At my eye appointment, today, the optometrist was intrigued by my surname and asked where I was from, originally. When I replied ‘Portuguese’, he said ‘Ah, yes, Portuguese people…‘ and he proceeded to list a number of characteristics he thought Portuguese people had.
Strangely, I was quite put off by that conversation and have been thinking about it since then.
Was it because he was unpleasant? Not at all. The characteristics that he listed were either neutral or positive. And, in any case, were quickly followed by the type of self-deprecating remark that is so common in British people.
Was he wrong? Not really. The traits that he mentioned are, indeed, common. In fact, I might have mentioned them myself, if I had been asked to summarise the complex matter of ‘being Portuguese’ in a few facts and adjectives… just like I stated, in the paragraph above, that British people often use self-deprecating humour (a characteristic that I find very endearing, I should add).
I am convinced that what I did not like was being so clearly linked to a stereotype. I think of myself as a complex aggregate of interests and experiences and, because of that, someone unique. As far as I am concerned, I am one of a kind! That, in itself, is extremely ironic given that I do know that individuals have a strong need of belonging; that identification with products and/or companies can even offset poor service experiences (as mentioned in slide 3 of the presentation in this post); and, most of all, given my research interest in customer profiling.
I suppose that the bottom line is that I am fine with marketers thinking of me as part of an homogeneous group of customers, as long as they make me feel that I am special, that I am one of a kind. And, now, please tell me that I am not the only one who feels that way 🙂