top marketers exclusive​ feature

Sonia Thompson on Creating Inclusive Marketing Strategies

Explore inclusive marketing with expert Sonia Thompson. Discover practical insights on embracing diversity, storytelling, and learning from mistakes.

As a school stand for making marketing more inclusive, impactful and accessible. When looking for experts who champion oursam values, Sonia Thompson stands out in this space.

I have been fangirling around her newsletter and podcast for a while, so getting a chance to sit down and chat to her was an honour – and yes, I did fangirl a bit too.

In this exclusive chat as one of the featured top marketers from our 2024 list, we talk about the heart of inclusive marketing, the power of stories and much more.

Celebrating Your Uniqueness

Her two-decade career is rich and varied. She started in corporate roles and now leads as CEO of Thompson Media Group. Her journey shows the impact of embracing one’s unique path.

Sonia’s personal life deeply influences her professional approach.

She explains, “I am someone with a lot of differences… These aren’t part of the mainstream.”

She’s a black woman, on a gluten-free diet, and left-handed. Experiences like living in Argentina, getting married there, and raising a bilingual child have given her a distinct perspective. These aspects of her life often go unnoticed in mainstream society.

Her story is more than personal experiences. It’s what propels her work. Sonia says, “I experience every day as a consumer what it’s like to have these differences.”

This empathy is central to her inclusive marketing approach.

It’s about more than recognising diversity. It’s about truly understanding and encouraging others to do the same. In fact, she is passionate about strategies that recognise and celebrate our differences.

“Unfortunately, many brands don’t serve those outside the mainstream well,” Sonia shares. Her personal experiences fuel her professional drive.

Our paths shape our perspectives and can be our greatest assets. Sonia’s story inspires us to embrace our uniqueness in our professional lives.

“Every day, as a consumer with differences, I see how brands often miss the mark. This fuels my commitment to inclusive marketing.”

sonia thompson

The Heart of Inclusive Marketing

Inclusive marketing transcends mere strategy. It’s about embedding diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging into a brand’s core values.

Sonia underscores this, “Values aren’t just words on a website; they should guide every aspect of a brand.” This philosophy lays the groundwork for genuine marketing.

Choosing specific identities to serve is key.

Inclusive marketing isn’t about reaching everyone. It’s about making intentional choices. Even more so, brands should aim to truly resonate with their selected audience. Sonia shares, “Inclusive marketing means making deliberate choices about whom you support.”

Sonia’s podcast interactions, particularly with neurodivergent communities, really shone a light on this.

These discussions broadened her perspective. She discovered there is no ‘normal’. Every individual’s story merits recognition in marketing efforts. Sonia reflects, “Every day, as a consumer with differences, I see how brands often miss the mark. This fuels my commitment to inclusive marketing.”

A notable example Sonia cites is Unilever’s simple yet impactful strategic shift.

They removed ‘normal’ from beauty and personal care product descriptions. It shows the power of language. In other words, demonstrates how language shapes consumer experiences.

“The more brands start to serve people from these communities, they will recognise just how loyal they are – what brand doesn’t want loyal customers?”

sonia thompson

Stories and Curiosity as Drivers of Inclusive Marketing

Storytelling and curiosity are at the heart of inclusive marketing. They are tools that foster understanding and empathy. Sonia believes deeply in their power.

“Stories help us connect and empathise,” she says. “Curiosity leads us to explore diverse perspectives.”

Sonia’s approach to storytelling is about more than sharing experiences.

It’s about creating a narrative that includes everyone. “In my work, I strive to tell stories that celebrate all differences,” she explains. “This approach breaks down barriers and builds understanding.”

Curiosity, for Sonia, is about actively seeking to understand others.

It’s not passive interest. It’s an active engagement with different viewpoints. This mindset is essential for inclusive marketing. It drives the desire to learn about and cater to diverse needs and experiences.

“It’s not about being perfect; it’s about caring and belonging.”

sonia thompson

Embracing Mistakes as Stepping Stones

In the journey of inclusive marketing, mistakes are not just inevitable, they are valuable. Sonia Thompson speaks candidly about this.

“Mistakes are part of the learning process,” she states. “In marketing, imperfection can be more valuable than perfection, as it humanises and connects with consumers.”

It’s not about avoiding errors, but learning from them.

Sonia’s approach is practical and reassuring. “Give yourself permission to make mistakes,” she advises. Building relationships is key to this approach.

It creates a space where mistakes are seen as opportunities. “Focus on building those relationships,” Sonia urges. This builds trust and understanding with your audience. It turns mistakes into stepping stones towards better marketing.

Sonia also stresses the importance of feedback. This approach ensures that brands don’t repeat the same mistakes. It shows a commitment to continuous learning and improvement.

“Inclusive marketing is not just a strategy. It’s a commitment to making every individual feel seen, heard, and valued. It’s about creating a world where everyone belongs.”

sonia thompson

Practical Steps Towards Inclusive Marketing

Embarking on the path of inclusive marketing can seem daunting.

Yet, Sonia Thompson offers clear, actionable advice. “Start with your values,” she suggests. Integrating diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging into your core values is crucial. It ensures these principles are at the heart of all your actions.

The next step is intentional audience selection. “Choose specific identities you want to serve,” Sonia advises. This doesn’t mean excluding others.

On the contrary, it’s about focusing on more meaningful and resonant marketing strategies by starting small.

Sonia explains, “It’s about ensuring those selected feel they truly belong with your brand.” From a strategic point, you can build loyalty by acknowledging and serving underrepresented communities through inclusive marketing and customer experience.

Above all, Sonia stresses the importance of starting small and being aspirational. For smaller brands, it’s about taking manageable steps towards inclusivity.

“Choose, then expand your reach as you grow,” she says. This approach allows brands to evolve their inclusivity in a sustainable way.

Practical auditing of current practices is also essential. Sonia recommends, “Review what you’re doing and identify areas for improvement.” This helps brands understand where they currently stand and what steps they need to take next.

Let’s remember that every step towards understanding and valuing diversity is a step towards a more connected and empathetic world.

In Sonia’s words, “Inclusive marketing is not just a strategy. It’s a commitment to making every individual feel seen, heard, and valued. It’s about creating a world where everyone belongs.”

To connect with Sonia, reach out on LinkedIn or check out her podcast below.

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