Nonprofits — unless specifically focused on servicing or mobilizing a particular ethnic population — increasingly must communicate with an ethnically diverse audience.

And a real trap when marketers and communicators begin to plan how to reach this diverse audience — especially when all the planners are the same color — is to break it down into segments driven by ethnicity-based stereotypes.

Why is that a mistake? Because it distracts us — and ultimately our prospect — from the underlying need we are trying to address or tap into with our message or product.

This point is argued here eloquently by Gary Nelson, associate creative director at digital ad agency Organic.

A few of his observations:

  • “In today's era of consumption, most consumer needs (both retail and beyond) are cross-cultural … Begin with asking the question … Is there a way to reach our desired demo without focusing on a perceived cultural difference, but rather, on a shared cross-cultural consumer need?”
  • (Use of cultural stereotypes) … “assumes consumers are incapable of any kind of empathy for those of a different ethnicity.”
  • “What if it's not a familiar ethnic face that consumers are looking for, but a socioeconomic peer? It's likely that consumers identify with subjects in advertisements (Ed: And I'd add … in any story aimed at educating or persuading) that dwell in their own social strata.”
  • “Targeting consumers by a characteristic of race is fundamentally dehumanizing, as if the color of a person's skin is more relevant than his actual needs and desires.”
  • “If something feels like a stereotype, it probably is.”
  • “This isn't just sensitivity and enlightenment; it's good business. Nothing fades into the background faster than overly familiar cliches.”

Good points … give Gary a read.


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