Patterns of People: Identity Stripped
By Adriane Borden
Society is shifting from traditional roles and stereotypes to a new division of subsets. We’re redefining the spectrum of identities that make up an individual. Traditional stereotypes of self identity are dispersing and being re-examined. Because brands always seek to understand who their consumers are in order to design and market to them, they are now being challenged to evolve their understanding of identity, and their consumers, as new personal subsets are becoming relevant. Now, identities are being recognized as multi-layered and shape shifting definitions that will evolve throughout time. No longer can the boxes of gender, sex, race, religion, or location be easily checked.
Curious how this trend is coming to life today? Read on.
SPECTRUM OF IDENTITY
It has always been human nature to explore the full continuum of possible identities. Tech-enabled global connections have redefined how we self-identify. Humans naturally desire to have a sense of belonging, whether by identifying with a group of people, a family, a tribe or like-minds. The ability to build a global community has flipped our traditional notions on their head.
Time named “Identity” as 2015’s Word of the Year. “Many of the year’s biggest stories focused on the way in which individuals or members of a group are perceived, understood, accepted or shut out.” Scientist have also recently uncovered that there is a spectrum of gender identity: “Neuroscience Proves What We’ve Known All Along: Gender Exists on a Spectrum.” Instead of generalizing groups of people, look to psychographics, mindsets, and behaviors to promote more omnicultural platforms.
SUBSETS, NOT STEREOTYPES
As a society, we make generalizations about others; it’s how our brains are wired to work. How will we classify people in a new world where stereotypes are no longer applicable? Our population is continuing to become more gray. A new census study shows that mixed-race individuals are becoming the second-fastest-growing racial group in the US, behind the Asian population. People increasingly see themselves as a part of many sub-groups, not just one. Popular 2016 Disney movie Zootopia acknowledges and questions stereotypes, reflecting this new, grayer world in which we live. Get to know your consumer beyond traditional demographics. Get into their subsets not stereotypes.
Not only are people choosing how they want to be defined, they’re also changing what their personal brand is at any moment. Millennials don’t want to be labeled as minorities, feminists, patriotic or even as millennial. They do not want to be identified in any particular bucket. Social media has allowed us to seamlessly shift our online identities across platforms, but there has been a simultaneous backlash from some brands and public figures against this ability to alter who you are online. From retailers signing anti-photoshop pledges to models and celebrities posting “natural” photos of themselves on their personal accounts, there is a vocal pushback against people manipulating their looks online—but not yet a disdain for manipulating your identity online. In reaction to this backlash against bucketing identities and marketing to them, ‘debranding’ has become the brand and design of the future, “stripping a brand to its core.” Market to a relevant state of mind. Allow your brand to represent different things in context of what your consumers are experiencing in life. Pay attention to when the landscape of drivers change, and update during those times
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