2 May 2018
Author: Debika Ray
Yet global brands’ diversity initiatives are often based on the idea that visible representation of so-called minority groups and cultures is important because it helps to attract and satisfy people from those backgrounds. But there will be little meaningful change until we stop seeing people and cultures from outside of the Western mainstream as minorities on the world stage, and assuming they will only appeal to niche audiences. What’s required instead is a presumption that such cultures are of interest to everyone and an appreciation of their complexity and diversity.
For brands, this means abandoning initiatives that rely on cliches. An example is the current advert by British hotel chain Premier Inn about an Indian wedding and branding that uses stereotypically ethnic typefaces, music and colours. These grate on the nerves of people in their target audience, as well as others accustomed to living in a multicultural society, and reinforce simplistic ideas about such cultures. Organisations must also stop assuming that groups of people have a homogeneous set of interests and experiences, and aren’t discerning about quality. From public institutions to television channels, cultural programming with a diasporic flavour often focuses on gathering together familiar names and faces that tick boxes at the expense of quality, merit, experimentation or a wider thematic premise.
Debika Ray is founder and editor-in-chief of Clove magazine, a biannual journal dedicated to the culture of South Asia. For more on how consumers are increasingly living across borders, read our New Bricolage Living macrotrend.