How Many Wake-Up Calls Do We Need? “Mainstream” Is Over!

How Many Wake-Up Calls Do We Need? “Mainstream” Is Over!

In this guest post, Jen Sharpe, founder and managing director at Think HQ, Jen Sharpe (pictured below), argues there’s so many touchpoints in Australian society confirming the white, nuclear family in Australia is no more… and brands need to take note!

The last fortnight in Victoria has proven incontrovertibly that the ‘mainstream Australia’ most marketers are still targeting is dead.

Both the Victorian State election and the World Cup have proven to be yet more cautionary tales for anyone who’s still failing to think about Australian audiences as diverse, multicultural, and empowered.

First, the Victorian election. The opposition was soundly defeated, and the blame game begun in earnest.  A common theme, as summed up by Prime Minister Albanese, was that the party had ‘failed to come to terms with modern Australia’.

Speaking to the media, former Liberal Strategist Tony Barry put it more bluntly, saying the party had “gone backwards in an election environment where we should have picked up at least 10 seats on a bad night”. He pointed to poor results in Box Hill, Ashwood, and Glen Waverley – seats with significant Asian Australian populations.

Shadow treasurer David Davis echoed the sentiment, saying the party headquarters was “not good with multicultural communities”.

“I think that that is one factor through some of those seats that we’ve got to really focus on,” he said. “I think we’re going to need to rebuild on a number of fronts.”

The 2021 Census found that 51.5 per cent of us were either born overseas or have an immigrant parent. With multiculturalism the clear norm, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that a party which fails to appeal to ‘multicultural communities’ is going to fall short on votes.

Because ‘multicultural communities’? That’s called Australians.

It was vividly visible at the other end of the spectrum (the celebratory bit) when crowds gathered in Fed Square to witness Australia’s 1-0 World Cup victory over Denmark.

The flares and cheers from that crowd exploded another increasingly tired myth about Australia – the idea that football is of no interest to the ‘mainstream’.

SBS football correspondent Eli Mengem, reporting from the scene, summed it up neatly on air: “Are you telling me this country doesn’t loves football? It is four in the morning on a Thursday. This is football in Australia. It’s growing, with a diverse crowd that looks like the real Australia, with a diverse squad that looks like the real Australia.”

Our workplaces need to reflect this new, real Australia. We need inclusive, diverse teams, because that’s the best way to produce inclusive, diverse work.

Only businesses that embrace diverse audiences can hope to thrive in the modern marketplace. The economic benefits are as obvious as the societal ones.

This year’s FAIR Report (Framework for Agency Inclusion and Representation) came out this week and found a big gap between where the communications industry wants to be and where it is.

While 97 per cent believed their organisation should prioritise cultural diversity, and that cultural diversity in the industry was either extremely or very important, almost 68% were unable to name a single example of a best practice initiative on cultural diversity and inclusion.

So, to put it bluntly, we’re keen to change, but we don’t know where to start. Our industry needs practical advice on how to make change.

A big part of that is looking at hierarchies. While the sector remains predominately white, that’s shifting, but diversity usually starts in junior positions, so developing ‘bottom up’ approaches that empower staff to be change agents and diversity champions can unlock a lot of capacity.

Some other practical steps forward come through clearly. From industry bodies, down through organisation’s leaders and managers, a loud, proud focus on diversity and inclusion will drive change. Formal policies make it tangible, and a strong stance from leadership gives permission for others to make the jump.

So, for communicators thinking of where to focus in 2023, it’s a clear choice: Kick some goals, or miss the vote entirely?




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Jen Sharpe Think HQ

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