Recent years in marketing have seen the growth of a new advertising practice, namely inclusive marketing which targets the diverse consumer through increased representation of race, ethnicity and gender as primary social identity constructs. Inclusive marketing caters primarily to historically marginalized groups and strives within the North American socio-political and economic context marked by multiculturalism, postmillennialism and identity politics. This is particularly the case in the beauty industry which is considered a dream industry as it epitomizes the importance of appearances and aesthetics in contemporary society. Nevertheless, inclusive beauty representations are still largely under researched, especially in the context of digitalization and social media, reaching the youngest Gen Z who comprise an appealing customer base with the biggest purchasing power in history. Representations have been recognized in the media,marketing and psychology fields as crucial sites of research and knowledge about social identity construction. Therefore, this research aims to update such knowledge by investigating the nature of marginalized and dominant identity representations within digital inclusive marketing and whether and how such representations construct or subvert dominant media scripts of racial, ethnic and gender expression and consequently shape contemporary inclusive beauty brand culture. The question posed is: How are race, ethnicity and sexuo-gendered identities represented in YouTube inclusive marketing campaigns of makeup brands operating in the US market? To ground the research question, a theoretical framework including an overview of current critical theories and concepts from the fields of media, marketing, social and advertising psychology, and feminism is offered. Secondly, the study employs an intersectional lens to the data analysis to comprehensively investigate the complexities of identities featured. Thirdly, a detailed explanation of the chosen method, namely multimodal critical discourse analysis with a social semiotic approach is presented, alongside a description of the sample and data collection, operationalization and procedure. The main results indicate the presence of strategic ambiguity, illusory correlations, cultural blindness and intersectional travesty in the depictions of marginalized intersectional identities. Meanwhile, dominant identities are subjected to tokenistic inclusion. Individuality is framed as synonymous with overall beauty and strictly inherent to diverse individuals, thereby excluding dominant identities from the beauty ideal. Collectivity is represented as a limited source for confidence and acceptance and as an isolating environment through structural oppositions of “us” and “them”. Finally, deconstruction of gender roles and femininity particularly is present in few cases, however genuine subversion is lacking and instead femininity is replaced with seemingly superior masculinity. These overarching results demonstrate that even in inclusive marketing, hegemonic scripts persist in marginalized social identity representation.

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Dr. Maria Avraamidou
Media & Business
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication

Nazeli Mazlumyan. (2022, June 27). Advertising social identities: Inclusive representations of race, ethnicity and gender in marketing campaigns of makeup brands. Media & Business. Retrieved from