Want to do better marketing? Start by upping the diversity.
I’m Australian. Which essentially means I’ve grown up in a country of immigrants, kids of immigrants and grandkids of immigrants. In a country of 24 million people, 28 percent of the population was born overseas.
And it’s bloody marvellous.
My friends at school and university were Korean-Australian, Chinese-Australian, Indian-Australian, Malaysian-Australian, Greek-Australian and the list goes on and on. So I suppose from the outside, we looked like quite the eclectic bunch. But in reality, we were all kind of the same. We played cricket at recess in the school yard, talked about Aussie rules football and drank chocolate Big M. Of course, some went home to pray, and others fasted during Ramadan, but for all intents and purposes, we were all sun-blessed Aussie kids, and that’s just how it was.
As we got older, we went to the same bars and beaches, drank the same beer and had the same fortune and misfortune - we got jobs, lost jobs, crashed our cars, traveled overseas, had relationships that didn’t work out, and everything else that comes with the rollercoaster of youth. We were Aussie kids, and on face value our experiences were homogenous.
But having friends from different backgrounds was good for me. It meant I got to taste different foods and hear different languages. It meant I was exposed to different opinions and was able to develop wide tolerance and a broad self-governance system. I eventually discovered some of my friend’s values were better than my own. I discovered the Vietnamese art of adding condensed milk to my coffee, and importantly, through my Chinese friends, developed the habit of taking my shoes off before going inside the house.
Five years ago I took on the role of leading an incredibly diverse team when I was working as the Head of Digital at Deakin University. In the team we had a Singaporean-Australian leading digital production, a Chinese-born social media strategist, an Indian-born communications specialist and a Nigerian-born data scientist. And boy, was it remarkable. There was something about this ecliptic team environment that created incredible synergy.
From a communications perspective, everyone brought something different to the table, obviously in their work but also in their attitude and approach. Interestingly, our personal development conversations could not have been more different. Everyone was raised remarkably differently, and they were all driven by something different. But most of all, they were so damn hungry for success, and as a leader, I was starstruck by the energy of the team I managed.
Simply, immigrants work harder and longer. It’s a fact. But really, it’s common sense. When your visa status and very existence in a country is connected to your job, of course you work harder. When your parents worked three jobs to send you to school, of course you work harder. And while their new country might not deliver in everything they loved back home, migrants grow grateful of the country that gave them a chance. They will give back. A thousand times.
But it doesn't end there. The immigrant journey makes them more likely to be risk-takers - a skill that is desperately needed in the marketing profession right now. If brands continue to do the same thing they did last year, they die.
At LEGO, were spoiled. In my immediate team, we’re Australian, French, Dutch, British and Danish. Admittedly, were all a little weird and certainly very different. In the broader marketing unit we become even more interesting. We have creatives and strategists from the Philippines, South America and the US. We have data specialists from France and Germany, and other team members from Romania and Russia. The VP of our department is French too.
We have heated conversations about data preservation policies in Russia, the race and gender of talent in our advertising and whether German kids like the colour yellow. We discuss the limits of advertising compliance in different international markets and acknowledge that when it comes to global communication, there might never be a key message that works for everyone.
We shrug our shoulders when we recognise that these content pillars might not work in APAC. Grit our teeth when we discover Siberian kids don’t understand Mountain Police. We need to figure out the best advertising formats on Youku and VK, and it would be great if someone can explain to me why German kids prefer steam trains over cargo trains.
It goes on and on. It’s hard work, because the questions and answers are absolutely infinite. Because the world is infinite. And for a collection of curious marketers, this is heaven.
Diversity is strength, in every walk of life. I haven’t figured out the next chapter of my life and career but you can bet it will be colourful.
Now, where’s the smashed avocado?