Reputation and Stereotype

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Entrepreneurs who are American, Israeli, Japanese, Chinese, Jews, Marwari, Gujarati or Telugu conjure a pre-set image before we meet them. There is a stereotype persona in our minds before we meet or deal with them. We do stereotyping because it is easier to remember. Capture the common traits and bundle them together.  Politician reacts differently from a priest. Angry young man should look like Amitabh Bachchan. A collegian is never convinced on investing. A 40-year-old can’t play cricket well. Stock market is a gambling den. And many more.

In all probability, you may react differently while dealing with a businessman from Mumbai or Delhi or Kolkata due to your past experience. Same is the reason why some credit card brands politely refuse you a credit card when they see your residential address belonging to certain pin codes. It is stereotyping at work! Look for common traits and decide!

Something that has been the mandate in positioning the brands through advertising. Thanda Matlab Coca Cola. Lifebouy for Health, Saffola for Heart Care, Just Do It, I am Loving It etc. Brands try to occupy space in your brain through specific offering, usually emotional. Hundreds of crores are spent by the political parties to catch attention of voters to be a stereotype of a particular line of thought among the electorate. Just close your eyes and associate one word with each political party. That is your stereotype for that political party and will vote according to what you like.

That comes close to creating a reputation through PR. One tries to create a positive impression in stakeholders’ mind through numerous acts and examples. And the efforts are done for a long period as it takes time to build the reputation. Amplify the message to stakeholders through media. The dictionaries define reputation as the set beliefs or opinions that are generally held about you and stereotype as a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.

I, for one, cannot differentiate the two on end-results. The difference essentially is in the process: while building reputation is a conscious and genuine attempt to create a positive aura, stereotype is more of a fait acompli as control over moulding it is limited. The same stereotype can mean different things to different individuals based on their relationships. Being a ‘religious person’ as stereotype can mean different for different communities. Reputation of a ‘religious person’ is a deliberate effort aimed at achieving a specific objective.

In other words, reputation is one that you do for yourself to slot in others’ mind. Stereotype is given by others to slot you in their mind.