Persona Based Marketing is an approach that is used in advertising, sales, web and software design, and in communicating with shareholders. A basic assumption of this approach is that fictional characters (the personas) represent the different types of users of a target group. Personas are designed to help companies and brands better understand their customer groups. These findings can then be used to accompany and justify decisions with regard to marketing and other business areas. Persona based marketing aims to capture the objectives, desires, and needs of customer segments in marketing campaigns and strategies and personalize communication with customers to a certain extent.
In persona based marketing, different customers are grouped together into one customer group, which is characterized by qualitative characteristics and stands as an example for a particular customer type. This generalization serves the purpose of modeling a customer typology. The intentions and the behavior of a hypothetical group of customers can thus be traced. Potential prospects for a product, a brand or a company are the focus. Marketing does not begin with the product or the company, but with a fictional customer whose needs are to be satisfied and whose problems are to be solved by a product or service. Since needs and problem solving can be quite different, personas put this data and information into a coherent format, which is used for decision-making.
This starting point is meant to allow the branding and brand messages to be coordinated in such a way that customer behavior can be predicted at various stages of the purchase process. Personas are intended to be used to measure the reactions to campaigns, the interaction with a brand or product, as well as sales opportunities. Accordingly, personas can be used at various levels of marketing ranging from the launch of a website to usability tests to target-oriented online campaigns and the efficient use of the marketing budget. Personas are also utilized in the B2B area in order to understand the roles and powers of the decision-makers, thereby increasing the sales opportunities.
In general, two persona-based approaches can be distinguished. The direction of communication is, in this context, a distinguishing feature that is used to generate personas by means of two fundamentally different target groups: private and commercial customers. This is only one way to use personas in marketing.
Before consumers make a purchase decision, they go through various stages. According to the AIDA model, these stages are described with attention, interest, need, and action. This buying process is usually non-linear. This means that one customer may be already comparing products while another is just developing interest in the brand. When selling products or services, these aspects of the buying phases can be taken into account by means of personas to meet the different customer groups. In the context of content and inbound marketing, personas can represent different information requirements and purchase intentions.
As soon as brand communication is no longer addressed to individual consumers, other aspects come into play. In B2B communication, personas can help understand the roles of different decision-makers. The level of authority of these persons differs as well as their priorities and needs. Additionally, factors such as relevance, time, and price models are even more important in business communication than in the B2C sector.
If companies understand their target groups, they can offer more relevant content and better communication. Customer feedback is sometimes used in product development, such as in user centered design, interaction design or agile software development with its user stories. The fields of application for personas are diverse. Online marketing focuses on relevant content and personalized communication. The interests and requirements of target groups can be integrated into the development and marketing processes of digital products with content mapping, smart messages or user experience design.
However, persona based marketing has also been subjected to criticism. For example, the methodology is criticized for the fact that personas do not represent real persons through their fictional character. The resulting data is not considered to be scientific because it is based only on interviews and generalizations. In fact, some studies show the insufficient empirical foundation of personas. For example, the more attributes are added to a persona, the lower is empirical basis. Moreover, the practical approach to the method in companies is viewed with criticism. Some companies would give themselves the image of being user-centered by means of personas, but in reality, they have no interest in actually understanding their customers.