The Difference Dividend: Unlocking cultural and commercial currency
The mainstream British news narrative has been one of division for what feels like forever. A country divided between leave and remain; our political parties not simply in disagreement with each other but even with themselves.
In an ongoing climate of uncertainty, one thing about this nation remains sure: ours is a diverse society.
When we celebrate this fact, we seem to truly shine. Just last week, we saw the England men’s cricket team win the World Cup for the first time ever. The final itself was applauded by many as the best there ever was. And it wasn’t just the match that was remarkable to watch – the reaction to it was striking, too.
News coverage showed incredibly inclusive, seemingly international celebrations for what was, strictly speaking, an English win. Trafalgar Square – a jingoistic symbol of division through the defeat of European fleets in battle – depicted a peaceful sea of faces that showed just how diverse we are as a people. Just as a cricket player from Ireland handed a ball to another from Barbados to win the World Cup for England, people with heritage from all around the world came together to celebrate being citizens and residents of a nation of the UK.
When we celebrate our diversity rather than accentuate our divisions, we seem more able to unite. And it’s in this spirit that I began my journey at The Unmistakables.
As a cultural consultancy made up of minorities, we believe our power is found in understanding how it feels to be different in a country we love. Whilst we see our politics increasingly fuelling the fire of division, we work with organisations that understand how, together, we have the potential to create a more United Kingdom. We partner with these organisations to truly harness difference, unleashing mutual opportunities from what we call ‘the minority mindset’. In short, this simply means seeing the world we live in from an alternative, less ‘mass’ point of view and doing something valuable with that insight.
Back in the world of sport, for example, we are working with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to transform the perception of the game amongst South Asian women. As partners of the ECB, our aim is to make cricket culturally relevant to this audience, in order to encourage them to volunteer to coach young children. This programme – as with all of our client partnerships – is based on insight, deep understanding and, crucially, on mutual opportunity. England’s Cricket World Cup win is, no doubt, a great testament to the power of investment in the diversity of the game.
We understand that increasingly common box-ticking exercises, focused on the pressures of adhering to ‘inclusivity’ and ‘diversity’ agendas, rarely do much to drive meaningful organisational change. It’s opportunity that makes stakeholders make progress happen.
And that’s why The Unmistakables exists. We’re here to unlock ‘the difference dividend’. This means mining potential cultural, conversational and commercial opportunities and value, which can be found in audiences and communities that may previously have proven elusive, untapped, unreachable or perhaps simply left out. While one recent study showed that only one percent of children’s books in the UK feature black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) characters, for example, another reveals that the BAME community actually accounts for nearly 13 percent of the nation’s population, with purchasing power of over £300bn per year. Minority, it would seem, is not being recognised for the mass opportunity it represents.
From my own personal point of view, I find myself motivated by analysing, responding to and even helping to create shifts in culture and society. Back in my home town up north, I’m struck every time I return by how much its centre of gravity has shifted. Once a place that drew crowds into its town centre, it seems that its residents are increasingly attracted by what’s on offer in its surrounding villages. A whole British town - perhaps once as confident as any other that the future was all about large formats - finds itself having to respond to people turning their backs on ‘big’ and their mindsets away from ‘mass’.
This is mirrored right across the country, as the out-of-town supermarkets and retail estates appear to suffer more and more customer and spend losses each year. As with the leave vote, it’s tempting to conclude that we’re being drawn back to a simpler, more community-driven time - but then it’s often said that community as we once knew it is dead.
Maybe that’s so. And yet I believe that the need to connect and find empathy and understanding has never been stronger. I’ve experienced this need myself as a minority: a single father through widowhood forced to navigate a world of parenthood signposted almost exclusively for mums; the white dad of mixed race son constantly questioning his place in our multicultural London life. I, like everyone else I know, need an identity and to find a place in the world that doesn’t leave me feeling left out.
Ultimately, I think the time has come for organisations to focus their attention on ‘unticking the box’ - making inclusivity real, exciting and something we can all get behind. This, I believe, will become a business priority when it stops being seen as just the right thing to do and starts to be recognised for its potential to drive revenue across new audiences. And as we begin to create cultural and commercial currency from diversity, we can help motivate organisations to join a movement of progress and genuine societal change.