There is a thin line between demographic segmentation and stereotype marketing. Demographic targeting is one of the most common marketing segmentation tactics used to identify primary customer groups for targeted marketing. On the other hand, consumer stereotyping is a negative practice that expounds on uncertain and unfounded social stereotype to market to a particular demography. This paper argues that consumer stereotyping is an ineffective way to market goods and services because it relies on unsupported assumptions, it can be offensive and exposes business to unnecessary risk.
Consumer stereotyping is ineffective because it has no basis in research or empirical practice. Stereotypes rely on generalized assumptions about a particular group of people identified by gender, education level, race, religion, or any other differentiating factor. Stereotype marketing designs campaigns that propagate these assumptions with the intention of appealing to the targeted consumer segment (Zawisza & Marco 1769). While targeted marketing is a common practice in marketing, stereotyping generalizes the public and makes unfounded and often offensive conclusions about them. Effective marketing requires extensive, ongoing research on the market in order to capture accurately the current market tastes, preferences, and values (Zawisza & Marco 1770). Advertisements that rely on a stereotype to sell a product or service are essentially engaging in blind marketing because there is no market research supporting market segmentation into stereotypical groups. Examples of unfounded perceptions often propagated in marketing are assuming that women are homemakers and that men are car experts.
Secondly, consumer stereotyping can be offensive to the audience leading to a backlash that effectively defeats the purpose of marketing. People have the right to take offense when a marketing campaign makes assumptions about who they are, what they do, and how they do it. Since stereotypes are generalized assumptions, there is no justification for propagating them in any piece of advertising. Stereotypes are prone to offend and elicit a negative reaction because they are unfounded conclusions about a group of people without any basis or proof. In two experiments conducted by Lee, Hakkun & Kathleen (343), they concluded that when an individual is aware of stereotypes against them, they tend to perceive the service provider from an in-group (us) versus outgroup (them) perception. Consumers lowered their purchasing intentions when the seller belonged to the outgroup. This reluctance to purchase from an out-group was due to the anxiety of fulfilling the prevailing stereotypes. A marketer should avoid offending the public, or making them anxious, otherwise they risk losing the same people they intend to sell their products and services (Zawisza & Marco 1773. Stereotyping may seem like an approach to targeted marketing but it is indeed a sign of poor market research, and therefore, an indication of unprofessionalism. A professional marketer should avoid using stereotypes at all costs.
Furthermore, demographic stereotyping poses a myriad of risks for businesses that employ them in marketing. First, stereotyping targeted customers can easily miss the mark because stereotypes are broad generalizations. According to Zawisza & Marco (1769), market segmentation is a deliberate process that seeks to divide a large market population into small homogenous groups for marketing purposes. If a marketer applies a stereotype for a marketing campaign, they cannot measure accurately the reach of their campaign because there is no way to measure what stereotypes will resonate with which audiences. Secondly, businesses risk losing money from inefficient marketing strategies because of the blind nature of a stereotypical marketing strategy. Stereotypes are expensive and inefficient in marketing because not all products and services are suited to all customers, and since there are limited resources for marketing, stereotypical marketing is an unnecessary business risk. Lastly, stereotypes bear negative social connotations particularly in an information driven society where people constantly challenge assumptions, biases, and prejudices. A business risks turning an impartial audience into a hostile audience simply by propagating stereotypes in their advertising. Furthermore, public uproar can easily turn even the most loyal customers away from a companys products or services. Therefore, the risks of using stereotypical segmentation in marketing are higher than any perceived benefits of making assumptions about the specific group of people
Marketing decisions rely on assumptions and research about consumer behavior with regard to particular products and services. Marketers must contend with the notion that their consumers are highly dynamic and selective because they seek products and services that will give them the highest value for the lowest price. Similarly, they must balance between company goals, aspirations, and budgetary limits. For some marketers, stereotyping is the most affordable approach to market segmentation because it identifies common social perceptions about a group of people. However, the risk of offending these people by exploiting an unfounded assumption about them and the subsequent cost of damage control is higher than the cost of paying for a proper market research. The greatest challenge for marketers is to identify the ideal marketing segment for their products and services. Market segmentation is different from market stereotyping because market segmentation is deliberate and purposeful while stereotyping is generalized and subjective. Marketers should avoid consumer stereotyping because it is an ineffective way to market goods and services because assumptions lack empirical evidence, they can be offensive and could expose businesses to a myriad of risks.
Lee, Kyoungmi, Hakkyun Kim, and Kathleen D. Vohs. "Professor Of Marketing At The Arizona State University, W. P. Carey School Of Business, Tempe AZ." Journal Of Consumer Research 38.2 (2011): 343-357. Academic Search Premier. Web. 23 Nov. 2015.
Zawisza, Magdalena, and Marco Cinnirella. "What Matters MoreBreaking Tradition Or Stereotype Content? Envious And Paternalistic Gender Stereotypes And Advertising Effectiveness." Journal Of Applied Social Psychology 40.7 (2010): 1767-1797. Academic Search Premier. Web. 23 Nov. 2015.
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