Personas: Your (Not So Imaginary) Friends

Author: Aaron Miller
Posted: Feb 7, 2019

What are personas and why do we need them?

Ultimately, personas are people. They come in every shape, color, psyche and any other variable you can toss in. The issue? Marketers conflating industry lingo like “audience,” “segmentation” and “personas.” In reality, they are three separate steps in the process of understanding who our customer is and how we reach them with our intended message.


What separates personas from their seemingly similar counterparts is the question “why?” At its heart, our objective is to understand our persona’s motivation behind why they buy, what they buy, why they say what they say and why they enjoy what they enjoy. By answering "why", it will humanize your persona, letting you authentically connect in a way that doesn’t feel contrived or hard to believe. Put simply, start with these steps to build a strong personas for your brand: 

Start with a firm foundation

Before the word “persona” even crosses your mind, you should first set up an infrastructure. Begin by determining your overall target audience. Then, separate your target into segments. Only once you have done this can you dive into the realm of persona development.

The Basics

Best practice is to develop 3 – 5 personas per segment. If you create more than five, it can cause confusion and end with disconnected messaging and tactics. Create less than three, it’s like working from your segmentation alone.

The great thing about personas is they can all be so extraordinarily different, not only in personalities, but by the information you include. Of course, demographics are always nice (age, gender, income etc.), but psychographics are a must haves (motivations, values, social circles).

adults in casual clothes

Bring them to life

As marketers, we spend so much time with objectives, KPIs, analytics and data that it’s often too easy to create a human out of just numbers. And although these digits and infographics are great things to have, nothing about numbers creates a true human connection between our brand and our customer.

You can accomplish this by pulling images from social media and showing the captions they write and the hashtags they use. Learn to try and explain WHY they chose to be a mechanic or WHY they never miss a Cubs game. The opportunities are endless. Just make sure the items you choose are focused and relevant to the objective you’re trying to accomplish.

Three things to avoid:

1. Marketing speak: 
Often, it’s sterile and uninspiring when included in a persona.

2. Generalities: They defeat the purpose of creating a persona in the first place.

3. Over-complication: No one wants to read or interact with a convoluted persona.

Personas are based on thinking, feeling humans. They resemble our friends, family and neighbors. They can be an amazingly helpful tool.


If you follow these simple steps, everyone in the room will feel like the personas are right there with you. Tons of VI work was based on persona development. View our work here!

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