Asad Shaykh - The spectacular strategist behind the moustache
We recently brought in Strategist and Creative Consultant, Asad Shaykh to bring a fresh insight to some of our projects. What we realised as we continued to work with him is yep, this guy knows his stuff - he’s unmistakable. And it’s not just because he shares the same name as Asad Dhunna…
What's your name and what do you do? My name is Asad Shaykh and I’m a freelance Strategy Director & Creative Consultant, specialising in Business, Technology and Culture-driven strategies. Apparently, I’m also a ‘MA MBA’. This mix of training has been both amusing and amazing, helping me balance creativity with commerciality in my work. I’ve been lucky enough to work across US, UK and Asia, building strategies for brands like Coca-Cola and Vodafone. Yet my heart firmly remains in the inception and promotion of startup brands. Right now, I am working on strategy at GREY London, also serving as a Campaign Strategist for Pride in London. How does your identity affect your work and your life in general? They say, “You can’t be what you can’t see.”- Marian Wright Edelman (Thank you Beyoncé) Being a gay Pakistani immigrant, a ‘triple threat’ so they say, I had no choice but to define an identity all my own, without many socially known paths. With such an open canvas, each and every decision I made shaped my identity, through culture and geographies. Having lived and worked across three continents, constantly ‘code-switching’ between cultures, has made me an ‘observer’. Understanding the language of cultural insight has been more of a way of life than a method of work. This is what drew me towards brand communication and planning. This multidimensional and multicultural thinking is essential if you’re an outsider trying to find relevancy. It’s these peripheries of culture that provide a great observation point for finding insights and develop uniquely-new creative strategies and solutions. Who have been your role models and why? Original thinkers. Fearless doers. Prince, for bending every gender rule known to man. Michele Obama, for combatting fascism with compassion. Faris, for leading a truly curiosity-driven life. They are different and forever unafraid to share this difference with the world. Do you think other people see you differently to how you see yourself? Of course! All of us view others through a personal lens of intuition and experience. For example, some people say I sound ‘welsh’. I think my exposure to Pakistani, British and American sounds has gifted me with the certain ‘musicality of the Welsh’, something that always delights me as it provides familiarity, and ultimately, a connection. They key is to be authentic. It activates the true power of identity; its innate ability to connect with others through authenticity. Its what makes us relatable. Culture an identity that’s authentic and people will respond. That’s also my philosophy for creating brands. Do you see yourself in advertising and marketing? Yes I do. Tan France, I’m looking at you! It is wonderful to see more melanin on our screens. What’s best is that this screen time has been earned through merit, not tokenism. Ajaz, for setting up AKQA, one of the world’s most successful agencies. Asad, for founding The Unmistakables, an agency with the purpose of inclusivity. On a cultural level... Ryan, for curating the beautiful tapestry of British Asian LGBT identity. Jameela Jamil, for fighting every false beauty boundary set by popular media. Mawaan, for pushing the nuance of South Asian humour beyond ‘desi’ stereotypes. They didn’t ask for an opportunity. They created their own. Based on their unique identities. There are so many more. Each of them I want to meet and work with. They are setting a brand new template for brands and culture to follow; with a promise of much more to follow. Are you tired of hearing about Diversity & Inclusion? Not at all. Diversity is a massive spectrum. We’ve just started talking about a couple of bands. There are many more shades to cover.
However, I do agree that we need to quickly convert this conversation into action. We’re working very hard to bring even more inclusivity into Pride in London. The focus should always remain on universal inclusivity, not only the torchbearers. Whether it’s equality for women at the workplace, or racial representation in pop-culture, both are wins for inclusivity - and for all of us. What one thing would you say to your younger self? Don’t try to fit in. It’s boring, and ultimately fatal. Share your difference with fearless compassion, and a responsibility of educating those who might not understand. Your authenticity will open doors you can’t even imagine. Stay curious. Stay fabulous. What would you say makes you Unmistakable? My moustache. It’s my canon of work. You can hear more of Asad’s stories at www.asadshaykh.com