Personas: Under the Hood

January 16, 2013
Personas help you understand and engage your audience.

The great and challenging thing about companies are their differences. Even companies with commonality in an overall industry differ in their products, their technology focus, and their target audience. And taking it one step further, each persona within each audience differs, and companies need to know what their prospects need and how to engage them.

To make this lesson more concrete, let’s take a look at three big companies, each with a different focus:

  • Jaguar/Land Rover - Automotive technology
  • IBM - Business technology
  • ExxonMobil - Energy technology

Although each company shares common traits of technology, their respective industries are independent of one another. Starting with the target audience, these companies develop the persona for each segment within that audience. That persona is a fictitious representation of an actual customer or client. There are Decision Makers, Champions and Influencers. All play a role in the purchase cycle, but companies need to determine the one or the many on which they will focus.

Don’t focus on persona non grata

So with all of this talk about knowing your target audience and personas, there is a need to deep dive and determine who to connect to before you can figure out how to connect.

The target audience allows you to align with a specific segment who is not only interested in your products and services, but it's one that actually needs them, and is ready to make a purchase. Their persona gives you insight into their actions and habits. Their needs, education, media habits, and barriers to adoption all are very telling when developing that fictitious customer or client, but you need to validate your theory with data.

In establishing a persona for the launch of the new Jaguar F-Type, Jaguar recognized the target audience as young professionals and empty-nesters that have no need for any more than two seats in their car. They’re interested in getaways, road trips, and taking the long way home from the office more than having enough room for groceries and car seats.

Jaguar also considered their audience’s needs and their habits. They thought about what the audience reads, what other purchases they make, and how they value education. Now add in their profession, business insights, and their geographic location and Jaguar has detailed insight into that audience persona.

Missed it by that much

Do you remember the Honda Element? A four-seat “sport-activity vehicle” with tons of storage and a washable floor? It was meant to appeal to the young and hip “surfer” crowd, but instead it appealed to baby boomers ad retirees that longed for road visibility, ease of entry, cargo space, and fuel economy. All valid consumer needs, but with so much consumer information, how could Honda miss its mark? How could they ignore their audience?

They just weren’t paying attention.

Details get you every time, but you need them. Details are in the data that you compile to inform you and your company that you are focusing on the right audience with the right message about the right product. Details are comprised of data that showcases habits and preferences that help you transform that information into a meaningful mechanism for customer interest and engagement.

With so much data and research available, there is no excuse to miss your mark and get it wrong.

Know your audience

In thinking about personas and your target audience, see what data you have and what data you need. Observe changes in the industry and what circumstances, opportunities, or even legislation may influence of affect that industry.

Honda is trying, but not very hard. Last year’s newly restyled Civic was a complete miss, so much so that it had to be restyled again for the current model year. The Odyssey, its minivan, was recently featured in a rock ‘n roll themed campaign championing dads, Guitar Hero, and their past love of hair bands. Not impressed by Honda's use of outdated data and consumer trends based on the poorly received film Rock of Ages and a retired video game series.

But you know what is impressive? Knowing that I frequent Costco and Sam’s Club on Saturdays. I have a need for cargo space to accommodate purchases and my family, and that I still have a sense of style and a little pride. I am not a truck, SUV, or minivan guy, but from the front, that “sport wagon” looks just like the sedan that I am more than willing to drive. I am educated and I like quality over flash. I am also patient, so in a few years, that used Audi RS4 Avant is looking pretty good and Audi totally gets it, they get me and most importantly, they get my persona!

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[Image: The Car Spy