Pitfalls of Marketing with Stereotypes

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Marketing to stereotypes instead of people? We understand it’s an easy mistake to make. When companies try to expand into new markets, generalizations tend to happen in hopes of reaching a broader audience. However, If you aren’t careful, your generalizations and stereotypes can lead to a catastrophic campaign and your company’s brand image looking bad in consumers ‘ minds. 

Examples of brands gone bad: 

Manage Your Marketing 

Do your market research/Talk to local experts

Market research may seem like an obvious step, but companies often miss the mark on a successful campaign because they failed to do appropriate research. Before attempting to spread your brand across multiple markets and cultures, you need a clear vision of how your brand will enrich that market. A clear vision involves understanding that global brand marketing is about evidence, not judgments, and moving beyond cultural stereotypes and discovering connections between your brand and the (cultural) market.

Lack of market research can result in blatant disregard for cultural understanding. For example, Food Basics, a grocery store in Canada, sent out a promotional flyer for Baisakhi (a Sikh religious holiday) in an attempt to reach ethnic communities. However, the marketing team failed to do proper research on the target market and advertised a product that was considered forbidden to eat in the Sikh community. YIKES!

Pay attention to language 

We all know meaning can sometimes get lost in translation, but this is especially true when multiple languages come into play. Each language has its idioms and slang, so accounting for this is crucial. Other cultures also have their own stereotypes, so using proper syntax is essential to avoid offense. 

Choose images carefully 

Proper images for your campaign are just as important as the language used. Researching to understand how specific images are depicted within a culture or market will contribute to successful messaging. You want the image to be relevant to the target audience, so a deep understanding of the audience as individuals is needed. The right image can sometimes speak louder than any words could so make sure your image is speaking correctly.  

An example of this is an ad for Kurl-On mattresses, created by Ogilvy, attempting to depict their mattress as helping to “bounce back” into life. This image did not bounce back positive feedback. 

Avoid subjectivity 

Listen to the numbers, not your personal judgments. Data is your friend when helping to identify common traits between your brand and the intended market. Accurate data can help break down generalizations and stereotypes. For instance, what do you think is the average age of a gamer? According to The Internet Advertising Bureau (UK), over a quarter of all gamers are over 45-years-old, and 52 percent are women. Before assuming anything, look at the numbers.