It’s Time for Dynamic Personas — A New Way of Thinking

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Let’s be honest. There’s probably a beautiful document, maybe even a video, a large wall chart or even a digital dashboard that contains your personas floating around your company. For generations of marketers, the persona served as the guiding principle for nearly all communication strategies. Your personas were the result of psychographic, demographic and ethnographic research. You made serious investments in those personas and your agencies / research partners worked month over month to develop them. There’s only one problem — they’re completely irrelevant. Let’s follow the rationale.

Personas are based on the following:

  • Market Research
  • Audience Insights
  • Categorization of Attributes (Behavioral, Demographic, Psychographic, Ethnographic)
  • Purchase / Decision Influences
  • Response Criteria
  • Messaging and Media Consumption

Personas are supposed to be representational of key audiences and their collective attributes. They’re the basis from which brand architectures are developed, messaging strategies defined, creative execution aligned and measurement defined. Sadly, they’re expensive exercises that, today, are completely irrelevant and essentially counter intuitive to marketing success. Let’s delve into the “why?”

Fragmentation, Pace, Interest, Engagement & Influence

Personas were based on data sets that effectively represent a “moment in time.” Having worked with highly recognized companies that specialize in research, customer experience (CX), content strategy and channel planning, it’s facinating to see how the legacy approaches and processes continue to permeate insights and drive decision making. In all actuality, data drives narrative, storytelling drives brand and technology facilitates participation — engagement is dynamic, so why hasn’t the process changed?

If you’re still using standard personas, they’ll most likely be built from a combination of the following:

  • Demographics: Gender; Age (Range); HHI; Marital Status; Size of Household
  • Psychographics: Values; Interests; Attitudes
  • Ethnographics: In-depth visits to audience locations; Contextual Interviews; Product / Service Use and Purchase Behaviors

How do you solve for fragmentation, pace, interest, engagement and influence?

  • Start with data that’s accessible and affordable; build data models that incorporate paid, earned and owned media into a set of customer and prospect “views”
  • Combine this data with tools that capture “human generated information” (i.e. blogs, social posts and news sites) built off of tools such as DataSift’s core feeds such as Zignal Labs, Nuvi, Hootsuite, etc.
  • Overlaid with paid, earned and owned (standard analytics from Adobe, Google Marketing Platform, etc.) with data sets from tools such as Salesforce, Oracle, Marketo, SAP, Genesys, and Hubspot
  • Aligned with data sets from tools such as Ensighten and Tealium to deliver experiences that drive customer experiences on owned platforms such as Adobe, IBM, Microsoft and Oracle and provide additional data sets that make programmatic significantly more valuable, rather than solely optimized for spend.

This sounds complex, but in actuality, it’s the basis for real-time / near real-time decisioning in support of marketing spend and it’s easier than it sounds. With the opportunity to capture insights from social channels where people aggregate into discreet communities that are in many instances, temporary — the model above provides the ability to build a marketing structure that operates more closely to a newsroom, (editorial) than a waterfall of research, brand messaging, asset creation, media buy and measurement. It affords your organization the ability to deliver the right content, to the right audience in the right channel at the right time.

Your target audience(s) are constantly changing / evolving — hourly, daily, weekly. The question is — Is your marketing strategy dynamic? If it’s driven by persona models that aren’t dynamic, it will absolutely limit your ability to build meaningful interactions with your audience.

Here’s a sample of a dynamic persona data architecture.

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If you have questions or just want to discusss this subject further, feel free to contact the author — Bob Morris, visionary_one@comcast.net.

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