In 2015, Madeline Stuart took the world by storm at her first-ever New York Fashion Week. As a model living with Down Syndrome, she set an example that having a disability is not a person’s defining factor.
Who is Leading the Charge?
Stuart is not the only one making inclusion a lasting trend. In the last few years, there has been an increase in the proper representation in mainstream media and marketing. One of the biggest platforms has been the fashion industry with models Lauren Wasser, Jillian Mercado, and Mama Cax. They have been featured in runway shows and store marketing campaigns in the last five years. Also, the three of them were in Cosmo’s October issue about being the new It models for fashion.
The increase of models living with disabilities being featured led brands like Tommy Hilfiger and Nike to rethink how they approach their designs. Recently, high-end designers have created more accessible apparel for those who may be living with mobility impairments. Even big-box stores like Target have launched their own brand of adaptive clothing, which includes Halloween costumes for this year.
In addition to clothing, the entertainment world has been recognizing the importance of representation to the disability community. Shows like Speechless and NCIS: New Orleans have actors who are living with a disability as the main character. Also, at the 2019 Tonys, actress Ali Stroker won Best Supporting Actress for her performance in the revival of Oklahoma. This made history as she was the first wheelchair user to win a Tony.
Why it makes a difference…
These individuals are the start of more inclusive a world with better acceptance. As the entertainment and fashion world continue looking outward to bring different communities to the table, it’s important to not view it as a box to check for marketing purposes. Even companies like Getty are realizing the gap in representation and taking action. Most recently, they teamed up with Verizon to create a more diverse library to include models who are actually living with a disability. Not just models posing for the part in a wheelchair (which happens more often than we realize).
From a marketing standpoint, everyone wants to see themselves in commercials, advertisements, and campaigns of the products they love. Having an expansive proper representation of individuals of all races, sizes, looks, and abilities does more for society than we realize. The more we offer more open-minded media with models like mentioned above, it shows that the marketing world is being socially conscious of the world around them.
What you can do…
As marketers, carrying on the theme of inclusion is easy. It just takes practice to make it a consistent thought in your work process. When pieces of content are in the early stages of creation, ask yourself: what audiences can relate to the messaging? If you feel diversity is lacking, assess where you can add in different spokespersons or imaging that includes more individuals from a variety of backgrounds. There are other ways to tweak your branding, for example, by segmenting your audiences with specific messaging, as Big Duck recommends. This is beneficial for bigger campaigns where multiple versions of assets are used. These tweaks might be small and not seem like it is creating change, but it does make a difference for consumers looking for brands they can see themselves a part of.