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More Human: How Consumer Illumination Can Unlock Meaningful Personas

Whether you work in insights, branding, marketing, or product development, you’ve undoubtedly become acquainted with the myriad ways peers describe the people who use or might use products: consumers, users, creators, targets, customers, personas, segments, shoppers, clients… the list goes on.

Perhaps you’ve used one of these many terms? Or perhaps you’ve even read a Target Customer or Segmentation report and found yourself wondering whether this “Persona” represents real people or not.

At Egg, we believe there’s too often a gap between the definition of someone and their actual lived experience. A clever name, a collection of demographics, and a few attitudinal statements can never adequately guide business decisions. On the flip side, a 60-page report illustrating the aspirations and day-to-day behaviors of the target audience can also fall short.

As strategists, we’ve seen personas of every shape and size, but one thing is true across all of them –  if you can’t internalize the motivations and beliefs that drive these people forward, they’re not useful. Much like a well-formed character in a novel, the best personas should immediately call to mind an image of someone real – living their life, making decisions, and weighing consequences.

We’ll say it: the days of “Meet Brenda, 64-year-old, busy suburban mom who buys organic” are over. People are complex and multi-colored and multi-racial and, generally, multi-faceted. So, when illuminating consumers or segments, we ask ourselves two main questions to ensure the personas we create are meaningful.

  • Why does this matter?
    From life stage to attitudes, we don’t stop at face value. We seek to understand how those factors can be better explained or understood by cultural trends or the background shaping their decisions.
  • How can it inform a business decision?
    An interesting insight isn’t enough. We believe the best insights are the ones that have the power to reshape how entire businesses operate. Before we package up a persona for our clients, we gut-check whether the insights provided can be immediately actionable for a range of functions across the organization.

In other words, we’d like to introduce you to “Brenda – a first-generation Hispanic-American who’s caught between two worlds, seeking to both honor her cultural traditions and prove to her community that she ‘fits in.’ She buys organic only for fruits and vegetables and secretly wishes the message was less about how it was grown but where.”

When we approach a Consumer Illumination project, we take a whole-person view of your audience. We look at the macro-forces and trends shaping their beliefs, and we seek to find the answer to WHY they think and act the way they do. Because if the understanding you have of your persona is only skin deep, so too, will your insights be.

If you have more questions than answers about the people using your products, or you simply feel uninspired when looking at your current persona or segment definitions, let’s chat. We geek out over nuance and would be thrilled to help you uncover yours.