Consumer Personas: The “Characters” of a Brand’s Story
Every story needs characters. Dynamic, multi-dimensional individuals that push the action forward and enrich the narrative with relatable motivations and provocative decisions.
But stories aren’t just limited to the pages of a book or the constraints of a screen. Stories are everywhere. Stories permeate our culture and our history. Stories constitute the capital and the currency by which we—as human beings—relate to the world around us. And, as marketers, perhaps we understand that better than most. Because, at its core, every brand is little more than a story… told in choiceful equities, clutch communications, and inspiring visualizations.
But a brand is NOT the story of the marketers behind it. A brand is the story of the consumers that keep it in business.
The customers. The shoppers. The buyers. The fanboys and fangirls. The enthusiasts and evangelists. It’s the everyday people that give a brand—and its story—meaning, purpose and power. And, to be a successful marketer, you have to understand them. Just as an author must understand the characters that drive the plot of his/her novel. And that’s where consumer personas come in.
At Seed Strategy, we have a distinctive way of bringing these “consumer characters” to life. Here’s how it works…
It starts with data.
About the intended audience for a given product or product type: demographics (age, gender, location), psychographics (interests, beliefs, lifestyle), purchase behavior. The patterns and trends that emerge in the data help define discrete groups within the prospective audience. And while a consumer segmentation study offers all of the above (and more), we often use social insights and secondary research as stand-ins when a formal segmentation isn’t available.
Then it comes down to motivation.
If you want to create a convincing character—in fiction or marketing—you have to understand what’s drivingthem at a fundamental level. You have to get a sense what they want (really, really want!) and why they want it. Of course, for us marketers, this lies beyond the scope of pure data; there are no objectively definitive metrics on the nature of human motivation.
So, we infer. We empathize. We project. We look at a consumer segment and imagine what kind of insecurities and uncertainties they might face. We envision their aspirations and ambitions—as human beings, not just as consumers. We start to get a sense of what their passions might be. What priorities and predilections inform their actions and decisions. At the end of the day, understanding someone’s “core motivation” provides the truest expression of who they really are as individuals.
Motivation informs need.
Once we have a sense of a consumer’s core motivation, we apply that lens to the product or service in question. We see how their motivations influence their relationship with the category. We get a sense what’s appealing to them… and what’s not. Then we build those informed inferences into distinct expressions of need: consumer tensions, need states, jobs to done, accepted consumer beliefs, etc. These “unmet needs” then become the foundation for informed consumer personas and the innovation and marketing strategies that are proven to connect with them.
And finally, we envision their lives.
Their families, their hobbies, their careers, their homes. The details and dimensions that make any character seem… real. We name them. We quote them. We imagine the kind of home they live in and the car they drive. We’ll even visualize a proverbial “day in their life,” building a play-by-play narrative of their actions, emotions, and reactions through the course of a typical day.
And through our creative lens, we take what begins as just data—nameless, faceless numbers—and turn it into something intuitive, approachable, and engaging. Something everyone can relate to, on a more humanlevel. Because, at the end of the day, humans are the ones who buy products, embrace equities, and build brands into household names. And truly great marketing should always consider that human element.
Interested in learning more? Contact Cherri Prince to see how Seed can help you develop consumer personas that will illuminate your target and empower you to better meet their needs.
Matt Donahue is a Creative Director at Seed Strategy with a keen interest in product innovation and marketing theory. Matt is a graduate of Seton Hill University’s “Popular Fiction” master’s program and writes whenever he can.
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