How far could brands push diversity in a counter-cosmopolitan world?
It is happening. The reaction of socially excluded people to globalization is underway. And more, it did not happen by means of revolutions, riots, nor communism, but rather, by voting. Regardless of the discourse backing each event, Brexit, Trump and the election of an evangelist bishop in Rio, right after the Olympic fever, are rooted in unemployment, lack of opportunity and the exclusion of part of the population from mainstream economy. Exclusion was big enough to elect the President of the United States of America. And more may be yet to come.
Structurally, in order to exist, Companies owning brands such as Coke, Johnny Walker or Budweiser live off a global approach to market that selects what is the best in the world - best costs, best people, best prices. From a local perspective, people and assets that are no longer interesting are left unattended. According to this mindset, the life of those who lost their jobs for globalization will not change unless they become more productive, which, to be honest, means to relearn how to work. The answer History appears to give is not a vast productive transformation, but rather, a perverse rhetoric battle, in which people and governments blame others – immigrants, China, hipsters, gay marriage - for their precarious living conditions. They simply reject whatever disrupts their classic way of life, once so fortunate and profitable, as if it was enough to restore inclusion in mainstream economy.
This analysis would all be another somewhat leftist approach to the drawbacks of consumerism if it was not for voters forcing a political push back with visible results. And yes, consumption and brands are at the core of discussion. First, obviously, because underemployed people find quite annoying much of the values of perfect life and never-enough consumerism advertising and the industry foster. Second, products and services are rather global nowadays and have cosmopolitism embedded in their concept and communication, which is a daily reminder of some groups "inefficiency" to engage in the global dialogue.
For many of us advertising guys who were brought up under cosmopolitan values and are faithful evangelists of freedom it sounds rather noble to fight Mr. Trump, and I do agree it is. But I doubt that after years of exclusion his electors are going to change their minds. At the same time, there is no other way global companies should behave, since it is their essence in structure, people and culture. In my point of view, like we experienced in the first decades of the 20th century, we are heading for an unavoidable battle between the free world of wealth and the authoritarian and purist world of excluded. The outcome we all know.
What to do as a global brand? Instead of making the group of people who opted for Brexit or Trump feel ridiculous or in jeopardy, find inclusion through empathy. It is not rising the flag of diversity and globalism that things may change. There is a certain loneliness and selfishness in the self-made, immigrant caracter that is rather frightening. World connectedness is not understood as something good for individuals and communities at all. On the contrary. However, there is an undergoing common story of loss of rights and economic power affecting all targets, an urge for restoring collectivism as opposed to individualism, of combatting fear and social divide, of being authentic, true and fair in relationships between brands and people. And this story is urging to be told. Brands who own global communication are more than never invited to preserve freedom, but first they must understand how they contributed for the loss of self-steam of an important part of the public, by pushing unreachable beauty and behaviour standards.
Please let’s not make cosmopolitism another supermodel in a beer commercial. Admired, unreachable and threatening.