From Assumptions to Understanding: The Power of Marketing Personas

Last updated: Oct 05, 2023
8 min read
From Assumptions to Understanding: The Power of Marketing Personas

The internet produces a wealth of information about the consumers who interact with your current ad campaigns. If you don't use that data, you may make incorrect assumptions about the people you are trying to sell a good or service to.

To launch a successful marketing campaign, you need to develop a comprehensive understanding of the consumers you want to reach. Marketing personas can help.

The Problem With Assumptions in Marketing

Making assumptions about your target audience's interests and values without doing any audience research can backfire spectacularly.

Pepsi's Disconnect With the Political Moment

Take, for example, Pepsi's 2017 ad campaign starring Kendall Jenner.

The ad campaign featured Jenner deescalating a Black Lives Matter protest with a can of Pepsi. Objectively, the ad fit the modern moment, rife with political tension. To the audience, however, the ad greatly downplayed the seriousness of the protests it emulated. The backlash to Pepsi's lack of customer understanding was so severe that Pepsi pulled the ad campaign almost immediately.

Had Pepsi done more research on its audience and their opinions regarding the political movements of the time, the company may have avoided the embarrassment and backlash that came in the wake of the Jenner campaign. A marketing persona that more accurately represented Pepsi's young audience could have spared the company hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Dove's Unfortunate Imagery

Pepsi isn't the only corporation to contend with a marketing fumble within the past decade. Dove, like Pepsi, released a body wash advertisement in 2017 that struck the wrong cord with its viewing audience. The advertisement lasted for no more than three seconds and debuted on Facebook.

The commercial starred several women of different ethnicities removing their T-shirts to reveal a new actress. The specific offense occurred when an African American woman removed a black T-shirt, revealing a white woman in a white T-shirt underneath.

Dove failed to consider that the transformation from an African American woman to a white woman in a body wash advertisement gave the audience the impression that the African American woman was dirty, whereas the white woman wasn't. The backlash to the commercial was immediate and prompted apologies from Dove as well as the removal of the ad campaign.

If Dove had tested their ad campaign against a more diverse stable of marketing personas, it might have avoided this controversy.

What Are Marketing Personas?

Whether you're selling a product or a specialized service, marketing personas can help you better understand your potential audience before you debut an ad campaign. These personas are not real people and do not function like test groups. They're hypothetical embodiments of your audience, and they can differ accordingly.

You can create a marketing persona by identifying the persona's:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Occupation and career goals
  • Salary
  • Education
  • Family
  • Personal values

You can make a marketing persona more specific by deciding what point of the sales funnel you want them to be at when they stumble upon your ad.

The Power of Marketing Personas

The value of a marketing persona lies in its ability to help you anticipate customer behavior as well as a specific demographic's needs and motivations. For example, say you're opening a cafe in a college town and want your social media marketing campaigns to resonate across several audiences. Marketing personas and competitor research can help you determine who your primary audiences may be, what strategies they engage with most often, and how you might build on those strategies.

In other words, marketing personas can help you connect with an interested consumer audience faster than more basic forms of market research might.

How To Create Effective Marketing Personas

You can begin pulling together effective marketing personas based on your preexisting understanding of your audience base. That said, making assumptions, as Pepsi did, can endanger your marketing strategy. It's in your best interest to research your audience to determine what kind of marketing persona might best suit your efforts.

If you want to use a marketing persona to cultivate a new marketing strategy, invest your time in the following.

Data Gathering

First and foremost, you need to understand who your ads currently reach. What audience does your business attract? You can gather data about your existing audience by conducting audience surveys or using tools like Google Analytics to pull social media data. Social media and landing page data can help you understand which audiences most often interact with your marketing campaigns.


Once you understand what audience you usually market to, you can segment the data and determine your target audience for your next marketing campaign. Audience segmentation prevents your ads from becoming overly generic. These ads often make a target audience feel as if you're speaking directly to them, leading them to become more invested in your ad campaign and the goods or services it represents.

You can most effectively segment your audience data based on the audience's:

  • Behavior
  • Interests
  • Demographics
  • Device usage
  • Level of ad engagement

Persona Development

Once you identify which segment of that audience you want to target, it's time to create a marketing persona. You've already researched your target audience's demographics, so you can apply those demographics to your imaginary consumer. You can also identify the persona's possible pain points, not to mention the channels through which they might access your ad campaign.

Once you have your persona's demographics and access points in place, it's time to determine what their relationship to your product might look like. The ad campaign you test against a marketing persona should emphasize how your product can solve the persona's hypothetical problems.

Applying Marketing Personas to Your Strategy

You can create multiple personas to test an upcoming marketing campaign against. When you have these personas to refer to, your team can constantly reevaluate their visual aids, branding, content, and products based on the persona's needs.

Avoid Assumptions With Data-Backed Marketing Personas

Shifting away from audience assumptions into an actionable, data-based marketing persona helps you connect with your consumer audience and save money as you create your marketing campaign. Marketing personas can even prevent outreach snafus that upend your relationship with your existing consumer base.

If you need help analyzing your audience data and creating marketing personas, Belt Creative can walk you through researching and segmenting your consumer information. After that, we can build a stable of personas you can reference as you move your business forward.

Reach out today to get started.

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