Birds of a Feather …Should Consider the Other Feathers

An article in PCMag recently listed the top 100 people you should follow on Twitter.  The authors broke down the list into a wide variety of categories including politicians, comedians, and sports figures.  As an expert in cultural marketing I found it curious that, of the Twitter Top 100 who had their photo on their newsfeed, the majority were Caucasian with a fairly balanced ratio of men and women.  Ironically, the authors of the article were Caucasian: one male and two females. Twitter

This is not the first time I’ve noticed such a scenario.  In fact this revelation was instrumental in helping me define my dissertation topic.  Approximately three years ago I came across a Twitter Top 100 list that had photos of all the nominees.  The author, again judging by his photo, was a Caucasian male around 35 years old.  The list he compiled was approximately 85% Caucasian males between 25-40.  The remaining 15% were, what I would call, token representation of women, African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanics, as well as a few other non-Caucasian ethnic groups.  Now, the US population is not 85% Caucasian males between 25-40, so I questioned how this list could truly be accurate.  Do we ALL follow individuals in this age, gender, and ethnic group?  I think not.  Do I think any of the authors mentioned here were being prejudicial?  No.  I do believe, though, that they did not have adequate diversity because of what I call the Birds of a Feather Principle.

The proverb “Birds of a feather will flock together” means that people of the same sort or with the same tastes and interests will be found together.  Clearly the authors I’ve mentioned are identifying with other individuals of the same ethnic group.  However, considering that the percentages of the top three minority groups in the US (Hispanic, African American, and Asian America) are growing, we marketers need to recognize the growing importance of diversity in marketing.  Ethnic marketing, though, goes beyond just having, for example, a spokesperson of a targeted ethnic group.  Successful marketing under this umbrella taps into unique cultural nuances without stereotyping.  When marketing to a specific population, the campaign elements should demonstrate an understanding of, and respect for, the culture, as well as how the product or service supports that culture…and it needs to be genuine.  An astute marketer will invest time to understand the language, wants, needs, and fears of its target audience, then adapt the product or service accordingly, as needed.


Now I’ve used ethnicity in this discussion of diversity marketing, however, diversity can also be applied to age groups (i.e. Generation X, Millenials, Baby Boomers) as well as sexual orientation. The same basic rules, as mentioned above, still apply.  The values, experiences, expectations, and ways of interacting can be quite different depending upon the sub group…and the marketing should specifically address these.  Adapt the message to the market, not the market to the message.

Diversity marketing is fundamentally about communicating with people who aren’t like you—and who aren’t like you in a variety of ways.  Birds of a feather may flock together, but realizing that different feathers exist may be a start to opening untapped opportunities into new markets.

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