A compilation of covers of South Asian literary works translated into European languages revealed the following: “No matter in which part of the subcontinent these tales were set, Varatharajah found that they employed the same motifs: dupatta-wearing women, the Taj, close-ups of hennaed brown feet, brides with nose rings, mangoes.”
The blog Africa Is A Country found a similar homogeneity for books set in Africa:
The books were set in South Africa, Nigeria, the Congo and further afield. Yet, as the article noted, the covers all featured the same imagery: an acacia tree in a crimson sunset.
“The covers of most novels about Africa seem to have been designed by someone whose principal idea of the continent comes from The Lion King,” the blog noted.
Even though, as Thomas Friedman pointed out, the world is flat, it’s dangerous to flatten culture. What all of these images speak to is a romanticization–an exoticization–of non-European cultures. And that’s particularly harmful when you’re trying to connect with an engage global consumers. Just think of all the assumptions that have to be undone if a marketer is trying to connect with South Asian, African, or Arab consumers, but their initial ideas about those consumers are bound up in flat, non-nuanced imagery. Shorthand doesn’t always help.
If we want to be smarter marketers, we’ve got to destroy these confining boxes.