In a world where you can be anything, Be Kind…what we’ve been thinking about this week at Brand Genetics

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“The freedom of the press works in such a way that there is not much freedom from it.” - Grace Kelly

As British society struggles to come to terms with the loss of another much-loved television personality, and the events that led to this, we have been asking ourselves why mainstream media continue to promote barbed narratives and tales of failure, rather than using their platform to tell stories of success and spreading a little bit of much needed joy…

…and, more importantly, why we as humanity aren’t demanding them to do so!

‘The media’ is broadly defined as ‘the means of communicating, reaching and influencing people more widely’ — a tool that at its core has the ability to unite people from every corner of the world. It is by its very nature, by the people, about the people, and for the people.

But with articles now judged more on their ability to shock and expose than their propensity to inform and inspire, the media has become a torrent of ‘click-bait’ — seemingly intent on nurturing divides rather than knocking them down.

Rich and poor. Little and large. Black and white. These are the things that make us different — the things that make us ‘us’. But through invasive stories and attacks on individuality, the journalistic freedoms we have sought to protect are now used as a means of eroding the freedom and joy to be oneself.

With this in mind, we have attempted to capture some of our big learnings below…

Whoever controls the media, controls the mind

Mainstream media have transformed themselves into the judge, jury, and ultimately, the executioner. They have taken ordinary people who have achieved something out of the ordinary and constructed a persona in the public eye, only to tear it down at the first sign of fragility.

In a world where knowing your consumer is everything, the media have succeeded in understanding their readers’ fears and insecurities and have looked to leverage these as an engagement technique, rather than seeking to alleviate them.

We have reached a critical moment where much of the mainstream media not only fail to foster positivity and happiness, but seemingly look to deny it for those they write for and about. And with mental health no longer an unspoken truth, our responsibility to ‘be kind’ is no longer a choice, but an imperative!

Fighting for the right to do wrong

In an age defined by the Trumpian war on ‘fake news’, the media have had to fight for their very existence. And while everyone from Mahatma Gandhi to Julian Assange has battled to uphold the freedom of the press, has this journalistic immunity in fact created an atmosphere in which people are able write, publish and print whatever they want — with little concern for social consequences and human fallout?

Whether it be the backlash against members of the Royal Family, the stigmatisation of the coronavirus ‘super-spreaders’, or attacks on a breakfast show host looking to bravely shed the shackles of his sexuality, we have seen the whole spectrum of harm that mainstream media channels are able to have on both happiness and wellbeing.

Holding up the mirror

Though the world of social media is thwarted by those using anonymity as a veil for their verbal attacks, those writing in mainstream media are very real people, with real names and real job titles. They are paid to sell stories, but if we as readers allow, encourage and ultimately fund them to do so without questioning the principles and morality behind the messaging, we must also look at ourselves.

“Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.” ― Anna Lappe

We — as members of society — have a duty to campaign against the dissemination of negativity through our speech, but also through the links we click and the papers we purchase.

Though brands and organisations have the scale, capital, and voice to ignite real positive change, consumers must demand this of them and hold them to account when they fail to do so.

HX Learnings

At Brand Genetics, we treat happiness as the start, the middle, and the end. It is the lens through which we approach every challenge, the benchmark with which we measure our success, and (positively) the thing that makes us ‘different’.

Though intense scrutiny is an undeniably powerful device, and one that we attempt to exercise in our work, when it is used by journalists as a means of dissecting the mistakes and life choices of an individual, rather than championing their triumphs and bravery, we must collectively seek resolution.

We believe in “positive innovation”, which means creating products, services and discourse with people’s happiness and wellbeing in mind. By making joy and fulfilment the ultimate principles of design, we can tap into a fundamental and universal goal; the pursuit of happiness.

Simon Hall is a consultant at Brand Genetics, an insight and innovation agency specialising in human-centred insight and innovation. With a background in reinventing big businesses at pace, he has experience in creative problem solving, thought leadership and reframing human insight and has worked in strategy, leadership and change across business sectors.

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Human-Centered Insight, Innovation and Trends from Brand Genetics www.brandgenetics.com

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