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Should you create a persona?

I've been in marketing for a long time. So I've seen a lot of marketing fads come and go. Some of these fads are good - ideas whose time has come. Others should be approached with caution. One marketing strategy that is getting a lot of attention nowadays is Personas, also called Avatars. Personas aren't new. The first time I worked with them was back at Citibank, circa 2002. Back then, we called them Personix Clusters.

What's a persona? Personas, or Avatars, are very specific descriptions of groups of customers using demographic or psychographic data. They can include gender, geography, profession, number of kids, attitudes, likes and desires. Sometimes they have a name. For example, Marketing-Executive-Molly, or Suburban Working Dad Dan. These avatars can get pretty specific. "Molly is very loyal to brands, is highly involved with her kids, time-crunched and volunteers with a local non-profit". They can even include a photo.


What I like about personas. Personas are valuable if you can't really describe your target customer or are confused about who is attracted to your business. Creating an accurate persona can help you create content that really resonates with your audience and this can get help you get specific about their pain points and emotional drivers. If you have a very specific customer set, envisioning "Marketing-Executive-Molly" can help you really hone in on her motivations and purchase drivers.


But Beware of Personas. A drawback in creating specific personas is that, by definition, they include a very specific customer set, but can exclude others. You will have a hard time attracting a new or diverse customer if you keep focusing on the same, very specific target in every communication. The benefit you get from being very specific, may be outweighed by the drawback of being exclusionary. For some brands (i.e., mortgage companies, credit cards), it may even be illegal to exclude certain demographics from marketing communications, even if it's unintentional.

And, there's not a lot of evidence that they work. In my experience, spending a lot of time and energy creating razor-focused avatars doesn't result in a large boost in incremental sales or revenue. They may be interesting and unveil new insights, but I haven't seen compelling hard data on how well they work in dollars and cents. What to do? My advice is to spend your money and effort on good marketing strategy and content. Focus on who your customer is and what drives their behavior. Impactful marketing includes powerful positioning statements, solving pain points, maximizing emotional divers and creating valuable content.

Please reach out if you need help either creating personas that work, or communicating your brand value without them. See my Contact Us page to schedule a free 30-minute consultation..



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