Want to know what a "persona" should be? Just brush up on your Italian.


We debate a lot about personas in marketing - agonising over how we can segment our customers and prospects into neat, convenient groupings to make our lives easier. Yes, getting a more granular understanding of customers is a good thing. After all, we all want to be marketed to in a more relevant way based on our socio-economic or demographic situation. I'm a middle aged father of two young boys so would expect a brand to build a relationship with me differently to, say, a 20 year old student. That makes sense.

But that's yesterday's thinking I'm afraid.

Consumers today are more demanding and our loyalty is fleeting. Take my 12 year old son for example. He has only got into messaging his friends in the last year. Yet in that time he has moved from Skype to Instagram to whatsapp to snapchat to uvuu(?). I wouldn't want to be in the messaging app game. He and his friends don't care that they've gone to the effort of setting up a profile in one of these apps - they'll go where the next thing is.

And the so called MEllennial generation is not a youth thing - it's crossing all demographics. Yes, I may be a middle class, middle aged marketing director, working in marketing tech, living in West London and married with two kids. But under no circumstances lump me together with all the other middle class, middle aged marketing directors, working in marketing tech, living in West London and married with two kids. I am an individual, not a segment.

Which brings me on to Italian. For "persona" in Italian means "person", not segment, not grouping. And I think that definition is appropriate for the modern marketer.

We're now at the stage where we can personalise our marketing more than ever before. Segmentation was borne of an era where the process was manual. Today we can automate our marketing around digital behaviours and customer insight. Yes, I might have bought a pair of shoes online last week but that doesn't mean I'm going to buy another pair this week. But repeated visits to the socks pages and one abandoned cart session containing two pairs of socks is a strong indication I'm in the market for socks. Plus I have a Club Card and am a loyal customer. So a promo or special offer may be appropriate.

As a consumer I'd love that.

So the future of personas is individualisation. Yes, some ground work needs to be done around general target audiences (some of the basics of marketing never change!). But letting behaviours drive your marketing will help you target the person not the persona.