Friday, April 27, 2012

The good, the bad and the ugly of stereotypes

For those of you unearthly creatures, this may not apply; but for us everyday dirt-walking folk; we judge. We judge often and usually judge quickly. Don’t balk just yet. If it sounds better, I will use the words perceive and process. Each day we perceive and process the world around us to help us navigate better.
But for the sake of calling a spade a spade, for letting go of MBA-speak and using real words, just because it’s my blog and I can be who I wanna. Let’s just call it stereotyping.  
A lot of people dart their eyes quickly from side-to-side when they hear the word stereotype and that’s primarily due to bad actions which may unfortunately follow. Yet, the act on it’s own is a part of us understanding our surroundings and how everything fits together. We’ve done it since we were children.  (Take a moment to wipe brows and collectively exhale)
Although, you're not off the hook yet, we marketers can carry those stereotypes into our brands.
Brands should be living-breathing entities, hereto, they’ll stereotype, simply put. My customers are this age, live here, have this many children and participate in these activities. It’s part of their act of perceiving and processing how they fit in a very cluttered space.  
The ugly is; stereotyping can be damaging when done wrong. VERY DAMAGING. An example of this is Acura which a blog buddy wrote about after they requested a certain shade of brown talent and were found out.  Maybe they were making a foray into multicultural marketing for the first time, but they missed the mark entirely and I would venture, unnecessarily by assuming they would turn off other cultures by not using someone who had the same skin color vs. focusing on the overall brand feeling that should go beyond one criteria of the established look.
On the other hand, when it’s done right, it’s amazing.  An example of a car company that focuses on the good brand feeling? Nissan. They’ve had and will continue to have challenges with multicultural audiences, but lately I’ve seen the focus on the life of their customers and I’ll admit I’m floored by the feel of it all. I think the commercial above would appeal to all moms regardless of race, but it also shows cultural inclusion and dimensionality of the brand.
Challenging stereotypes is tough. It’s so much easier for what we know is right to be right, then we can move on to the next thing.  Yet, when living and breathing entities are building relationships there should be a constant understanding that both parties will ebb and flow throughout time.  The best way to be aware of those ebbs and flows are to tune in and actively listen.  Now go get your Clint Eastwood/Blondie on!

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