four bipoc women linking arms from behind representing unity

Unconventional Linking: Unity

March 12, 2020

At a time when the world feels bitterly divided and greater polarisation seems almost inevitable, there is a real hunger for unity and a common sense of humanity. Against a backdrop of general uncertainty and collective anxiety about the future, 2019 saw communities pitted against each other and a general election in the UK brought deep-seated divisions over Brexit and social change to the forefront of national debates and everyday social interactions alike.

With all this talk of conflict and division, it’s important we highlight and celebrate attempts at bringing people together. There is also a great appetite among consumers for brands and businesses that make active efforts to address these collective anxieties in an authentic and non-divisive way.

So, we thought we’d bring together a few examples of how companies, brands and markets are trying to defy division through campaigns and changes in policies that either promote unity or break down barriers to inclusion.

For the UK, brands and companies that can productively and authentically align themselves with a greater mission and message of unity, whether through clear messaging or practices and internal policies, will be able to connect with and engage consumers in a post-Brexit terrain.

The UN climate change conference

creative campaign for UN climate conference by Johnson Banks

The visual identity of the COP26, the upcoming UN climate change conference, is a great example of imagery that captures the idea of unity in a simple and immediately impactful way. It visually dissolves stringent borders and boundaries that traditionally separate us into countries and distinct communities in the service of a greater and loftier mission.

Branding agency Johnson Banks intentionally used swirls of blue, green and white to depict an iconic earth, one that fits easily and comfortably within the UN’s image of international reach yet different enough to project change and global unity.

Ben & Jerry’s Cone Together

ben and jerry's branding showing their Together for Refugees campaign

Ben and Jerry’s launched their ‘One Sweet World’ intervention back in 2016 and have continued to highlight harmony, cohesion and unity with Justice ReMix’d in the US, and now the Cone Together campaign and accompanying flavour.

Launching at the UN’s Global Refugee Forum, the brand hoped to encourage world leaders to protect and advance the rights of refugees and people seeking asylum, with the message that everyone should have a safe place to call home.

While these past two examples are campaigns and messaging that explicitly communicate unity and cohesion, equally as important are the active policies and changes that convey and encapsulate the same themes, in albeit more subtle forms.

Finland’s parental leave

man carrying two children with boy running ahead towards a tree
Image © Juliane Liebermann

The Government of Finland is granting equal paid leave to all parents, birth and adoptive parents of all genders and sexualities, whether they’re single or in relationships. Each parent will be able to take 164 days off and can even transfer some of those days to their partners. A real acknowledgment and celebration of changing gender and lifestyle norms, this policy will give parents the freedom to spend more time with their children.

Some companies have already rolled out similar gender-neutral parental leave policies that not only reflect changing attitudes but champion positive change. There’s ample evidence that consumers are responding positively to brands pushing against outdated ideas and that wholeheartedly embrace inclusivity. Changes of internal policies and practices convey a much more pointed sense of authenticity, brands and businesses that can show they’re doing not just saying will be able to connect with people on a much deeper level.

The Body Shop’s Open Hiring policy

Anita Roddick pictured against large tropical flowers
Image © the Body Shop

On the topic of unity and inclusivity through internal practices, the Body Shop is pushing through an ‘open hiring’ policy to break down barriers to employment for people who have traditionally found it hard to find jobs. This will be a tremendous opportunity for those who were previously incarcerated or who may have been excluded from hiring for other reasons. This basically means that anyone who meets the most basic requirements for a job will be hired on a first-come first-served basis.

This clear shift away from exclusion to inclusion is one that will undoubtedly resonate as a message of hope and unity with people and, equally, as one of earnest and authentic action.

Gravity Payments’ salary experiment

Dan Price, against a blue-grey background
Image © Gravity Payments

Dan Price, CEO of card payments company Gravity Payments, grabbed headlines when he rolled out a $70,000 minimum salary for all 120 staff in 2015. The decision was met with scepticism and even a fair amount of hostility but the move and the spirit of social justice and equality in which it was made have won out. As we know, sometimes it takes time to see change. Now, in 2020, Gravity Payments has reported an increase in productivity with the value of payments it processes growing from $3.8 billion a year to $10.2 billion.

The decision responded authentically to anxieties about social inequality and while this is unlikely to work or be rolled out in exactly the same way across other companies and industries, that spirit can inform how companies think about and effect similar positive impact.

So, if you are looking at ways in which your brand or business can also tackle the rising division we are seeing around the world, then please just get in touch. We would love the chance to go on that journey with you.

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