Personas non gratae.*
Personas help us understand our customers better by dividing our target audience into smaller groups. Each persona encompasses the needs, goals, and observed behaviour patterns of a group and represents them as a fictional generalisation, a character. ‘Frank’ can stand for all single males, aged 25-35, with a higher eduction and a interest in sports and video-games. But aren’t personas outdated?
written by Jori | december 27th 2017
UX-designers and marketeers alike consider personas some sort of holy grail, because it allows them to make the complexity of their audience more digestible. And it makes designing market-oriented solutions and products more easy.
It goes without saying that everything stands with the quality of the research that the personas are based upon. Basing them on the right attributes from the start is crucial in having reliable personas. It is also the biggest downfall of the technique: the personas tend to focus on characteristics, and are often created with little insight into the behaviour of the people they represent. In reality personas are more often than not based upon gut feeling and the experience of the marketeer.
Personas tend to focus on characteristics, and are often created with little insight into the behaviour of the people they represent.Gaga
But even when the research is done correctly and the analysis resulted in personas that actually represent a well defined target-audience, problems arise. Once personas have been developed they often become an excuse to stop actually talking to the users. “Hey, it works for us, so why would we question our way of working?”, seems to be the way of thinking. The more time goes by, the less in sync personas tend to be, and the greater the margin of error becomes in using them.
In theory personas should be ever changing personalities, and the research needed to construct them should be repeated regularly. It is the only way to keep taps on an ever changing audience. But because ‘Frank’ from our example has a tendency to become a familiar face, and because even marketers are just normal people, ‘Frank’ becomes a fixed concept. The more familiar a persona gets within a marketing-department, the less marketeers tend to acknowledge the ever changing reality of their target audience.
To be fair: personas were never supposed to be fixed in time. They were never meant to be concepts that seem to be chiseled in stone. But reality shows that clients brief their agencies with strictly defined ‘Franks’, ‘Sabrinas’ and ‘Carolines’. In doing so they degenerate the information in the briefing, contrary to the original purpose.
Tribes are a collaborative effort, resulting in a strong emotional bond between its members. And it is exactly this emotional bond that brands dream about.Gaga
Your tribe is your vibe.
It is for this reason that we at Gaga shifted gears from personas to tribes. In online communities tribes have been known for a while and describe a group of people who share a common interest, and who are loosely affiliated with each other through digital media.
But digital communication has always worked a tad different in comparison with the old offline ways. It even slowly changed the way we communicate today. Gone are the days of top-down communication, exclusively based on push. In this digital era brands have to get on the same playing level as their customers. Customer services have to listen, interact and respond to their audience. Digital made communication more direct and personal.
So how come tribes are so seldom used outside of digital? Because they can be hard to describe. They are not defined by age, gender or interests, but by culture and the empowerment of others. Tribes are a collaborative effort, resulting in a strong emotional bond between its members. And it is exactly this emotional bond that brands dream about. It is exactly that connection with the customer that every brand aspires to have.
That doesn’t mean that personas don’t have their uses. We even use them ourselves as we did in the Proximus-case, but as tool to discuss a well defined time and space. A snapchat of a situation. But in most cases the interaction between brand and audience is a constantly evolving and mutating one, one better suited for a tribe-logic.
So stop referring to fictitious persons, and start a tribal-thinking. And if you need a hand from an experienced brand-shaman: we’re only a click away.
*Sorry dad. I know you’re hurt by seeing this kind of latin, but I find it funny.
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