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THE CULTURE ROUNDUP SERIES

Towards an inclusive society

men hugging wearing yellow glasses

#MeToo, same sex marriage, HeForShe, the Occupy movement, Black Lives Matter, Women’s Marches, #TimesUp….

In a nutshell

  1. The Cultural Current we call Superinclusivity describes the shift towards ever more diverse values and expressions in our society amidst global and local power and demographic shifts.
  2. The current has recently shifted its focus away from traditional aspects of diversity (race, gender, sexual orientation) towards difference in all of its shapes and forms.
  3. The evolution of Coca-Cola's advertising is one of the best illustrators of how the demand for inclusivity has shifted in society over time. 
  4. Brands can do a lot to change the conversation and leverage their position to shed light on the importance of diversity and inclusion. Examining our efforts through a multi-faceted lens provides brands with the opportunity to tell more nuanced and emotive stories, make connections with new groups, and use their powerful voice to inspire inclusion in our society.

... The list goes on.

These are all hugely significant cultural moments that have formed a large part of the global media and social conversation happening around us over the past few years. They are the most visible spearheads for the underlying Cultural Current we call Superinclusivity which describes the shift towards ever more diverse values and expressions in our society amidst global and local power and demographic shifts.

Our world is growing ever smaller thanks to technology and the spread of information. We are now global citizens, more attuned to the lives of others and interested in cultures, ethnicities and religions that are different to our own. We are more inclusive, knowledgeable and socially aware.

As we become more aware of our own and other’s social situations there has been a groundswell of support for progressive social movements that are calling for wrongs against minority groups to be righted. Above all else, movements such as #MeToo and Black Lives Matter are calling for a more inclusive and harmonious society. The old adage “why can’t we all just get along” has never been more true.

Advertising as a mirror of a changing society

Recently we have seen the Superinclusivity current shift its focus away from traditional aspects of diversity (race, gender, sexual orientation) towards difference in all of its shapes and forms. Coca-Cola, a brand that is all about 'bringing people together', is well in step with this cultural current and we can look to their iconic advertising over the years to understand this evolution.

The brand’s ground-breaking 1971 Hilltop commercial was launched at a time heavy with racial tension in the US. Featuring a group of people from various ethnic backgrounds singing “I’d like to buy the world a Coke”, the spot proclaimed a message of unity. Later in 1979, the advertisement "Hey Kid, Catch!" starred Pittsburgh Steelers player 'Mean' Joe Greene and featured a strong theme of conflict resolution between an African-American man and a white boy.

If we fast forward into the 21st Century, Coca-Cola’s advertising shifted away from its themes of breaking down racial barriers and began incorporating ideals of optimism and inclusion for all. The brand’s 2018 "The Wonder of Us" placement shared a message about the value of uniqueness with the line “There's a Coke for he, and she, and her, and me, and them. There's a different Coke for all of us." As well as spreading a message of inclusion, the commercial was praised by the LGBTQ community for its use of gender neutral pronouns “them" and “theirs”.

And now at this year's Superbowl, Coca-Cola launched a new ad "A Coke is a Coke" which emphasises the importance of kindness: “Different is beautiful, and together is beautiful too.” The ad echoes Coca-Cola’s long-running underlying message that our difference is what unites us.

illustration of people reaching hands together
Source: The Coca-Cola Company. "A Coke is a Coke" celebrates unity and diversity.

This is an important message for a brand to be sharing in 2019. Because while the spotlight is being placed on injustice and inequality in our society, the response amongst certain factions is fear. We are seeing even more polarised ways of reacting to globalisation, economic uncertainty, migration and demographic shifts. This is setting up a significant moral chasm within our society as these groups reject change out of fear that they will lose economic and positional power.

Brands can leverage their powerful voice

"Brands can do a lot to change the conversation and leverage their position to shed light on the importance of diversity and inclusion."

Brands can do a lot to change the conversation and leverage their position to shed light on the importance of diversity and inclusion. Inclusive marketing is one way to do this, but it is hard to achieve when marketing and advertising departments are lacking in diversity themselves. Take a look around – it’s likely you are surrounded by people very similar to you.

No matter how open minded or empathetic we are, we all have cognitive biases that are shaped by our own circumstances and experience. These at best lead to knowledge gaps and at worst lead to stereotypes – not the ideal building blocks for inclusive marketing and communications.

Diversity in the workforce needs to be about more than demographics. Having cognitive diversity in our teams (i.e. the variety of experiences and perspectives that individuals bring to the table) is crucial to building inclusive marketing that speaks not only to gender, age and racial diversity but also takes into account the many other layers of a person’s identity – age, geography, sexuality, socio-economic status, disability, religion, marital status, parenting status, and interests just to name a few.

Examining our marketing efforts through such a multi-faceted lens like this can be challenging to say the least. But it also provides brands with the opportunity to tell more nuanced and emotive stories, make connections with new groups, and use their powerful voice to inspire inclusion in our society.

Claire Tutill
Marketing Manager at TRA

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