Inclusive marketing : A study of Swedish female consumers’ perceptions of inclusive advertisements in the fashion industry

University essay from Umeå universitet/Företagsekonomi

Abstract: In the last decades we have seen an increase of inclusive marketing, partly because of an increase of consumer awareness and expectations. But it can be hard to succeed with inclusive marketing, and previous research shows that many companies have been accused of CSR- washing, forced diversity, etc. Femvertising in particular has received a lot of criticism of being staged and insincere. Therefore, there is a need for brands to know what consumers expect from them regarding inclusive marketing. The purpose of this study was to capture Swedish female consumers’ perceptions on inclusive marketing, as well as their attitudes towards inclusive adverts. As most previous research has focused on gender stereotypes, there was a need for investigations of more topics within inclusive marketing. Also, Swedish consumers’ opinions of inclusive marketing lack research.  A qualitative method was used to gain a deeper understanding of the participants’ perceptions. Through semi-structured interviews, the participants got to express their opinions of inclusive marketing overall, and then react to two different inclusive adverts. The adverts were chosen based on the theoretical framework.  The results show that inclusive marketing is important for Swedish female consumers, and that they experience that it is getting more common. According to the consumers, advertising should reflect the people in the real world, so everyone feels included. It should include people of different origins, gender, sexuality, age, etc. To tackle stereotypes could be to show people in settings where they are not traditionally connected to, or in other ways try to break the norms that society has created. The respondents in this study highly valued femvertising, in contrast to what some other scholars have found.  Inclusive marketing has a positive effect on Swedish female consumers’ attitudes towards the brand. However, the message that is promoted should fit with the content of the advert and with the brand, and it should also be consistent with the brand’s other communications. The use of a diverse group in advertising should feel natural because that will make it more authentic. Brands should not have to justify their use of models “outside the norms”. However, the study also shows that some consumers think that the use of inclusive marketing is always appropriate.  Lastly, the inclusivity in the adverts did not have a specific effect on the consumers’ purchase behavior. But, if a brand is not inclusive at all, it will affect both the consumers’ brand attitudes negatively, as well as their purchase behavior. The most important finding in this study is that it is important for brands to be inclusive in their marketing, however the inclusion should feel natural, and people’s differences should be normalized. Then companies reduce the risk of being accused of staged diversity or CSR-washing. 

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