New book tackles how to build an inclusive marketing strategy


It takes more than casting models of various races, gender expressions, and body sizes to produce inclusive campaigns.

Brand marketing that has the power to shape society for the better requires a genuine commitment to understanding culture.

That’s according to a new book, Cultural Intelligence for Marketers: Building an Inclusive Marketing Strategy (Kogan Page), due to be published 26 March, 2024), and in which Dr. Anastasia Kārkliņa Gabriel provides a vital new framework for understanding how to leverage the power of culture in marketing.

Cultural Intelligence and inclusive marketing

A cultural theorist, strategist, and a longtime social activist, Dr. Gabriel makes clear that even marketing a product as straightforward as mayonnaise taps into representations of everyday social life that are shaped by underlying cultural ideologies—the unwritten rules that guide how we depict who we are, how we live, whom we love, and what we value.

In today’s world, she observes, marketing is a form of mass media, much like pop culture or entertainment, and as such, it is immensely influential in shaping our perceptions, beliefs, and societal norms.

“From this vantage point,” Dr. Gabriel said, “every marketing strategy, every campaign, and every creative ad is an opportunity to make a meaningful impact, not only on the business but on society at large.”

Going beyond the ability to simply navigate cross-cultural differences, Dr. Gabriel defines cultural intelligence as an ongoing practice of analysing movements, trends, and social forces, evaluating their cultural significance and commercial implications to achieve strategic outcomes that both drive business forward and transform culture for the better.

It provides the foundation for cultural fluency, the brand’s capacity to engage in culture with resonance, integrity, and measurable impact, which marks the difference between brands that simply exist within a culture and those that become an integral, valued part of the cultural conversation—and thrive.

After laying the groundwork for redefining brand success, Cultural Intelligence for Marketers moves on to taking action.

By deepening their awareness of representation, power dynamics, and historical inequities, marketers will come to proactively identify bias, work to counter assumptions and harmful dominant narratives, decipher cultural nuances, and drive innovative solutions to the status quo in every branding message.

To guide the way, Dr. Gabriel offers a comprehensive culture-strategy-innovation model with four foundational pillars—the 4Cs:

  • Culture. How is the brand engaging with and leveraging relevant cultural movements, moments, and trends?
  • Communication. How inclusive and sensitive is the brand in transmitting brand messaging to its target audiences?
  • Critical consciousness. How does the marketing strategy integrate and implement the principles of equity and inclusivity?
  • Community. How does the brand contribute to the cultural communities and audiences it targets?          

As Dr. Gabriel stresses, these questions revolve around the core issue for marketers: How can we learn to view culture more critically and act on this cultural knowledge?

Her book is devoted to empowering marketers to find answers for their own brand and business.

Along with research nuggets and analytical tools, every chapter features insights and perspectives from Dr. Gabriel’s one-on-one interviews with current and former marketing leaders at renowned firms, including Mindshare, Dentsu, Edelman, and Saatchi & Saatchi, as well as case studies from Microsoft, Pinterest, Nike, Billie, REI, and other brands that are pursuing inclusive marketing strategies.

“Inclusivity, cultural representation, and social responsibility are the future of marketing strategy,” Gabriel said.

“Marketers can either embrace these things and step into this future now or scramble around when it arrives. The choice is ours.”