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Stereotypes and Advertising
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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Our brains are wonderful. The brain is able to operate in two states: the conscious and the unconscious. Thankfully for our sake, most of our important functions — regulating heartbeat, breathing, maintaining senses, and balance — all happen in the unconscious part, meaning we have no active part in telling our heat to beat, or telling our lungs to breathe. This allows for our conscious part to enjoy life and label parts of the environment that we regularly interact with.

But, as wonderful as our brains are, we get overwhelmed with data and information. Because of that, we use shortcuts. That is where stereotypes and generalizations come in.

In order to keep in as much information as possible, we break our environment down into tidbits to make sure we remember. We lose the details and try to memorize the overall theme. Then, as we share our thoughts and memories to others, information gets distorted.

Why is this important? Because in advertising, we are charged to make sure the right information is sent to the right audience. If someone wants to try our client's or brand's good or service, we must make sure that they do so under the right pretense. Therefore we must account for any misinterpretation of the facts, counter, and make sure the right image and message are out to be seen.

Stereotypes are popular when it comes to describing different cultures. When talking about the French or the English, it is much easier to pass on a general label than to spend time describing the intricacies of their cultures. 

No, they would sound too much like us. 

Take a look at an ad that via Berlin is running. It pokes fun at all the silly stereotypes of different countries, and encourages the audience to make up your own mind. Book a flight.

It's funny, and it takes interested consumers to the Berlin Airport website so they can see the latest flights going in and out of Europe.

Stereotypes, and the challenging or mocking of them, force us to challenge our preconceived notions. That's a good thing. If we continually feel comfortable about what we know and what we don't know, how could our human society progress?

It's not bad to feel a little uncomfortable now and then.

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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