“I’m gonna stop calling you a white man and I’m gonna ask you to stop calling me, a black man. I know you as Mike Wallace and you know me as Morgan Freeman.”

The above is an excerpt from a Mike Wallace 60 minutes interview with Morgan Freeman.

Branding is powerful. It builds perception, which ultimately leads to people’s behaviours. Something as simple as casual dress was once considered unprofessional and a nonchalant approach to business — till the rise of tech giants. When Apple, Facebook, Google and Twitter, amongst others came in with billions of dollars yet wearing jeans and tees, the perception of casual dress completely changed. The emphasis was no longer on how you looked, but the value you brought.

If we find that our communities are divided, the root of the issue is almost always down to people branding.

Some NGO’s, though they have the best of intentions, in an attempt to show the gravity of whatever cause they are raising money, may actually be hurting the people they are trying to advocate for. If all or the majority of communications and media used to represent say Malaysian children in need, is depraved and destitute, then that media is creating an identity or perception of how those Malaysian children should be viewed. This over time extends not only to how the children are viewed but the entire nation of Malaysia.

Negative people stereotyping is as a result of people branding — a consistent, unbalanced representation of people.

The use of the word minority conjures up images and an understanding of being insignificant or lesser in importance. As Erin Okuno beautifully articulates in her article, ‘Why We Need To Stop Using The Word Minority’, statistical data, and in particular populations change over time. The use of such a term in my view is extreme and damaging. This is also similar to the use of the term ‘Third World’. There is only one world, why do we see the need to elevate or devalue nations and or continents in such a stigmatic way. In many ways, the so-called ‘First World’ heavily relies on the ‘Third World’.

The journey towards diversity, equality and inclusion begins in our mind and speech. It begins with people branding.