A term that in ancient Greece meant "theatrical mask," in everyday use, a "persona" actually means a "social role" or "character." Personas as characters are important, of course, in books, movies and theatre, and investigating the role they play in those contexts can help us develop successful marketing strategies. Specifically, books, movies and plays are often memorable - and some are "classics" - because the characters in those books and movies are fully developed and interesting. In order to become an "industry classic," a good marketer should also recognize the need to fully develop and communicate the company's "persona." Because traditional media is directed at a target audience, marketers must know the "personas" of their audience.
So have a spot of tea with your novel, get some popcorn for your movie and join me in learning how characters from any story can teach you about Persona Development.
Pride and Prejudice, Crime and Punishment, Moby Dick ... are all easily identified as "classics." These books were published in the 19th century and yet are still referenced in today's popular culture. Why?
Character, setting, theme, plot - you cannot have a story without these elements and yet they are not created equal. What makes a book stand the test of time? Is it the plot? The prose? The setting? I contend that it is often the characters. Characters connect the reader emotionally with a story and drive him or her toward a conclusion. The more that is known about a character, the more real the character is to the reader. A well-written story provides context and details in order to paint a picture of who this character is - their life story (persona narrative), and what makes that character tick (questions, frustrations, motivations, needs and desires). The reader needs that information in order to care about what happens to the character.
Let's consider the impact of a well-developed literary character. Sherlock Holmes is known as the daring detective who has a knack for solving crimes and winning the hearts of ladies, while simultaneously battling the malicious Professor Moriarty. When evaluating Holmes through persona development, this qualitative information about his character is a leading indicator for behavioral targeting. For example, if you own an unsolved mystery website and Sherlock Holmes is your ideal persona, then you'll research user psychographics and demographics in compliance with his typical website preferences. Holmes' interactions on competitor websites would be one of the first implications of how he would behave on your website. If Holmes was to take the day off, he could be found browsing www.unsolved.com and checking his nemesis' status updates. This information is a great start to a well-researched and defined persona.
The importance of fully developed and interesting characters in books validates the use of personas in marketing - the stronger the customer data, the more effective the marketing will be.
Character development in film or theatre is just as important as in literature. Although filmmakers, directors and producers have the luxury of visually representing a character through set design and choice of actor they are limited by time - a limitation that only indirectly affects literature. With only 90-130 minutes in the average movie there is significant pressure to build characters quickly and convincingly. Actors such as Johnny Depp can spend months preparing for a role and work on such minute details as language inflection and facial expression. This is in an effort to effectively convey a character to the audience in the short amount of time they are on screen. Just like in the hard-to-forget role of Edward Scissorhands, time constraints apply to character development with personas as well. Personas have to be developed and communicated quickly and persuasively in order to sell your brand or product.
At eBoost Consulting, we know that to develop a sustained competitive advantage, it is of utmost importance to know both your own company and its products or services. It is also imperative to look at and learn from the customer. Think of your company as a character. Would every person in your company describe it in the same way? Is that character distinct and compelling? Persona Development, or the creation of customer archetypes, is the process through which new insight is gained into who the customers are, what makes them tick, and what causes them to engage - or not engage - with an organization. So think of your customer segments as characters. Would every person in your organization describe those "characters" in the same way, using the same language?
A classic example of Persona Development - from a classic book - is how Herman Melville, in his novel Moby Dick, develops the persona of Captain Ahab. Our first impressions of him are of a respected and competent sea captain, evolving to the single minded quasi-maniac, obsessed with killing the white whale. Captain Ahab foreshadows a similarly paranoid ship captain, Captain Queeg, in Herman Wouk's The Caine Mutiny. Both of these unforgettable characters are a result of careful, thoughtful and evocative Persona Development as those novels unfolded. That same process can be employed in "classic" marketing-beginning with a more generic description of the company's products or services and then layering on more particulars so that the products or services become distinctive and memorable. Keeping in mind that, unlike novels, modern day marketers do not have the luxury of three or four hundred pages to tell their story!
Additionally, Persona Development can be applied differently to individual marketing services. In Social Media Marketing, for example, "Digital Audience Profiles" are mini-personas that detail how a customer engages in social media. The profiles need to communicate where the customer can be found online and how the marketer should reach them. Finally, the profile needs to provide insight into how the customer is likely to act when commenting, sharing or engaging with the marketer in the digital atmosphere.
Knowing what a customer needs, wants, demands, how they will react, how they want to be communicated with, and how they will participate with your company will help you to efficiently and effectively build a marketing strategy. Align your team, your vendors and partners to create a consistent and effective conversion experience at every touchpoint in your company - from your accounting services to your marketing collateral to your sales team.
With Persona Development, your character-driven marketing strategy can easily become an industry classic.
Janey Junker, Junior Consultant, eBoost Consulting
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Personas provide a common language allowing Customer Service, Sales, Executives, and Marketing to communicate more effectively about customer needs, wants, and demands.