The use of stereotypes in advertising is old. Since brands try to increase sales, they have made use of these often simplistic or erroneous conceptions about groups of people, which do not take into account the particularities of each individual within that group.
With the advent of the digital age , the way companies execute their advertising strategies has changed considerably.
Instead of shooting messages to large audiences from the mass media to large audiences, there is now the possibility of reaching specific niches with greater buying potential.
Does this mean that stereotypes in advertising are no longer relevant? We will talk about the topic in this article. Continue reading!
What is a stereotype?
Let's start by defining what a stereotype is. According to the RAE dictionary, a stereotype is an image or idea commonly accepted by a group or society with an immutable character.
These images are created based on certain social characteristics such as gender, age, income level, physical appearance, religion, among others.
Although advertising uses harmless stereotypes such as men with mustaches to represent shopkeepers.
In general terms, stereotypes have a negative connotation as they are associated with the spread of prejudices about people or their roles in society.
An example is that of traditional Brazilian breweries, which often use images of women in bikinis to attract the attention of the audience, which contributes to associate the image of the Brazilian woman with this type of figure that appears in advertisements.
Characteristics of advertising stereotypes
Brands that make use of stereotypes in their advertising strategies must be careful, since these turn out to be " segmentation shortcuts " that can communicate the wrong message to an unreceptive audience.
So, stereotypes in advertising:
- simplify the characteristics of a target audience ;
- they do not know the particularities of the people within a target;
- segment audiences broadly based on incorrect biases;
- reinforce existing social roles.
Let's look at some examples below.
7 examples of stereotypes in advertising
1. The woman is in charge of the housework
This is one of the most widespread stereotypes in advertising. There are countless advertisements for china soaps, floor cleaners, detergents, appliances or kitchen products that have women as protagonists.
They are the ones who wash, cook, clean and, in general, who must take care of the whole family. The controversy is that the role of women has changed radically in recent decades.
With her entry into the labor market in the mid-twentieth century, women have opened up a space to develop other facets of their lives beyond home and family.
2. Boys are explorers and girls are princesses
Toy stores are among the companies that use gender stereotypes the most in their advertising.
In their ads they show restless, adventurous and self-confident boys, while girls are tidy, obedient and dreaming of finding a Prince Charming. In this way, they exclude other behaviors that boys or girls may have.
3. Sports are for the enjoyment of young men
Advertising claims that all men are sports fans. The ads show—almost exclusively—a group of young men with beers euphorically cheering on their teams at soccer games.
These advertisements are unaware, for example, that sports activities can be enjoyed as a family or can be practiced by women or by people of any age.
4. Women should always look beautiful
Gender stereotypes in advertising show women an ideal of beauty that is difficult to achieve.
Slim and toned bodies or long, perfectly combed hair are constant images in many advertisements that go through all the media . This stereotype denies other types of bodies, appearances and styles of women.
5. Women don't drive big cars.
When you see ads for big off-road trucks, how many of those driving are women?
In these ads — sometimes sexist — only men drive these types of adventure-related vehicles, while women, if they appear in the ads, drive small cars in the city.
6. Only men know about technology
In ads where cell phones, computers or technological gadgets appear , men are mostly the protagonists.
In addition, the use of these articles also varies according to gender. While women use them for selfies or keeping in touch with their loved ones, men perform more specialized functions.
7. The man is strong and successful
As with women, stereotypes in advertising have attributed certain values to men. Their role is to show strength, emotional stability, dominance and courage.
Thus, it is common to see advertisements where men run companies, go on adventures or throw themselves into risky situations without fear.
Do stereotypes work in the digital marketing scenario?
Basically, the relationship between stereotypes and advertising can be understood from two points:
- Brands try to sell an unattainable ideal, maximizing the consumer's need to satisfy it with their products.
- Brands respond to stereotypes, embrace differences and show that their products can be used without distinction.
Although stereotypes in advertising have been used successfully in the past, the marketing landscape is transforming.
In the digital age, society has become more critical of the advertising pieces that brands produce. They rightly defend gender equality and freedom of expression, making the use of stereotypes a thing of the past.
For this reason, it is increasingly common to find ads that move away from stereotypes and focus on the specific characteristics of people, segmenting them into specific groups.
In fact, new concepts and strategies have appeared in digital marketing that respond to this new reality, such as buyer personas — as opposed to the target audience — or hyper- segmentation .
In short, the use of stereotypes in advertising has been transformed. Instead of promoting them, brands can now use them as a basis to show that other lifestyles are possible.
Likewise, brands have learned to know their customers, their particular needs and interests to create specific segments and reach them with relevant messages, abandoning prejudices in the face of a more critical and demanding society.