How Does the Media Portrayal of Minority Groups Affect Their Identity?

By SarahjonesPosted August 30, 2011

In the current era of technology and media development we are witnessing a socio-cultural shift in how media portrays minority groups in advertising.  Historically, minority groups were often ignored within media representation entirely.  In cases where they were depicted, the representations used often situated minorities at the margins of culture or “subservient to their Anglican counterparts” (Mason, 1998).

Today we are witnessing a shift in how marketers approach minority communities.  These communities have become an increasingly large demographic population with higher projected growth rates in western European countries. As a result these segments have become increasingly attractive to marketers and we are beginning to see advertisers target these groups with specialised marketing communication messages.

There is major evidence that warns marketers against targeting explicitly to minority groups within mainstream media as this can have negative effects on their brand. As a consequence of this they are using techniques such as ‘dual marketing’ – where implicit cues are placed in the ad which are picked up by the minority audience yet go unnoticed by everyone else. These cues can be anything from music, scenery, outfits or actors. There is a problem however; there is nothing to say that the marketer’s interpretation of the minority culture he/she is representing is a fair one – for the cues to be picked up they must be recognisable and it is not uncommon for them to be based on unfair stereotypes; a fault which unintentionally perpetuates them.

Rohingya refugees in the Nayapara camp

The stereotyped representations of minority groups will certainly affect the way the targeted customer views the brand, this is because there is no group that’s entirely homogenous. Think about it, your group of friends may all be male, white and between the ages of 20-25 yet you’re not all the same are you? You do’’t all use the same products, enjoy the same music or wear the same clothes. This is concurrent among any group, minority or not. The theory of social identity which states that “people tend to classify themselves and others into social categories, some of which are defined by demographic factors such as age, gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation” must not be confused with group homogeneity.

It is therefore apparent that marketers need to be aware of the individuality within minority groups as well as the difference between representations in current media and in reality. In attempting to reach the targets successfully marketers should be encouraged to represent a number of different lifestyles across the minority spectrum rather than the tired, judgemental techniques they currently have in place.