Friday, November 25, 2011
Target Markets and Stereotypes: The Hidden Side Effects of Market Segmentation
By the end of this December, I will have completed my fourth course in Northwestern University’s Integrate Marketing Communications program. Throughout these four courses, one of the most prominent concepts that always seems to reappear is the idea of a “target market”. It is one most foundational principles of marketing, and hard to avoid in any marketing class. What is a target market? Most of the time, a target market is roughly defined as the group of people who are most likely to buy from you and the customers that the business has decided to aim its marketing efforts at.
Thinking in terms of target markets is essential to market segmentation and would be foolish for any marketer to do without. But at some point, we have to wonder: Are we marketing to stereotypes of simply segmenting? Or both? By identifying a target market, we accept the idea that a certain group of people behave and think differently than the rest, and that the individuals within this group carry some significant degree of homogeneity. The concept of individuality is severely diminished by this mentality. Marketing aimed at a specific ethnic group is one of the worst offenders of crossing the line between stereotyping and segmentation. By trying to appeal to a Hispanic, Asian, African-American or any other ethnic market, marketers often resort to stereotypes when trying to create a message that will be most relevant to this group. Often times, these marketing efforts simply come off as being racist and even end up offending that group.
As marketers, we are trained to identify recurring patterns within characteristics and behaviors. Unfortunately, unless we choose to foolishly ignore these trends, resorting to some degree of stereotyping may just be a necessary evil to effective marketing.
Undergraduate IMC Student