Yesterday, on Dr. Seuss's birthday, Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced it would cease publication and licensing of six books in its catalog. In a statement, the brand noted that it made the decision last year after a review of its catalog with experts and felt that "these books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong."
This announcement adds to the list of brands that have been making changes to their offerings of late, in the name of being more inclusive. Last week, Hasbro announced a rebrand of its classic brand Mr. Potato Head, to just Potato Head, a nod to gender equality and a reframing of the "traditional" family.
And last year, Quaker announced it would rename its Aunt Jemima brand, because of its ugly origin story rooted in racism. Mars also decided to change the name of its Uncle Ben's brand and imagery.
All these changes underscore the reality that inclusive marketing is the future of marketing. Smart brands are making updates to the way they show up, in an effort to embrace the future rather than fight it.
Here are two lessons you should take from Dr. Seuss Enterprises' approach to its recent changes, in your quest to build a more inclusive brand.
1. Incorporate inclusion as part of your values.
In its statement, the brand noted key criteria that influenced its decision to pull the books:
Dr. Seuss Enterprises celebrates reading and also our mission of supporting all children and families with messages of hope, inspiration, inclusion, and friendship.
Inclusion is a part of its core values. And when evaluating the content of the books, it was able to lean into that value as a means to evaluate whether the content measured up to its own standards.
Of course, values can change and evolve over time. They do for people, and they can for brands.
If it isn't there already, consider adding diversity, inclusion, and or belonging to your brand values in some way. It will give it sufficient prominence to its importance throughout your organization. As a result, it will signal that inclusive is "how we do things," rather than a tag-on, project, or initiative that seems more like a one-off or afterthought in your marketing efforts.
2. Conduct an audit of your customer experience.
I like to call this an inclusion audit. Over time, many brands develop a pretty significant body of work in terms of products, campaigns, content, and other touchpoints of how consumers engage with them.
Over time as both society and your brand evolves, you may have products, imagery, copy, or other elements that may not be in keeping with your values or way of doing things today.
In its statement, Dr. Seuss Enterprises noted that it was "committed to action." Thus, its values aren't just lip service, but rather something that it wants to live every day.
You can do the same. A smart way to do that is by pulling back the curtain and taking a good look at everything you offer along your customer journey, and evaluate whether or not it makes the customers you want to serve, particularly your diverse and niche consumers, feel like they belong.
If something no longer works, you can retire it or update it. And if you're not sure how to do this objectively, bring on an outside resource to help you. Make it a best practice to establish regular intervals to review the inputs to your customer experience to make sure it hits the mark from an inclusivity standpoint.