It feels like change is the only constant in today’s society. Last year was full of truly shocking political events, that have shaken the collective consciousness, whatever side of the fence you sit on.
In a time defined by change it seems apt that the International Women’s Day 2017 theme is #BeBoldForChange; reminding us that change can – of course – be a powerful force for good.
Our industry doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to representing women and acknowledging the existence of difference. This isn’t just a gender story – the LGBT community, ethnic minorities, disabled and transgendered people – are all hugely under-represented groups in mainstream media.
Play a little Google Image game; search ‘CEO’ and see how far you have to scroll to find a woman. Try ‘family’ and you’ll discover a sea of hetro-normative, traditional family units – most of whom are white.
Herein lies the problem. Most of the influential storytellers in our world are middle class, white men, as are the clients they are servicing, and this lack of diversity certainly shows in the work they produce.
At its best, design, advertising and branding can capture the zeitgeist, offer an alternative point of view, hold a mirror up to the world, and inspire us to think, feel and act differently. Nothing is more captivating than a great story, and the best stories ignite a fire inside us and impact the way we look at the world.
But why does it matter? Doesn’t everyone ignore billboards and block ads anyway? It does matter. A lot. In the wise words of… a few people, (the quote has many alleged authors!):
“You can’t be what you can’t see.”
This means that the under or misrepresentation of certain groups is dangerous. When people can’t see themselves represented in the world around them they feel ostracised. Particularly if you are part of an already side-lined minority, struggling to come to terms with something as challenging as disability or non-confirmative gender. No one likes being left out.
To make a brand inclusive, designers needs to step out of their collective world view and gather insight from the people they’re designing experiences for. It’s all very well reading consumer trend publications, but true, rich insight comes from talking to people one-on-one.
We get up and close and personal with consumers regularly, and the outcome is always surprising, insightful and helps to guide our creative thinking.
Take our recent work for Heineken Tecate as an example; customer insight was crucial to the success of the branding for this Mexican beer brand. By spending time with consumers exploring the true meaning of masculinity for young men in Mexico, we found our preconceptions were challenged and as a result the direction of our work completely changed.