I recently read a rather thought-provoking piece by Shaun Duwe via his LinkedIn on how important it is to: 'Firstly, stay true and focussed to your core roots. And secondly, keep the passion burning.'
Duwe outlined the two points through some milestones he’s ticked in his career, which has evolved from DJ (under the moniker Shaun Duvet) to the multi-faceted entertainment entrepreneur he is today.
I completely agree with Duwe. In fact, while I believe it is something that has always been important, I feel that staying true to one’s core roots is perhaps more important now than it has ever been. You see, we live in a space where, unfortunately society’s pressures are so high, that we conform to living in a certain way, speaking in a certain way and dressing in a certain way because we want to conform to certain expectations. In the digital realm that has morphed into being due to the ongoing global pandemic, I believe there has been even more of a loss of individuality and a drive toward conformity.
We can’t lose that uniqueness! In this world of impersonators, originality and authenticity rules.
You know, there is that one person in the Zoom call or Teams meeting who is dressed ‘just so.’ They’ve got their style down, and they’re not about to compromise because it’s maybe a blue Monday or because it’s a virtual meeting. Their individuality and personality shines through, while the rest blend like their backgrounds.
The pertinence of this all really came through for me again recently, when we worked on a challenging campaign for Ballantine’s in which we had to hyper-localise a concept created for a TVC by our global team. Well, at first I thought it was going to be super challenging to produce something of real local authenticity to the standard of the international TVC (which was really beautiful and dynamic). But then we got Justice Mukheli from Romance films involved to direct the project, as well as Kagiso Tshepe from Grid Worldwide who played the role of creative director and wrote the script.
Mukheli immediately grasped what was required and set about crafting something that featured real people with real stories and authentic ways of expressing their individuality.
“From the brief, I felt so connected to this film because I could relate on a deeper level,” Mukheli says. “I’ve always had an imposter syndrome for not having had formal training as a film director. So, firstly, working on this project really instilled in me the confidence that I can do it my way, and however my process unfolds as a filmmaker and artist, there’s no wrong way,” Mukheli says.
“I think every writer would undoubtedly love to work with such an amazingly creative idea. I'm very fortunate to have had the opportunity to do so. Mostly because, there's no wrong way to do it, right?” Tshepe adds. “This is exactly the kind of approach I had, but when you start getting deeper into it, you find that you must stay true to who you are for there not to be a wrong way. So, as a writer I had to stay true: True to the people you see in the commercial, true to the people who will see it, true to the idea, and mostly true to myself. Every frame and phrase was well-considered and stress-tested on authenticity, meaning, and resonance,” he says.
The local commercial for the ‘Stay True: There’s No Wrong Way’ global campaign then became something of a celebration of Mzansi’s diverse melting pot, urging people to ‘do it for the culture ... dress to flex, or to relax … dance like you’re on the guest list … [and] turn those expectations off.’
Individuality is king
That’s the message behind the inspiring new Ballantine’s commercial, which harnesses the power of our diverse local talent to show that in a world of impersonators, individuality is king.
The essence of it is that there is no wrong way. Whether dance, fashion, art or music is your preferred form of self-expression, there’s no wrong way if you stay true to yourself. If you actually live your life by that mantra, success will follow. If you lose sight of that, you’re bound to struggle. There is no wrong way - that was one of George Ballantine’s key messages…
Now, over a very sensitive and tough period like the pandemic people have had to act out of character and do things outside of what they have been known for, just to be able to survive. And, to keep up with the times. So, let’s be honest, change is inevitable, but those who have been agile in how they’ve done things (and remained adaptable to change) while staying true to their core philosophies have been the most successful during this time.
Take for example Jarrel Mathebula who features in the campaign, alongside others. Much like Shimza – who headlines the campaign – Mathebula is very much a changemaker. He remained grounded in his core dance roots by cofounding ‘Indigenous Dance Academy’ in Tembisa. The academy teaches entrepreneurial leadership through the medium of dance. Over the past 12 years, Mathebula has set the standard for inspiring township youngsters and prides himself on creating opportunities for the youth of Tembisa in particular. This has earned him the distinction of being regarded as a kasi hero among the youth.
To me, that is the antithesis of the often bleak world around us right now. Staying true brings a positive message of self-expression and choice. You know, when there’s no wrong way, suddenly every choice you make can be the right one.
About the author
Keval Ramraj, senior brand manager of Ballantine's Scotch Whisky at Pernod Ricard SA