Unticking the box

A Future of Fairness includes a roadmap for companies to follow no matter where they are on their diversity and inclusion journey.

Writing for our publication A Future of Fairness, Asad Dhunna, Founder and CEO at The Unmistakables explains how to 'untick the box' on ethnicity, sexuality, gender, age and disability by realising that diversity is a majority issue, not for individual minorities to solve alone.

The Unmistakables’ mission is help reach new audiences in order to deliver commercial returns by creating culturally nuanced programmes and campaigns that deliver both within and way beyond the mainstream.

When people think diversity, they think about which boxes they need to tick internally and externally, and how quickly they can do it. Long-term societal change, which can happen through advertising, needs an unorthodox and activist approach.

At The Unmistakables we untick the box. Operating at the intersect of business strategy, marketing, and diversity and inclusion, we deliver what we call the 'difference dividend'. This is the bottom-line uplift that comes from increased commerce from previously underrepresented groups not being sold to; better conversations from audiences that were previously ignored; or cultural change that is at the heart of so many brands trying to establish their purpose in our increasingly 'woke' world.

The Unmistakables’ journey

When we started the company in 2018, there were two clear market dynamics at play: 1) brands struggling to reach often underrepresented communities with authenticity, and 2) agencyland failing to become any more diverse or accepting. We set out to address these structural problems.

Just three years later, the level of conversation and interest in diversity and inclusion has piqued: the Black Lives Matter movement has resurged and the global Covid pandemic continues to highlight the structural inequalities many people face in society.

Of course, it’s easy for businesses to talk a good game about 'building back better', but as a relatively new company we are in a brilliant position to be building by design rather than happenstance. To be (or become) a truly inclusive business means to start from the inside - challenging the thought that diversity is little more than a checklist of characteristics to tick off.

Inside out inclusion

We deliver inside out inclusion - embedding inclusive practices internally so that a company’s external image is authentically inclusive. This approach attracts and inspires a more diverse audience to be part of the organisation and to feel like it is one that they can belong to. We are doing this ourselves and are made up of consultants and directors who have experience in brands, communications, design and HR, and are able to belong in a collaborative space where their lived experiences are valued and welcomed.

We advise our partners to take diversity and inclusion out of silos in order to reap benefits right across their organisations - put simply, we make diversity everyone’s business. We’re lucky to be growing rapidly through our work with partners such as Unilever, Penguin Random House and the ECB - organisations that join us on the journey to build a more inclusive world.

Everyone has a 'diversity story'

In the current climate we need to 'untick the box' on ethnicity, sexuality, gender, age and disability by realising that diversity is a majority issue, not for individual minorities to solve alone. Focusing on protected characteristics is a starting point but we need to make further progress exploring and embedding more inclusive behaviours - we need fundamentally to see and respond to the world around us in a more equal way.

Often this comes from an individual’s 'diversity story' (I believe that everyone has one). Someone in their life who has been discriminated against because of an aspect of who they are; someone who has felt 'othered' at some point during their life. For many that isn’t their own story - it could be that of their child, their in-laws or their colleague. That’s often the starting point is to ask: Would that person thrive in your company, and would that person be positively celebrated in your campaigns?

If the answer is 'no' to one of those then give us a call.

This piece first appeared in our publication A Future of Fairness - continue reading


The opinions expressed here are those of the author and were submitted in accordance with the IPA terms and conditions regarding the uploading and contribution of content to the IPA newsletters, IPA website, or other IPA media, and should not be interpreted as representing the opinion of the IPA.

Last updated 01 May 2024