Our brains employ stereotypes to simplify the world around us and reduce the burden of complex thinking (Mcleod, 2023). In other words, stereotypes serve as mental shortcuts that facilitate information processing.
Stereotypes can originate from both positive and negative sources. They assist us in thinking and expedite our response time by allowing us to compare events to our past experiences. However, stereotypes can also blind us to differences and narrow our thinking.
Dealing with stereotypes is no easy task, as is evident from our surroundings. The world is rife with examples of marketing and communication campaigns that have stumbled due to stereotypes.
Stereotypes are an integral part of target group thinking
In impactful and effective communication, the aim is to tap into relatability. This entails using appropriate imagery, colors, emotional landscapes, and stories tailored to the target group. Identifying relevant aspects for the target group is based on generalizations, or stereotypes, and analyses derived from collected data.
Typically, messages have multiple target groups, which is why some consider target group thinking to be outdated (e.g., Saarinen, 2017). The proposed solution is to segment the group and consider their needs in the messages. In my opinion, this is still target group thinking, albeit on a smaller scale.
While empirical experience still plays a role in target group thinking, a genuine understanding of the target group comes from collected and analyzed data. The target group consists of profiles that are constructed using statistical regularities, common factors, recurring phenomena, and dependencies.
Believe it or not, data is your ally
It is evident that not every organization has the resources to implement algorithm-based, personalized communication or sophisticated data-driven segmentation. However, data can still be their friend. Even basic web analytics tools nowadays provide information that enables communication analysis.
For instance, with free tools like Google Analytics, one can ascertain readers’ demographic information such as gender, age, and location. It also provides insights into content reach, clicks, customer journeys, devices used, reading times, and other website behaviors.
By analyzing this data alone, communication can be enhanced, and more holistic perspectives of visitors as target groups can be pieced together. Thus, instead of relying on universally known generalizations, individuals can create their own stereotypes from positive sources and construct key messages based on specific interests.
By tailoring communication to suit the target group, messages generate greater interest and support goals, even though some may perceive it as amplifying the impact by relying on outdated stereotypes.
Mcleod, S. (2023). Stereotypes In Psychology: Theory & Examples. Simply Psychology. Wigan.
Saarinen, O. (2017). Vain vaipoilla on selkeä kohderyhmä – haudatkaa äkkiä kohderyhmäajattelu!. Kauppalehti. Alma Talent Oy. Helsinki.