I was reading this piece by Holly Buchanan on creating personas when I realized this is a huge stumbling block for me.
First, if you’re not familiar with the concept of personas: marketers try to imagine the sort of person who would buy their products. Then they write copy and come up with campaigns that will sell the product to that person. The big pitfall with this approach is thinking in stereotypes (which is covered in Holly’s post): if you assume things about your personas that aren’t in fact the case, you get a “Were you talking to me?” response.
I realize I do something else wrong with the persona approach. I focus on personas that aren’t likely to say yes to me. I worry more about convincing people who don’t want my product than about finding those who do and offering it to them in an enticing way. So all my persuasive arguments sound to my target audience like I’m trying to distract them from some huge flaw in what I’m selling. And to those who are just not inclined to buy what I’m selling, I’m probably wasting my breath anyway, right?
This is the sort of thinking that drives me crazy when I find a TV show I love, and all the producers can think is, “How do we change this winning formula so we can attract more people from this other demographic and to hell with the fans we have?” I know that’s advertiser driven, but what I can’t understand is why advertisers want them to change a show to draw in the crowd they like rather than just go advertise on a show that appeals to the crows they like.
If you focus on the personas that say yes, not only will they say yes: they’ll tell their friends.