The idea of stereotypes generally holds a negative connotation. As individuals we don’t like the idea of being put into a box. We are highly unique and don’t want people to make assumptions about who we are based on what we look like, how we talk, or what activities we choose to engage in.
But these assumptions may not be such a bad thing. When you see breaking news about a scientific discovery you typically (or stereotypically?) see a geeky scientist giving his expert opinion, the more geeky the more you trust him because you assume that “people like him” are devoted to their area of study.
And this is how our brain works. We have a database of stereotypes that come from past experiences as well as mass media portrayals and as an individual you are constantly using these stereotypes to make sense of the world.
When you meet someone for the first time the only information you have to process about who they are is what you can gather at first glance. You instantaneously make judgements about their personality, their reliability, and whether you relate to them.
These are the same judgements that people are making about you and your brand at first glance.
They immediately decide whether or not to consider you or your service as a viable option to solve their problem. That initial perception earns you enough trust for them to engage you and explore your brand further.
Can opinions change? Of course! That initial judgement is just a starting point until they get to know you or your brand.
Stereotypes are a survival mechanism that help us find friends that we get along with, hire people we can trust, and avoid danger.
When you’re creating your brand you need to decide how you want to be perceived, and you can use these stereotypes to your advantage either by playing into them or playing against them.
On the other hand just by being yourself you will automatically be playing into or against a stereotype.
- Be yourself and you’ll attract others like you, they fit into your stereotype. How often do you see a couple walking through the mall that look like they were made for each other? They belong to the same stereotype.
- Be yourself and you’ll attract those that are looking for you. Just like in the example of the geeky scientist, he may not be someone you relate to on a personal level but he’s who you’re looking to for answers when you don’t understand something.
- Be yourself and you’ll stand out. Some people just don’t fit the typical stereotype and that can be to their advantage because it makes them stand out. Take Danica Patrick for example, she’s a gorgeous, athletic woman and not someone you would peg for driving sports cars.
They key here is to be aware of and make use of stereotypes instead of trying to avoid them. You need to decide how you want to be perceived and put enough information out there to intrigue the right prospects and invite them to get to know you further.
What do you think about stereotypes and branding, have you had negative or positive experiences? Leave your thoughts in the comments!