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So you’ve heard me say several times that inclusive marketing is the future of marketing. That, eventually, we’re gonna get to a place where we don’t even have to refer to inclusive marketing as inclusive marketing because it’s just marketing.

It’s just the way we operate. It’s just the way we show up, the way we do business. Well, I have to tell you, and I’m excited to share that that is already the case with some brands. More and more as I talk to chief marketing officers, CMOs, and business leaders about how they are incorporating inclusive marketing.

I am always just so overjoyed whenever I talk to a business leader who shares what, we don’t even really think of it that way. Our marketing is just inclusive by default. That’s just the way we do things.

So I’m excited to share a very recent conversation I had with the chief marketing officer of the Zumba brand, she shared with me how Zumba thinks about inclusive marketing, the way they’re incorporating within their brands and everything that they do, and how it’s enabled them to reach consumers all over the world. So after this short break, you will hear that conversation.

Sonia: Hey, Carolina. Thank you so much for joining me today. How are you?

Carolina: I am good, Sonia. Thank you for having me here today. I’m excited to chat with you.

Sonia: Totally my pleasure. Now, it’s been a long time since I’ve been to a Zumba class, but as I was prepping for this, I was like, I need to get back to it. It was it was amazing. I have always loved Zumba. It’s always been a lot of fun.

Carolina: When did you go?

Sonia: It’s been at least 10 years.

Carolina: Oh my god. So you needed to reconnect and remind yourself how much fun it is. It is.

Sonia: Yes. So definitely need to do that. So, alright. Well, I know who you are. That’s why we’re starting to talk about Zumba. But for the people who don’t know who you are just yet, tell the people who you are and what you do.

Carolina: So I am Carolina. I am the CMO of Zumba Fitness. Been with the company for longer than I can remember, over 10 years now. Quite crazy. Quite an adventure. So I’ve seen it all, you know, with, with the company and with the brand. Before that, I was in a very different industry. I worked in fashion.

In at Levi’s. I lived in Europe for many, many years prior moving to, to the US. But I am originally from Brazil. I’m a little Latina girl and, married with 2 kids, 2 lovely kids. And, yeah, soccer fan. What else is there to know about me? Love to travel. Every opportunity I have, I could pack in my suitcase and go somewhere. I’ll take advantage of that. So kinda in my DNA.

Sonia: Very cool. Very cool. Well, I am familiar with, a neighbor of yours in Brazil, Argentina. That’s where my husband’s from. So I lived there for a couple of years, and I visited Brazil. So definitely had a great time, whenever I was there. Definitely need to go back.

Carolina: Yeah. There’s there’s a very good healthy rivalry, you know, Brazil and Argentina with soccer. But the reality is that, you know, we really really love each other.

Sonia: So Absolutely. Absolutely. Alright. So I have lots of questions for you because Zumba is such a global brand. And before we dive in too much further into that, I’m curious, what does inclusive marketing mean to you?

Carolina: I think it’s it’s quite interesting that we still have to refer to inclusive marketing and not just marketing. Right? It seems it just seems to me that if you’re doing a good job as a marketer, as a brand expert, you’re spending a lot of time with your consumers, and you’re really understanding who they are, you know, at the core.

What what do they want? What do how do they talk, how do they wanna be talked to, and you’re incorporating that in your communication, in your imagery, But more importantly, because I think that’s the mistake that I’m seeing a lot these days is you incorporate it into the product and in the experience. It’s almost like marketing is or should be the easy part, but are you delivering, the experience because consumers can see through that stuff today?

Sonia: Yeah. Yeah.

Carolina: So I think for me, it’s almost like, well, it’s marketing that needs to derive from a product that is very well understood, adopted, and utilized by its audience.

Sonia: Yeah. I totally agree. I am looking forward to the day when we don’t actually have to label that inclusive marketing. It’ll just be folded into how people operate, and it’ll be a competency that exists across the board among marketers. Now I saw that Zumba like, you all say that you got every you to have classes for everybody and everybody. And from your perspective, I just love that. And then I was curious if this was really a reflection of your values and about how inclusion is sort of baked into who you are at the core.

Carolina: Absolutely. But I almost wish I could take credit for that. They tell you that it’s the branding and the marketing that is behind all of this that made it happen. But, the reality of Zumba, it’s almost happened the other way around.

So if you look at Zumba, we are primarily a membership business. A lot of people don’t know this about us. Right? They think we’re the class, but the Zumba company well, a lot of people don’t know Zumba is a brand, but, the Zumba corporate and the Zumba company, the way, you know, we make money is through the training of our instructors, the training and the licensing of our instructors around the world.

Now what’s important to know is that those instructors, come from all walks of life. So you have people, you know, taking their certification for a variety of reasons. You have people that do this as a full-time job because they need the income.

You have people who do this to stay in shape. You have people who are a side gig.

So as you can imagine, that brings in a blend of a very diverse community of of instructors where you have lawyers, teachers, firefighters, you know, hairdressers, chefs, all kinds of of primarily women, we are obviously a heavy female, program, taking these trainings together. And they bring in their students who very often are from the same universe. So when they start teaching, their class very often looks like them.

But as time goes by, that class starts to blend in with other classes, other instructors, other Zumba events, and you end up with this, you know, melting pot of Right of people coming together in that class. And I think that what we did, what we were good at Zumba, is that a few years into the program, going into those classes and being like, but we don’t look like that. Our videos don’t look like that. Our tone of voice doesn’t sound like that, and we adjust it.

Sonia: Okay. Cool.

Carolina: But it was a reflection of what was happened naturally with the product that led us to say, hey. We have to be more intentional here in showing the world how awesome this actually is. Right

Sonia: Yeah. I love that because it means that you’re very consumer-led and consumer-driven. And I think brands overall, we should all be this way in terms of taking the time to evaluate who our consumers are, what is different about them, what is similar about them, and just what we’re noticing and then just serving the needs of who they are and incorporating that into the way we show up our marketing and throughout all the marketing mix, including those experiences in the product as you mentioned earlier.

So I see that you all are in more than 180 countries, 185 countries, I think it is, around the world. 15,000,000 people. And I’m wondering, because you said it kinda started from a broad diversity of the instructor and they brought in more people who were like them and it, sort of, branched out from there.

How do you be inclusive when you have such a broad diversity of people? Because I think sometimes people, marketers, are a little nervous about inclusion because it feels like, how can I possibly include all these people even though that’s not necessarily what we’re always asking them to do? But with such a breadth and depth of the people that you’re reaching, how are you able to make it so that everyone feels like they belong with you?

Carolina: I think what, this is a really, really good question, and it’s a hard one because we stumble upon sometimes these conversations of by doing this, are we going to alienate this person or drive away that person? And it’s a healthy thing to always have as a filter. Right?

You wanna you wanna make sure that you’re keeping a pulse. But the way I tend to approach it or we’ve approached it a lot in the past is what is common to the people in this room?

What do they all share? So they look different, they sound different, they speak different languages, they want different things. What are the 2 things that they want when they come to Zumba classes? And number 1, the one thing that was very common to our audience is that they wanted a safe space to work out, and that’s from the very beginning.

Think about my industry, right? Like fitness, it’s one of the most exclusive, how do you say, you know, intimidating industries to be in. It’s that promise of, you wanna look that perfect?

You wanna, you gotta suffer, you gotta so they were all running away a little bit from that message and finding a place where they were rewarded for just showing up and trying and moving because, to a lot of people, that’s a huge win in fitness. We forget this, but from couch to class, we say that all the time. That’s our mission. We wanna get people to move because it’s it’s one of the, you know, biggest diseases our world has today.

People are not moving enough. Then the second thing that you do once you identify what’s in common to all of them is that you amplify to the external world that, hey, it doesn’t matter who you are, you will find the safe space here to start and continue and have a great time in your fitness journey.

But to us, it was almost the other way around. What do they have in because, at the end of the day, there are certain human You know, traits and needs that we all have in common? And for women, it was this, can I start here without being judged, fully accepted, and can this be my happy hour? Because I don’t have, no matter, again, no matter if you’re the lawyer or if you’re, you know, the teacher, you don’t have a lot of time.

You have your kids, you have your husband, so give me my happy hour, make them my exercise, and make it safe for me. And that’s kind of what the formula has been, and that’s the formula, like, if you go into our social, if you go into our websites, if you see our millions of videos on YouTube, you will see that reflected at a prominent level.

Sonia: Yeah. So you mentioned earlier that, you know, oh, you hate the fact that we have to even call it inclusive marketing. I’m wondering how you have been able to infuse this inclusive mindset on your team so it’s just naturally the way you operate versus having to think about, oh, let’s target this particular community and that particular community, to make sure that they feel like they belong.

Carolina: I didn’t have to educate myself, and I think that’s a big thing because I experienced it myself. I was born in Brazil, where the marketing looked, and every person I admired and looked up to until I was 11, looked like me.

You know, the the brown hair, brown eyes, you know, more in a lighter skin, middle class Brazilian. It was everywhere. I never felt that I didn’t see myself, and then my parents decided that they were gonna shift me halfway across the world, and I landed in Brussels, Belgium, where at the time just so we’re talking now 20, 25 years ago, everybody is blonde with blue eyes, very very light skinned. I don’t speak the language, I don’t speak French at the time. I land in a school where I’m fundamentally culturally different than all the kids there, not in a better or just different.

And I quickly realized for the first time in my life, at an age that I could fit. What do I have to change about myself to fit here? How am I going to because I don’t dress like them, I don’t look like them, I don’t talk like them, I don’t The good thing about kids is that we’re so resilient, and we’re so but it but it’s something that stood with me.

And then with age, I started thinking about back home, how the African Brazilians never saw themselves in everything that I used to see myself. And so it became at a very early age for me something very personal. And I carried that at Levi’s too, where, you know, there was a lot of these conversations happening.

And Levi’s, at these conversations happening, and Levi’s at the time that I was there was a lot gender-related, you know, we were the men’s, 501 was the men’s brand, how do you transition to women? And then coming into Zumba, it was like, it was almost the first time I was seeing a product where the product was in the right place.

So it was almost like telling the team, a team that I was already quite receptive to, to and excited about showing these things, you know, being like, we don’t have to fabricate it. We don’t have to, like I’ve done in my past life. No. No. It’s here, guys. We just have to show. Convincing management sometimes is more difficult than convincing the team.

Right? Because the team, they buy it, they buy into the passion, they buy into the vision, and you have that passion if you’ve lived through it. Management will want to hold you accountable and rightfully so for the numbers. So that’s when the conversation comes in on, you know, yes, we have to be our brand, but we have to make sure we are not letting anybody behind because we don’t want it ultimately to hurt the business.

Sonia: Absolutely.

Carolina: The conversation today is if you don’t do that, you will hurt the business.

Sonia: For sure. For sure. Now, I love that you brought up your own lived experience because I think that whenever you have that, it makes you think like, you have kind of a baked and inclusive mindset. After all, you know what it feels like whenever you don’t belong.

Have you ever had to work with a team where people on the team didn’t have that lived experience, and so they didn’t necessarily know what that felt like to educate them on this is what we wanna make sure we don’t do to the people that we’re serving? Because I think that exists a lot in the marketing industry.

Carolina: You’re absolutely right. And you know where I see this a lot still, not necessarily in teams, because I find that the team, they’re a product of the company culture. And if you have the right company culture, they’re there. I’m not saying that I’m sure other colleagues face that challenge with their teams. That’s not my case. But I’ve had that challenge with agencies.

When you reach out to an agency to work on your brand, and the first thing that they wanna do is that they wanna change your brand because they’re like, oh, but that’s not gonna be very aspirational.

That’s not gonna be cool enough. Or the amount of times I’ve heard, this isn’t gonna be cool enough. You know? And I’m like, well, but this is ultimately who we are. And there’s this is how I can guarantee you 80% of the female population is.

So like, why, why aren’t we going there? Oh, but that’s not so had a lot more of that resistance actually when working with external agencies to the point of turning briefs down and terminating, because it was just like, you don’t if you’re not going to embrace my brand, my product as it is, then we’re not right for each other. But you will think that agencies will be ahead of the game, right, on these things.

Sonia: Yeah. It would be great if they were. And some agencies are, and they bring clients along. But in a lot of instances, the client, of course, needs to bring their agency along. So but if the client isn’t equipped, it’s kind of like in a lot of instances, it’s not gonna be happening. Right? So How do you make sure that your agency partners or any call like, collaborators that you’re working with share those values, and get on board with what it is that you’re trying to accomplish from an inclusion standpoint?

Carolina: So one of the obvious is I look at their work. Right? What they have done with other brands, how they’ve partnered, how they bring their essence to life, and that’s always a good indicator, but it shouldn’t be all. One of my favorite exercises is to take them to a Zumba class. I make them all go to Zumba classes. Right?

And then I wanna hear them talk about it, and I wanna see what resonates. What are the sound bites that are coming out from what they’re describing? And to me, that’s when I get a really good pulse on they got it. When they’re talking to me about I had an agency that told me, she was like, I had this lady next to me, and, right next to her, there was, her her her son’s kindergarten teacher, but she was the CMO from Burger King, so they were in the same class next. I’m like, she got it.

She got it that in that place, doesn’t matter. They’re all the same and sharing that moment together versus telling me, they were wearing this. We should change the color of the like, those are, that’s the surface. It’s the agencies that have to connect at a deeper level that that will get it.

Sonia: Yeah. No. No. I love that, and I love that, it’s kind of forcing them to experience the brand the way that the people that you’re serving experience it because that experience is priceless, right, in terms of understanding and getting it and what it is that you’re trying to communicate. So much of your brand is dependent upon your instructors who you all are training and part of the membership. And there’s I forgot. How many instructors do you have worldwide? Have you trained?

Carolina: Don’t disclose that.

Sonia: Okay. No. No. That’s the problem. But it’s a lot. Right? It’s a lot. It’s a lot. Right? So how do you ensure that those instructors are living your values whenever they’re in front of the people because they’re like your front lines?

Carolina: So we have, in the 160 countries that we are allowed to train, we have what we call our Zumba education specialist. So these are the people that, you know, go out into those markets to hold the training. Now they are the most diverse group you will probably see. They again, are a direct reflection of the brand.

And when they hold those sessions, not only is this diversity spoken about in the actual training, but it’s also brought into the product and how the product is delivered.

So I am lucky that I work with a product that leads to that conversation naturally because we’re going to be talking about music. And by music, we’re going to be talking about rhythms. Rhythms are from different places and different countries and cultures.

One of the things that people love the most about Zumba classes is that it’s a place where they come to discover that music.

So you will talk about salsa, you will talk about hip hop, you will talk about EDM, you will talk about everything. And that kind of already leads itself to that community inclusiveness conversation that, then naturally happens.

But I think more than that, it’s also before every training, they start with a 1-hour Zumba class. That’s what they do for 1 hour, and it’s like an amazing class because these people who train them are amazing instructors.

And at the end of that class, there’s always a moment of like a kumbaya moment, kind of, where you come together, and you hug, and so it starts there, that sense of embracement, acceptance, community. We start fostering this from the very first hour you walk into a training.

Sonia: Very cool. Very cool. Years ago, I was talking with someone and they asked me a question I know what my initial thought was when I heard it, but I wanna hear your perspective. They said because you just mentioned, like, the music that’s used in Zumba, it brings together so many different cultures.

And the question was, am I participating in the cultural appropriation by going to Zumba class from, you know, engaging with all this music and this culture because it’s not my own? So I wanted to hear what your initial thoughts are.

Carolina: No, I think you are discovering and enjoying the diversity of a world that’s full of music. And I think what is good about Zumba class is that we will give you credit for where that music is coming from.

So this is coming from Cali, Colombia, where the drums were brought in by the African slaves and like, we will give you we will enrich.

And in our training, we have an on-demand training that’s available today. We have sections that talk about historically where the music comes all music. Right? From, also when we talk about the house in EDM, we are gonna give the background in Chicago, like how we don’t so it’s, I think there’s absolutely nothing wrong in any should be encouraged to discover and enjoy, but you know, educate myself and be curious them everything. But if you make them curious, they will go out and they will themselves find the answers and find the inspirations. Right?

Sonia: Totally agree. Totally agree. Alright. I wanna switch gears a little bit. And I’m curious because you’ve, you know, been all over the world, and I’m sure you’ve had a ton of experiences as a consumer. Can you tell me about a time when a brand made you feel like you belonged?

Carolina: It’s a good question. You know, I’ll tell you a time when a brand really made me cry. It must have been the hormones too, but but big time, and it hit me hard. Are you familiar with that campaign in the UK, this girl can. That movement that was put together by the government? So we’re gonna end this podcast when you’re gonna go check it out.

Sonia: Yes.

Carolina: Yes. So it started, if I’m not mistaken, around 2013, it was a campaign that was put together by the Gov in the UK. The primary mission was to get girls to exercise and to move and to work out because the results of the survey showed that women or, you know, young girls didn’t feel like they were welcome in sports. Right? And they didn’t understand that there were opportunities for them in sports. And it wasn’t just about females.

There was a lot about gender identity that at that time wasn’t making its way. There was a lot about race as well, and I think it’s one of the few very successful campaigns where they managed to blend these things around going back to that common need, common consumer insights that people wanted to be able to women wanted to be able to participate in sports more but didn’t see it as a possibility for them. And I remember watching the ad, and the ad now thinks about it.

This is 2015, so a little while back, was shot UGC style, which at the time wasn’t very common. Not everybody was doing it, and it showed all the perfect imperfection of women, of the girls, of this girl, Cam. And I just had my little girl. I had just given birth to Maya. And I remember thinking, this is the world I want for her. I want her to think that you know, if she’s a little chubby or she doesn’t matter, like, you know, that she can practice whatever sport she wants, she can be whatever it was that she can’t. And I think that’s one of the campaigns that has stayed with me the longest for the creativity and the execution that I think was spot on, but also for the time in my life where You know, it was released.

Sonia: Absolutely. I’m definitely gonna go out and have a look, and I’ll probably prepare myself to get a little choked up as well. And I’m gonna drop a link to it in the, to video in the show notes so everybody else can have a look as well. This has been so much fun and super insightful, Carolina. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Carolina: Thank you, Sonia.

Sonia: Parting words of wisdom about being inclusive in their marketing and making it just the way marketing is done for their brand?

Carolina: Well, I think you nailed it in the beginning when you said stay close to your consumer. Like, it sounds cliche, it sounds but it’s so easy. You know, today, everything we track is how many clicks, the open rate, and the conversion, and where they lost. And you’re and you’re making these assumptions, and you have to. I get it. That’s how we plan the budgets. That’s how we spend the money. You know? But in my case, go to the class, you know, talk to them before, talk to them after.

Go to the supermarket, see how they behave watch them everywhere at all times, because we are if you lose the human connection and they become just a click, then then then I believe you’re missing you’re missing the future, you’re missing the innovation with them, you’re missing the conversation, and and that’s never a good thing. So just stay close, stay close, make the time, which is the difficult piece, you know?

Sonia: Yeah. It won’t steer you wrong, won’t steer you wrong. It’s going back to the basics. Right? And so, I think sometimes we get so sophisticated that we forget the basics, and it shows.

Carolina: Very true.

Sonia: Very cool.

Carolina: Very true.

Carolina had so many cool things to share. I so enjoyed that conversation. I hope you did as well. I’m super curious. What about the things that she says and how they’re applying inclusive marketing to the Zumba brand is a key takeaway for you that you’d like to think about applying in your own business. Shoot me a DM. Send me an email. Let’s continue the conversation.

If you like this show, I would so appreciate it if you would leave a rating and review for it in your podcast player of choice. It really does go a long way toward helping more people discover the show. Also, do share it with your friends, colleagues, and your network. I like to think these little actions go a long way toward helping more people be inclusive, and that’s just a good thing. Are you getting the inclusion and marketing newsletter? If not really, what are you even doing? Each week, I send news, stories, tips, insights, and other good stuff to help you build an inclusive brand that attracts and retains a bigger, more diverse, and fiercely loyal audience. Go to inclusion in newsletter to get signed up. I’ll also drop a link to it in the show notes for you. Until next time.

Remember, everyone deserves to have a place where they belong.

Let’s use our individual and collective power to ensure more people feel like they do.

Thanks so much for listening. Talk to you soon.