Marketing is all about segmenting so that you have viable “buckets” of customers for whom you can develop product or service offerings, get a reasonable price as you communicate your offering and deliver it without excessive cost. “Stereotyping” is thus at the heart of conventional marketing and it is “stereotyping” that is at the core of diversity issues in organizations.
In a March 12, 2012 HBR blog post Peter Bregman makes a great point about why “diversity training” does not work. It does not work because it tries to segment colleagues into “buckets” and then tells folks how to be more sensitive about what they say. Naturally, any form of negative segmentation of people you already know and work with turns out to be counterproductive and is perceived as disrespectful. Bregman suggests that communication training works better than traditional diversity training because it helps you identify and treat every individual as a person and not as a part of a bucket,segment or stereotype.
And if you think about it, there is really no contradiction in the segmentation idea in marketing and diversity training. For “segmentation of one” is the ultimate mantra in marketing. If only you could economically deal with each customer individually- you would. Pre-Internet sales calls would be really expensive but today digital marketing allows you to customize the customer experience as in Amazon.com. So marketing is moving to a micro-segment approach that tends to treating every customer as an individual which is what exactly the Peter Bregman post is about. And it probably is far easier to treat each organizational colleague you interact with as an individual first, and work on avoiding stereotypes.Far easier than the individualized approach for customers outside the organization.