Do Marketing Stereotypes Kill your Customer Experience?

by Jeannie Walters

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marketing stereotypesThere has been a lot of talk lately about gender stereotypes- in politics, in education, in parenting, and in marketing. And it has made me start thinking about how marketing stereotypes affect the customer experience.

Gender stereotyping is a common way customers are segmented for marketing purposes, to a certain degree. But what happens when those stereotypes show through your marketing materials and to your customers?

According to Barbara Bailey, PhD and June Castello, MSc:

…media houses do a disservice to men and women by conveying the impression that the hegemonic representations of masculinity and femininity, as well as, the power vested in each, are the exemplars.

Consumers are smarter than ever today. They are more critical of marketing materials, and the validity of these stereotypes are dissolving more and more each day. The “typical” consumer is no longer typical.  But these stereotypes prevail in advertising, nonetheless.

marketing stereotypes
Google gets it.

Watch just about any commercial for cleaning products. Mom is a dynamo who has a handle on all things domestic while Dad is a clumsy, dim-witted slob. But in the end, Mom cleans up the milk INTENTIONALLY spilled by the bratty seven-year-old, whose punishment should begin with cleaning up the mess. And Dad is out the door with his briefcase- off to do man stuff!

What does an ad like this really say?

Women: Housework stinks, but you’re so good at it! Go, Mom! And it’s easier now with this new product. Be proud- you’re the only one in this family who is intelligent and responsible enough to do it correctly and everything would fall apart without you.

Men: Any attempt to help with cleaning will emasculate you. We know you’re completely useless unless there’s something heavy to carry or the car needs a tune-up. Get going before you say something stupid and Mom rolls her eyes again!

marketing stereotypes

Stereotypes do not make real personas.

For someone who happens to fit this “super mom” profile, an ad like this might be appealing. I, however, will never purchase this product because of the disrespectful approach at the “ideal” family dynamic. I’m not an idiot, and I don’t need a woman to keep my life in working order. The company has taken a cheap shot at appealing to their target consumer at my expense, and my customer experience ends here.

Who is missing from your customer experience?

Simply put, your segments and survey data may show you who is spending the most money on your product- today. But they will not tell you who would have bought your product tomorrow IF they didn’t find your ad insulting, or at best, irrelevant.

So when you create a marketing campaign, think not only of whom you are targeting, but whom you are excluding. Think about why those segments are not a part your company’s real money makers. It may not be worth the investment to design marketing campaigns to target those groups specifically, but it’s certainly worth your while to at least consider them as real customers.

Are you shutting tomorrow’s customers out of the experience?

Image credits: Graham Richardson (modified), Traci Gardner via Creative Commons license 

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, LinkedIn Learning instructor, TEDx speaker, and President-Elect of the National Speakers Association Illinois chapter. Learn more here.

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