We all know her. You’ve seen her in advertisements. She’s in her mid 30’s to early 40’s. She drives a minivan. She lives in the suburbs. She has a husband who means well, but she’s the one who’s really in charge. Her life is focused around her kids – doing their laundry, driving them to the ball field, juggling housework and cooking duties. Her days are filled with important choices like: choosing the right soft drinks, finding laundry detergent that gets stains out, buying breakfast cereal that’s healthy, but which the kids will actually eat. You have a clear picture of her in your head, right? She’s a soccer mom. There are millions of her out there. She’s a prime target for advertisers. There’s just one problem….
She doesn’t exist.
Are there women out there with these traits? Yes, there are. Are there women out there who make these same choices? You bet. But what we see portrayed are stereotypes. Stereotypes make sense because they are largely based in truth. So what’s the problem? By stereotyping, you may not have a deep enough understanding of who your customers really are, what they really want and how to communicate with them. The lives these women live are so much deeper, richer and more complicated than what the “soccer mom” stereotype would lead you to believe.
ster·e·o·type n. )
- A conventional, formulaic, and oversimplified conception, opinion, or image.
- One that is regarded as embodying or conforming to a set image or type.
Stereotypes of women in the media abound. And it’s not just advertisements. You have only to look at prime time TV to see stereotypes of women in the media. In the article “Primetime Stereotyping: Social Psychological Effects on an Impressionable Culture” authors Pamela Davis, Lisa Russell, Amber Ruth and Robert woods discuss stereotypes in television.
If I were to tell you that I resemble a hippy woman from the 60’s, you would definitely be able to come up with a mental image of me, right! Flowers in my long, flowing hair, a tie-dyed T-shirt, and bell bottom pants. I am a free spirit, and an open minded Liberal.
Perhaps the description helps you get a mental image of myself. By creating such mental pictures and having a preconceived notion of what a hippy looks like, and what characteristics he or she has, you are using the cognitive short cut called stereotyping. We utilize stereotypes in everyday life to reduce the amount of information we need to analyze. Our world is so complex that we need to categorize who and what we come into contact with on a daily basis.
People tend to use stereotypes to "fill in" details about a person if they are not a member of their in-group and they do not possess the motivation to get to know them on a more personal basis.
Check out the full article about stereotypes of women in the media.
Stereotypes are a shortcut that may prevent you from doing the important research to truly understand and communicate with your customers.
So, how do you overcome stereotypes of women in the media? And specifically – how can you overcome stereotypes of women in the media who are shopping online? That’s the 287.2 billion dollar question.