How to Heat Up Marketing Impact With Data-Driven Personas

How to Heat Up Marketing Impact With Data-Driven Personas

That's also where too many marketers are right now in relation to crafting personas for marketing. A customer persona is a figurative sketch of an audience segment; marketers rely on those personas to define customers and their needs—and to meet their needs and wants. In relation to hot sauce, for example, you might define one segment of buyers as those who have never tried it, another as those who use it occasionally, and yet another as those who may be so passionate that they keep a small bottle on their key chain. Personas help you identify characteristics of each segment so that you may shape optimal messaging. So the problem is that too many marketers are still relying on traditional personas even though consumer behavior has evolved far beyond such tidy categories. In this persona, we gain a good sense of Mary's personality—who she is—but we haven't addressed the how, when, and where yet. Modern marketers aren't simply challenged to meet Mary's needs, they also need to address Mary-Ann, Mary-Rosa and Mary-Beth, and so on—and in the moments that matter most. With the resulting more sophisticated and dynamic analysis of where, when, and how your audience shops, watches tv and travels, and which experiences they are most receptive during, you can target more precisely and effectively. Another key distinction from traditional personals is that this approach provides a constant feedback loop—which is essential to the ever-changing dynamics of modern behavior. But maybe even more important is the impact on your audience's experience: When you're smarter about your audience's needs and behavior, you can meet those needs more effectively.

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This article is part of an occasional series from leading voices about key issues facing marketing today.

When someone has a hot-sauce habit, he knows when that extra zing of impact just isn’t there. On the other hand, many live their entire lives without ever opening a bottle of Cholula. They accept that their meal is as good as it gets, that there’s no new dimension of flavor within reach—because it’s what they’re accustomed to.

That’s also where too many marketers are right now in relation to crafting personas for marketing.

A customer persona is a figurative sketch of an audience segment; marketers rely on those personas to define customers and their needs—and to meet their needs and wants.

In relation to hot sauce, for example, you might define one segment of buyers as those who have never tried it, another as those who use it occasionally, and yet another as those who may be so passionate that they keep a small bottle on their key chain. Each segment is a worthy target, but they will be motivated by different messages and offers.

Personas help you identify characteristics of each segment so that you may shape optimal messaging.

A carefully crafted representation of a customer segment also brings humanity into a campaign at a time when technology and demographics tend to be in the spotlight. Yet, it’s more effective to design campaigns and experiences for a personality than, say, an age range or mobile device model.

So the problem is that too many marketers are still relying on traditional personas even though consumer behavior has evolved far beyond such tidy categories. As a result, the relationship between brands and consumers has become stunted.

To understand the limits of traditional persona-based marketing, consider how human behavior has changed since personas gained steam back in the late 20th century. We now have exponentially more choices in how we communicate, consume information, relax, complete tasks, travel, make payments, and so on. Connectivity and mobile devices have unlocked the where and when of each of our daily routines: We’re watching TV on the train, grocery-shopping at work, and paying bills on vacation. Simply put, our options have blown up.

Now, it’s still possible for brands and agencies to create personas that reflect modern behavior. Broad brush strokes can give us, for example,…

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