Firms urged to help minorities but warned ‘be genuine’

ethnicityCovid lockdowns and travel restrictions might be a distant memory but, combined with the cost of living crisis, their effects are still wreaking havoc with millions of Brits; and it is up to brands to play a key role in helping consumers reconnect.

That is one of the key findings of a new Mindshare study, Reality Check – All Together Now, in partnership with the Diversity Standards Collective, which looks at the emotional and practical impact of the pandemic and price rises on marginalised minorities.

Conducted through a nationally representative sample of 3,000 respondents, the research was supplemented with six, one hour community workshops co-hosted with The Diversity Standards Collective, among groups representing South Asian, East Asian, Black, LGBTQIA+, Disability, and working class communities.

Among the stark findings are that over a third of the UK population are struggling to rebuild social connections post-pandemic, while more than half (54%) of LGBTQA+ people feel their world has shrunk and 48% say they have forgotten to how to socialise. Meanwhile three-fifths (60%) of Brits with a disability are in “survival mode” due to feelings of isolation.

The study found that more than a third (36%) of all Brits have struggled to rebuild social connections post pandemic, but distinct minority groups have found the readjustment even harder. For example, 39% of those living with a disability and 44% of East Asians feel this way.

The report details that there are opportunities for brands, media and tech platforms to play a key role in helping minority groups reconnect, although the results reveal that due to a rise in “tokenism”, brands still have a long way to go when it comes to ethnic representation.

It goes to warn that inclusion is not simply about image – people are increasingly wanting the realities of their lives reflected in advertising.

Worryingly, the pandemic has deepened existing wealth inequalities between people from different ethnic backgrounds, and many are now worried about affording essentials such as food and heating.

For physically disabled groups the problem of rising living costs is particularly acute with 77% concerned about rising energy prices (vs 62% average UK adult) and 58% concerned about having enough money to pay bills (vs 46% average UK adult). This is resulting in cutting back even further on essentials such as food and heating.

Mindshare saw an increased likelihood of reliance on loans, deferred payments and second jobs or increased overtime as strategies to cope with the impact of the crisis.

For instance, three-fifths (62%) of consumers with South Asian heritage were predicting that they may need to borrow money or take out a loan to cope financially, compared to 40% of the general population. Four-fifths (80%) of South Asian workers were also considering ways in which they could get another job or work more overtime, compared to 67% national average.

Mindshare UK’s research found that devastating global unrest and “apocalyptic” price rises are adding new layers of instability to our post pandemic futures.

With rising cost of living challenges for many, Mindshare insists it is more important than ever for brands to not appear out of touch with the struggles different groups may be facing.

People living with disabilities and those on lower incomes are most likely to be hardest hit, with the largest proportions of them worried about affording the basic costs of living or having to make a lot of sacrifices, especially physically disabled groups who generally have a reliance on costly medical equipment can mean pinching even on essentials such as food and heating.

Black and South Asian communities, who tend to have lower levels of financial resilience compared to the rest of the population, among those ethnic groups we can see a higher likelihood of reliance on loans, deferred payments and second jobs as strategies to cope with the impact of the crisis.

Being cut off from loved ones, friends and communities has led to rising levels of isolation for many, and media and technology have helped offset this through keeping consumers entertained and connected.

Whilst social media has its faults, at times offering an unrealistic representation of real life, it has also enhanced the lives of minority groups in different ways. Particularly for LGBTQIA+, social platforms have allowed individuals to find and connect with communities beyond geographical boundaries – providing support, reassurance, and shared values.

Through Mindshare UK’s qualitive analysis, a standout factor within inclusivity in media and advertising, is that people are eager to see more diversification.

This is especially true among minority groups, but there is countless evidence of increased brand loyalty, purchase intent and effectiveness when a brand does this well. It doesn’t necessarily need to be about seeing yourself reflected – but if there is no representation that does matter.

The effort is not going unnoticed, as people are seeing an improvement when it comes to ethnic representation, but while the motive is often genuine, people are now warier than ever of tokenism, questioning whether brands are simply trying to fill a diversity quota or latch on to a diversity movement.

Mindshare head of insights Julia Ayling said: “It’s easy for brands to lose touch of reality in a rapidly changing world that seems to be constantly presenting consumers with new challenges.

“For brands hoping to remain genuine and actively participate in the effort to alleviate pressure during hard times, they must keep their ear on the ground and be prepared to act quickly.

“We’ve seen first-hand that the media landscape has changed and the huge opportunity this presents for brands in creating targeted messages that will resonate with different groups in different spaces.

“At Mindshare, we believe it’s crucial to understand the mindsets of the nation through intersectionality of people’s different identities, helping us to engage with and reflect the rich diversity and culture of modern Britain.

“Brands must ensure they’re constantly looking for other solutions outside of simple price reduction to build stronger relationships with consumers and help see them through difficult times.”

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