The New Marketing: Personas, not Demographics

For many years, demographics have been the benchmarks used by marketers in creating branding and promotional campaigns. The gathering and analysis of these consumer characteristics has seen the expenditure of great amounts of time and financial resources.

Psychographics have also achieved significant play in recent years. Here the focus on underlying consumer motivations, attitudes, values and lifestyle interests. The problem to some degree with psychographics has always been predicting activity: Believing we know a consumer’s interests, preferences, values, etc has not always led to predictability of actions they will take.

Therefore, in the age of mass customization and a web 2.0 world, the thought of building Personas, rather than demographic and/or psychographic profiles becomes more meaningful.  

So the million dollar question is: what is a Persona?

According to Kevin O’Connor, “a Persona represents a cluster of users who exhibit similar behavioral patterns in their purchasing decisions, use of technology or products, customer service preferences, lifestyle choices, and the like. Behaviors, attitudes, and motivations are common to a ‘type’ regardless of age, gender, education, and other typical demographics. In fact, personas vastly span demographics.”

 In other words, Personas are built first around consumers’ actions and how and when they use the product, and less around what their apparent make up seems to be. Find users with a similar outward exhibited behavior or need, and model their similarities.

For example, in looking at the target market for specific software, the marketer would look at how the software is used is used (meaning contextual and feature utilization, and in what environment), and look for build an archetypal user based on these observations. One a different front, we might look at people who have taken classes online in medical technology or who have purchased specific office equipment to build our Persona. The result is that behaviors and actions are modeled, and attached to a fictitious profile of a seemingly average user (or multiple average users). Depending on need, these profiles can simple or highly complex.

In the end, the concept of Personas is typically then often blended back together with demographics and psychographics profiles to create more texture around the actual usage characteristics and to determine how to better find prospective holders of that persona .

One last point in closing: Like so many factors in today’s fast moving marketing landscape, Personas need to be updated frequently, as innovation and competition may significantly preferences and usage among existing customers. It would seem that personas are not forever…

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