#BernieSandersMadeMeWhite: How to Lose Friends & Alienate Customers

Following Bernie Sanders’ surprising wins in the Alaska, Hawaii and Washington State caucuses last Sunday, freelance writer Leslie Lee III tweeted “Ever since I voted for Bernie, I’ve been binge watching Friends. #BernieSandersMadeMeWhite.” Going viral within minutes, the hashtag, though intended to be playful, has sparked a more serious discourse about the ludicrosity of characterizing entire demographics as supporters or non-supporters of a certain political candidate.

Lee told NPR, “There’s always been these articles about how Bernie supporters are basically only white people.” As both a Bernie supporter and a person of color, Lee defies that generalization, but people like him are largely excluded from the conversation because they don’t fit the media-purported profile of a “person of color” voter.

The sad truth is that it may be unavoidable in politics to rely on demographic themes to identify areas of strength and weakness; however, using this information as the basis for customer targeting and engagement is totally avoidable for brands. What speaks louder than demographic statistics with no context? The actions your customers have taken–how they’ve interacted with your website and mobile app, the offers they’ve responded to, their purchase history and more.

Starting with “women” or “Hispanics” as your point  A is an ineffective way to get to point B; in fact, that point A simply doesn’t lead to point B. The route is nonexistent.

When brands use those data points as the basis for their marketing they inevitably alienate the people that don’t meet them, but would otherwise be interested in purchasing their product. Some brands have recognized this and have resultingly shifted their strategy to be more inclusive. For example, Mattel released an ad for its limited-edition Moschino Barbie that featured–for the first time 56 years–a little boy (with a blond faux-hawk no less) (Digiday). 

Aside from making a social commentary, brands that focus less on demographic points like gender also open themselves up to a wider potential customer base. That being said, simply being inclusive isn’t exactly what will reel in the customers. It’s the moments along the customer journey that brands use instead and how (and how quickly) they follow up that makes the real impact.

Just like Leslie Lee III isn’t a stoned Sophomore at UVM, your customer isn’t just a gender or ethnicity. They’re an individual with preferences and habits. Takes notes on where they’ve gone and what they’ve done and you can lead them to where you want them to go next.

Agile Marketing 2016.

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