T2 aims at addressing micro ignorance through slam poetry
- 20 March, 2020 12:39
Slam poets filming the latest T2 campaign
Taking a stand against micro ignorance and celebrating the benefits of conversation over a cuppa lies at the heart of a new campaign from T2 targeting diversity and inclusion.
The Unilever-owned brand’s new ‘Verse of tea’ campaign coincides with World Harmony Day (21 March) and is aimed at taking a stand against micro ignorance to help society overcome discrimination against gender, culture and identity. The focal point of the campaign is a series of slam poetry videos featuring four award-winning Australian artists who each share their stories experiencing some form of such bias.
The four poets are: Filipina poet, journalist and artists, Eunice Andrada; Ugandan-born Anisa Nandaula; Jesse Oliver, a Perth-based poet who has experienced homelessness, gender transition and mental illness; and Emilie Collyer, who focuses on questions around humanity via the existential or fantastical.
T2 global brand director, Amy Smith, told CMO diversity has always been part of the company’s DNA.
“At a product level, our founder, Maryanne [Shearer], travelled the world looking for interesting tea and rituals, and created a kind of ‘Cirque du Soleil’ of tea. We took lots of different products from countries and cultures, creating blends such as our French Earl Grey,” she commented.
“We also recently looked at Americana and Japanese culture, coming up with ice cream flavours to create matcha flavours that were both natural and fun… Our brand vision is to see the world through the eyes of tea.”
Smith noted “there are no borders with tea”. “And what started as a celebration of ancient rituals with a modern twist blending culture turned into a celebration of humanity as well,” she said.
Yet with nearly 50 per cent of multicultural young people experiencing some form of discrimination or unfair treatment relating to unconscious bias, according to the Multicultural Youth Australia Census Status Report, it’s clear there is a long way to go to combatting micro ignorance, Smith said.
“It’s… the everyday unconscious comments we make that exhibit bias and chip away at someone’s sense of inclusion and belonging,” she continued. “The idea of a cup for me, cup for you at T2 is about an act of being together. I wanted to give a voice to people who have experienced this micro ignorance in everyday ways, but have never really felt able to speak up about it.”
Slam poetry and the idea of verse, language and spoken word poetry has gained a powerful presence in contemporary and youth culture.
“It’s giving people a voice who are often marginalised and vulnerable,” Smith said. “We went through a process of putting the invitation out there and were amazed at how many came back to us.”
Slam poets are part of a global movement and form of guild, which starts with World Harmony Day and ends in October, global diversity awareness month. Smith hoped T2’s initiative, a first for the business, would give voice to these pervasive issues, as well as help people reflect on their own biases.
“The most beautiful part of Verse of tea is by listening to other’s stories, you can find a place to meet and the differences that divide and exclude disappear,” she said.
Internally, T2 team members have contributed to the video series, and video content is being supported by initiatives to celebrate different cultures and blends. Smith said it’s also putting the call out to invite people to spend three minutes – the time it takes to brew a cup of tea – to start a conversation with someone they haven’t done before.
“A T2 moment is when we say it’s time for conversation and to hear a different point of view. Because of the ritual of tea, it’s a simple, easy and achievable thing to do. It might also just be three minutes for you to reflect and take a pause,” she said.
In a time of COVID-19 crisis, however, Smith admitted the format of conversations has clearly needed to shift online.
“We’re doing that virtually at T2 for the next couple of weeks, with a cup of tea virtually,” Smith said.
“We’re doing lot of digitally and socially. Even in the last week, we have seen a real sea change in the last week around COVID-19 around people just being kinder. We are all in it together. If we’re going to survive, we have to collaborate and be kind to each other.”
Smith is also looking to mobilise T2’s Tea Society customer membership as part of the rallying cry.
“We have a strong database of vocal customers: Some are driven by sustainability concerns, and really want to know about what we’re doing in that space around recycled packaged, ethical sources and so on; while others are interested in humanity and people, which is about inclusivity,” she said. “We have been hosting a lot of events for members, conversing over new blends, and we have speaker nights.
“We want to engage and build a ‘brewing force for good’. They don’t just buy us, they’re inspired by us.”
T2 already supports other inclusion initiatives, such as learning programs run by The Smith Family in Australia, which help keep kids included in schools. This year, about 80 kids are being funded by individual T2 stores.
“We are very conscious the opportunity for education increases your chances of being more aware of different cultures. It’s also the case children from really tough circumstances are often the ones getting marginalised first,” Smith said.
In addition, T2 recently gained B2 Corp accreditation, a big step forward in its sustainability credentials.
The ‘Verse with tea’ campaign is complemented by sponsorship of Network Ten’s The Project to coincide with the program’s emphasis on World Harmony Day. Other recent diversity-oriented programs of work have seen T2 aligning to SBS, sponsoring the channel’s Mardi Gras content this year.
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