This article is part of an occasional series from leading voices about key issues facing marketing today.
When someone has a hot-sauce habit, he knows when that extra zing of impact just isn't there. On the other hand, many live their entire lives without ever opening a bottle of Cholula. They accept that their meal is as good as it gets, that there's no new dimension of flavor within reach—because it's what they're accustomed to.
That's also where too many marketers are right now in relation to crafting personas for marketing.
A customer persona is a figurative sketch of an audience segment; marketers rely on those personas to define customers and their needs—and to meet their needs and wants.
In relation to hot sauce, for example, you might define one segment of buyers as those who have never tried it, another as those who use it occasionally, and yet another as those who may be so passionate that they keep a small bottle on their key chain. Each segment is a worthy target, but they will be motivated by different messages and offers.
Personas help you identify characteristics of each segment so that you may shape optimal messaging.
A carefully crafted representation of a customer segment also brings humanity into a campaign at a time when technology and demographics tend to be in the spotlight. Yet, it's more effective to design campaigns and experiences for a personality than, say, an age range or mobile device model.
So the problem is that too many marketers are still relying on traditional personas even though consumer behavior has evolved far beyond such tidy categories. As a result, the relationship between brands and consumers has become stunted.