Posted 23rd September 2014 by APSIS

‘Hey Big Spender’ – time to blow the dust off of your personas?

A few years ago, a large airline (who will now remain nameless) sent out an email to their VIP customers with the mistaken greeting “Dear Big Spender”.
Aside from being both quite humorous (in retrospect) and very serious from a business perspective, this slip up also tells us a lot about how one airline was segmenting their customers. Clearly anyone that spent a lot of money with the airline was called a ‘Big Spender’. This is something we see a lot with our clients, with most marketing teams referring to them as Personas.
Persona is one of those terms that we use in every day ‘marketing speak’ but in actual fact we know that the meaning can differ from brand to brand.
Wikipedia defines a marketing persona as something that “represents a group of customers so that the company can focus its efforts.” We would define it simply – and rather dryly – as the personification of your core customer segments. More interestingly, it could be seen as ‘how you refer to customers when you’re talking round the water cooler’.
The persona has been around for years, so much so that we think both its use and meaning now need to change. Last week I was talking to a client while we were trying to work out how to segment their customers to drive personalisation:
“So how does the business refer to typical customer groups?” I asked.
“Well we have customers and lapsed customers, as well as committed customers”, replied the client.
This makes sense and is useful, but it doesn’t help me really understand the customer in a deep and meaningful way. I continued:
“Yes those sound like good segments but how do you talk about different customers when you’re down the pub? You don’t just refer to them as committed or lapsed?” I pushed.
“Ah well that’s quite funny, we have these cartoons that we made of the different types of customer we work with. An agency helped us draw them up when we rebuilt the website.”
“Great – how do you use those to segment your customers?”
“We don’t. The cartoons were just to build website journeys – our communication is separate to that.”
The picture above isn’t actually one of their personas but I see cartoons/caricatures in many organisations, and so often this is the case. Effort, time and money goes into creating these great personas, only for them to be forgotten. Why is this? Because the personas aren’t tangible! How can you translate a cartoon into the actual customers that are talking to your business right now?
Clients that use Profile Cloud can do this – working out the bits of information that can easily be brought together to work out ‘who are my Rich Roberts, Distracted Dans or (of course) my ‘big spenders’.  You can then identify these people in real-time when they are on your site or mobile app. Importantly though you can also use those same persona segments to drive media across different channels.
As personas become more heavily used in the organisation, it may be worth changing the names of the persona groups, particularly if yours happen to be disparaging about your customers!
We can show you more about how we do this. Get more information here about the challenges we see with customer data.
This post was written by Andy Walker.