show up authentically in the market. 
Transformational Potential 
While embracing diversity and inclusion requires effort, the potential benefits are vast and impactful. Omar encourages brands to explore how these principles can reshape their market approach, potentially redefining their competitive position in the market. 
Omar emphasizes that embedding diversity and inclusion into your market strategy isn't just a trend—it's a transformative effort akin to adopting new technologies. Companies that integrate these principles effectively are poised to gain a competitive edge by better resonating with and serving diverse markets. 
Diversity and inclusion are not just moral imperatives but also clear business advantages. Customers view diversity as fundamental, influencing brand loyalty and differentiation in profound ways. 
For those inspired to learn more, visit Goizueta’s Business & Society Institute for additional resources and information on the intersection of business with inclusive economies, racial justice and climate. 
For more insights to equip you with the tools and perspectives to excel in your career, subscribe to the Goizueta Effect podcast. 
You can also read more about Omar Rodríguez-Vilá’s work at 
The Power of Inclusive Brands
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