May 7, 2018

Stereotyping Your Target Market?

Don’t Stereotype Your Target Marketing Persona

When you start a marketing campaign, one of the first decisions you make is who your target audience is. This invariably leads to the creation of a marketing persona, which isn’t a bad thing. In fact, marketing personas are necessary to identify clearly your ideal customer. However, you have to be careful how you create that persona.

When visualizing your target marketing persona, you will most likely make generalizations. Everyone has unique characteristics, and it would be impossible to target specifically to individuals so you can expect some assumptions and generalizations. But what you want to avoid is stereotypes. Remember, for your message to matter, it must reach real people. Not clichés.

Stereotypes take the broadest assumptions and remove any room for individuality. Mostly, when you target a stereotype, you are looking at your audience in black and white terms, rather than recognizing the gray areas that fall in the middle. Put bluntly, this is lazy and ineffective marketing and has a good chance of failing. Not only are stereotypes likely to miss the mark with your target audience, but it may actually insult and alienate them, leading to a marketing campaign failure of Titanic proportions (talk about a cliche).

If you want your message to fall on deaf ears, then by all means consider targeting one of the stereotypes below. However, if you want to market effectively, considering diving deeper into who it is that purchases your company’s products or services.

10 Marketing Persona Stereotypes We Should Remove from Advertising

Technology, data tracking, and analytics have all made it easier for marketers to pinpoint their target audience and create a relatively detailed marketing persona. However, you’ll still need to make some generalizations along the way. It is when you take those generalizations to the extreme that you’re likely to run into trouble. Can we all agree it is time to retire the following stereotypes from marketing campaigns?

1. The Doofus Dad

Sure, dads can be goofy, and moms are more often than not the reliable head-of-the-household. But does that mean we have to portray dads as doofuses who can’t get anything done without help? Let’s cut the fathers out there some slack and stop portraying them as clueless and unreliable.

2. The Overworked Mom

Moms tend to be at the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to stereotypes. Moms are the women who do it all – vacuuming the house while taking a conference call, and chasing her toddler through the kitchen. All of this while wearing rumpled pajamas stained with food or professional business attire. Let’s get rid of this extreme stereotype and start recognizing that mothers can, in fact, balance their lives.

3. The Frat Boy

If you’re a male in your 20s you must love to drink beer, eat pizza, watch sports (while playing fantasy sports), and drool over scantily-clad women, right? That’s what the majority of campaigns would have you think. It’s another two-dimensional cliché that is just an insult to your audience.

4. The Complete Slob

Everyone has a little mess in their life, but do we need to market cleaning supplies and air fresheners by portraying the audience as if they all just walked out of an episode of Hoarders? Let’s not overlook that the majority of slobs represented in ads are overweight, frat-boyish, and clueless men.

5. The Girl-Next-Door Supermodel

Who cleans the house, goes to work, or eats a burger looking like they’ve been made up for a centerfold shoot? And who exactly is this marketing strategy supposed to appeal to? Say good-bye to the supermodel stereotype and try to connect with your audience in more realistic terms.

6. The Overly Optimistic

This person seems to have a perfect life – they love cooking, cleaning, working, and, of course, the product they are touting. While you want to praise your brand, this overload of optimism just comes off as forced and phony. A little bit of honesty and transparency can go a long way.

7. The Klutz

For every advertisement featuring the overly optimistic and perfect, there’s another that gives us a total klutz. This person is so over-the-top-accident-prone that you wonder how they manage even the simplest tasks. If you fumble that much with a jar of tomato sauce, how are you still alive? Is your audience supposed to relate to this person, or just feel better about themselves? Either way, it doesn’t work.

8. The Rough and Tumble Boy

Even kids are not immune from the world of marketing stereotypes. While more marketers seem to be going away from girly-girl stereotypes, boys are still predominantly portrayed as rough, dirty, and troublesome. That “boys will be boys” mentality tends to miss the mark with today’s audience. Such messages tend to depict behavior that is either inaccurate or just no longer endorsed and accepted.

9. The Confused

“Wait, I can get this product for how much?” Or, “Oh, so that’s how my mop works!” These are just some of the typical pontifications of the confused consumer. The problem is, none of us are actually that confused by such simple concepts, so this degrading stereotype isn’t likely to connect with your audience. As with the Klutz, is your audience supposed to relate with this persona or feel superior to it?

10. The Millennial

As much as we would all like to believe that Millennials are iPhone-loving, beard-wearing, Snapchatting hipsters (or are they insecure, live at home tech addicts who lack boundaries between their work and private lives?), the simple fact of the matter is that Millennials are a diverse demographic 75 million strong. It’s time that marketers accept this fact.

By definition, a marketing persona is a generalization (albeit a detailed one) of your target audience, so we’re not suggesting you refrain from making assumptions about your consumer. You have to. However, to successfully connect with your audience you need to avoid the type of extreme generalizations that put your marketing campaigns in the world of stereotypes. Consumers see right through these clichés, so you’ll need to raise the bar if you want a successful marketing campaign.

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