As marketing continues to evolve, so does the tried and true exercises marketers have been doing for decades. Persona development is not exempt from this trend. Traditional persona development is still a powerful tool for marketers to use. However, as the normal middle continues to flatten, targeting these personas with traditional means will prove to be less and less effective and profitable over time.
Beats, Greasers, Anarchists, and John Birch
In the pre Mad Men era personas that resided in the normal middle (see below) were developed using known attributes, presumed behaviors and/or demographic data. This worked well because outliers were few and far in-between. Marketers were able to personify just a narrow few consumers that resided in the normal middle and use massive media buys to reach them.
With few choices in television channels and AM radio, the media choices were very limited. The media that was consumed projected the popular, “normal,” values of the time on the population. This created a highly concentrated normal middle.
Hippies, Punk Rockers, Computer Nerds and Intellectuals
As time went on communications technology improved, computers and video game consoles started to move into the home and cable and satellite television became available. These innovations helped outlier personas communicate better than they could have in the past and more media choice became available. This grew their enlistments and led to further dispersion of what Seth Godin refers to as “weird” personas in the outlying areas of the curve (see below).
Plastic Surgery Addicts, Green Party, Tea Party and No Impact Man
Fast forward to the present age and the curve looks very different. Mass, world-wide, Internet, and smartphone adoption allows people to connect in new, effective and efficient means. Social media creates virtual water coolers for the normal middle to further immigrate and congregate in the outlying zones. What were once considered persona deserts now have a larger population than the aforementioned normal middle. As a result, future profits and business growth reside in the outlying regions of the curve.
Traditional persona building helps target the normal middle – which is quickly shrinking. This is why traditional paid media and outbound marketing is losing its effectiveness. In order to personify and target today’s outliers, marketers need to embrace, develop and target digital personas.
In order to create and leverage digital persona profiles marketers must rely on technology to both capture Big Data and use it effectively. Big Data is at the core of context marketing and content personalization. The goal of which is to get as close to one-to-one marketing as possible by delivering the right content to the correct person at the best time on the channel they prefer.
As a result, tracking and understanding people’s digital attributes, digital body language, up and downstream click data, sales funnel position and device preferences are important considerations for effectively identifying and building outlying digital personas.
As the Information Age begins to wane in favor of the Social Age, Seth Godin’s bell curve of normal and “weird” people will continue to flatten and eventually trough. This will be powered by an explosion in commercial content development and sharing – it’s already started, too. Marketers who can best leverage digital persona development, organic content promotion, content personalization, context marketing and Big Data will be best suited to thrive in the near future. The newer the generation, the greater the expectation is for one-to-one marketing.