Digital is no longer a channel. Digital is behavior. For consumers of every age digital is a normal fact of life. At Boston Digital, we refer to this phenomenon as the Impulse Generation. This moniker is not meant to imply that consumers are simply impulsive. Rather, it points to all consumers’ ability to act freely on impulses, without friction. And it cuts both ways as consumers are also constantly bombarded by outside impulses created by the changing winds of the world we live in. Marketers must keep pace and act accordingly.
This multi-part blog series will explore how to build a comprehensive marketing strategy to meet the Impulse Generation by optimizing different parts of the marketing process including branding, personas, designing, activation, and analytics.
Personas for Impulse: Responsive. Operational.
Why it matters
The work of identifying and codifying how particular audience segments think and feel—and what they might seek to accomplish via a particular brand—are critical to any successful marketing endeavor. Whether direct-to-consumer or B2B, a brand must understand the sentiments, drivers, and impediments of those with a relevant need and the power to make a decision in its favor. In the end, influencing behavior is what branding—and any sort of marketing—is all about.
Why thinking needs to evolve
The problem with most personas is that they’re too often, at best, a static deliverable. At worst, they’re stereotype-ridden caricatures. Across the board, they’re not reflective of real-world dynamics and, therefore, not at all operational.
Personas as we’ve come to know them are snapshots. But the world we live in is fluid. Dynamic. Ever-changing. Are your behaviors—or those of your company or businesses you frequent—the same as they were six months ago? Connecting overarching business goals and brand aspirations to tactics that move the needle on engagement and behavior require personas that are in-tune with the real world. That is, they must be tunable to impulsive, evolving, real-world, behaviors.
Here’s how to be more behavior and impulse ready
Rather than putting time and energy into establishing differences and siloing prospective constituent segments, focus instead on the unifying threads that unite them within their collective environment. If there’s a prospective set of consumers considering your products, or a prospective set of businesses considering your services, chances are there are a set of common threads that unite them within a broader decision-making journey.
These common threads ought to include the span of “jobs” to be done, as well as perhaps the level of immediacy, the level of want vs. the level of need, the level of specialization, the level of experience / expertise, and so on (every brand / situation is unique). Different prospect segments sit at different points along these threads. And defining the overall spectrum gives you a view of the entire decision-making environment. This approach is at once macro and micro. It’s journey-based. And it’s actionable.
A B2C medical device manufacturer might define its decision-making landscape along the lines of age, severity, tolerance, motivation, care level, and category awareness. Using these threads, personas within the decision-making landscape can be quickly plotted. A younger, lower-severity prospect, under the care of her PCP may be silently tolerating her conduction and not yet be highly motivated to take action. Marketing efforts for these segments perhaps start out in an unbranded way, in order to build trust, educate, and—in time—decrease tolerance and increase motivation. Someone more highly symptomatic and under the care of a specialist is likely more susceptible to a branded, action-oriented campaign. These are different segments indeed, but they’re bound by common threads.
In the B2B space, a commercial insurance provider might define its decision-making landscape along the lines of size, specialization, and expertise. A small business CEO is perhaps focused on a particular product in a particular industry, and may not know a whole lot about risk management. A VP of risk for a large holding company, on the other hand, is much more diversified, and likely has extensive experience. Brokerages also come in different sizes, levels of specialization, and areas of expertise. Whether looking to inform content for product pages on a website or how to drive engagement through social channels, these threads provide actionable insight into content and tone that resonates tactically without creating dissonance at a higher, strategic level.
Inherent to this approach is the notion that decision-making journeys can be thought of as a shared experience at the macro level, with a range of unique perspectives (motivations, impediments, attitudes, etc.) at the micro level.
And things change! Attitudes change. Symptoms change. Risk tolerance ebbs and flows. Experience comes with time. A want on Monday is a need on Thursday. And so on. Decision-making is a process. It’s a journey, not an event. And we’re all bombarded with impulses.
Static personas simply do not account for real-world dynamics. A stack of static personas and journeys attempting to represent every possible segment simply isn’t manageable. Or actionable. Or supportive of a coherent brand image.
In order to keep pace in the Impulse Generation, marketers must define the decision making landscape that encompasses all their prospects, break it down into its meaningful component threads, and then plot and market to personas of opportunity in order to motivate action on their behalf and build brand along the way.
Stay tuned for the next article in our “Winning the Digital Normal” series where we explore activation for the impulse and building campaigns that win. You can also take a look at part #1 Branding for Impulse and part #2 Analytics for Impulse.