Transformers - Colloquy

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Transformers - Colloquy

18

C O L L O Q U Y / Volume 18, Issue 1, 2010

S T R A T E G Y R E P O R T

The Perils of Pauline

The pitfalls of relying solely on “persona-marketing” segmentation

THEATRICAL PLAY PROGRAMS OFTEN start

with a section called “Dramatis

Personae,” listing the production’s

characters and describing each in

broad, thin brushstrokes. As the play

progresses, the dramatis personae

reveal to observers the depth of their

characters through their actions.

So it is—or as it should be—with the

“persona” marketing strategy that

surfaced in retail some years back

and is still employed with varying

degrees of success today. In the

persona strategy, marketers create

distinct customer profiles of typical

customers, outlining such factors

as their product preferences, the

needs and aspirations that drive

those preferences, their shopping

habits, their income ranges, their

genders, and generalizations of other

B Y C O L L E E N B E C K E R A N D D A N R I B O L Z I

pertinent factors affecting their

buying decisions with specific

retailers. Personas are even given a

first name to make them, well, more

personable. “Pauline” is an

enterprising businessperson, for

example, driven by frugality and a

do-it-yourself attitude. “Marvin” is

a corporate manager, with a bit more

budget flex, enabling him to seek

complete end-to-end solutions.

Personas were developed by

companies pioneering the

transformation from productcentricity

to customer-centricity.

Personas provided a natural, simple

approach to segmentation, customer

identification, and relevance in

response to a lack of customer

information or a limited view into

existing data. Consider, for instance,

a specialty retailer lacking a way to

identify customers and tie them to

specific purchases—the sort of datagathering

capability that a loyalty

program provides. These pioneers

leveraged this basic demographic

segmentation to rally the organization

around the customer from the

perspective of merchandising, store

operations, communications,

marketing, and so on.

A primary strength of personas lies

in breathing life into segmentation.

They enable you to begin painting a

picture of who your customer is,

particularly for those who aren’t used

to dealing in consumer research.

The downside of such picture

painting is the corner you can paint

yourself into. Personas can put a

human face on the customer, but they

can also serve as a disguising mask.

Since its introduction, persona

marketing in general has evolved

significantly. The pioneers launched

their personas with a test-and-tweak

approach, and based on their

learnings have adjusted how they

focus on and deliver customer

solutions. Other companies, after

discovering the drawbacks of

depending only on personas, began

integrating other methods of

developing customer views. Still

other customer-centricity pioneers

took two parallel paths from the

very start, developing personas and

launching a loyalty strategy.

Act I

In large part, such evolution was

necessary because relying only on

personas presents a number of

inherent dangers, among them

potentially creating stereotypes as

one-dimensional as silent movie

heroine Pauline, whose melo -

dramatic perils were portrayed in

early 1900s’ movie serials. Among

other persona perils:

Overlooking or discounting

individuals or entire segments.

Many loyal customers simply don’t

fit into broad personality-based

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