How to create a buyer persona?

“Our target audience is 18-48, female and male, C1, B and A.”

You might have heard a similar nonsense statement before… The above sentence is a feeble -and rather soulless- attempt to describe a “target” “audience”. I am categorically against using such lingo as it’s a completely outdated way of thinking. I also believe that in this day and age (#socialera), for a company to be successful, it is mandatory to change its vocabulary. What does this mean for your brand?

Sadly, so many marketers still think of -and refer to- their customers as “consumers.” By using such a lens, we unconsciously assume that people exist to “consume” products (as if a human-being is a virus.) Companies tend to look at their market as data, and their customers as mere statistics. We might not be even aware of it, but by using mechanistic, military, and inorganic lingo, we reduce humans to robots who are programmed to buy products.

Ironically, we hate it when a brand treats us inhumanly. We express our anger by tweeting, posting a negative review, or simply bithcing around. What’s more, the same brands expect our loyalty in return… No wonder public trust in corporations keeps falling. As long as we, marketing professionals, treat humans like numbers, like soulless machines, like subjects in an experiment, we are doomed to fail. Luckily, there is another way…

Instead of labeling people as A’s and B’s, how about identifying the dominant archetype of our clientele? What’s their operating myth? What do they aspire to become? What dragon are they trying to slay? How could our brand allow them to achieve the life they desire? A quick archetypal reading would reveal “the story our customer is living.” It would provide us with rich insights beyond our imagination.

For instance, we could define Harley Davidson’s consumer as “+40, men, Caucasian, upper middle class, office employee.” But how far would that take us? How about trying this instead: “Successful professionals, who are looking for a socially acceptable way to vent off their inner outlaw.” All of a sudden, we started talking about a real man with real aspirations. We could visualize this man and build a story around him. More importantly, now we can clearly define the role of our brand…

Once we identify the archetypal story of our customer, we can go ahead and bring this person to life. What’s his name? What does he do? Where does he live? How old is his kids? We can associate photos with him. We can be creative and have fun while covering all the necessary details. Where possible, we must use existing market research. But never should we  undermine our gut feeling.

If you wonder where to start, then you might find these two exercises useful. They will not only expand your vision, but will also entertain you! (Both of them are from Gamestorming, a great workshop book.)

First one is called the Empathy Map. Watch this great instruction by Jeannel King to fully understand how to use it.

Second one is called Pain-Gain Map. It builds on the findings from the Empathy Map, and allows you to make your value proposition more relevant. Here are the detailed instructions.

A great way to tweak your value proposition.
A great way to tweak your value proposition.

Most of the corporations might perceived as soulless, mean machines, for they see and treat their customers as consumers, not as humans. Persona-thinking is a great way to humanize your customer and start building an authentic relationship. The moment we change our lenses and start treating “consumers” as real humans who have feelings, goals and aspirations, we might see more opportunities than we can dream off.

Today’s actionable insight: Persona-thinking is so powerful that some clothing companies dress up a persona-driven mannequin and give her a seat at the boardroom. Every time, the company has to make an important decision, the mannequin is asked her opinion: How would this decision affect you? What’s in it for you?

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