Personas in digital marketing; Theory & practice explained

| 16 Jan, 2015

Managing Director Matt Owen tackles personas in digital marketing and the programmatic paradox; how best to integrate new data and use the latest tools.

Video transcript

So the persona and programmatic paradox, alliteration to the forefront there, it's kind of a really interesting one because for years in classical marketing we focus very much on audiences and demographics and trying to get a very defined view of who people are, and for years that's been like the old school view of marketing, understand the audience and then targeting with the message and blah, blah, blah, good things result.

Programmatic, and programmatic is really kind of epitomised by search marketing. So that's really all about data. Programmatic just means automated. So actually programmatic marketing is essentially using algorithms, for example, to ensure that we're serving the best possible ad or content to an audience, and the reason that's a paradox is that programmatic is essentially audience agnostic. I don't care who you are, from a programmatic point of view, as long as you click on my ad or you like my content. So what's interesting there is that there is almost a tension between a user persona, old school, and this notion of programmatic buying, kind of very new and very cutting edge, and then the paradox: Is how do we resolve that, and is there value across both of those things?

So the paradox needs to be resolved for a few reasons. The first reason is that essentially when digital marketing was all about direct response marketing, just about driving conversions, programmatic was to the forefront then. But actually, as digital marketing matures and evolves into being much more around brand engagement and brand marketing and broader advertising, clearly there is a role for stuff that is about people, and it's about kind of storytelling and narratives and all the things that make old-fashioned advertising still really effective. So that's one reason why.

Another reason why the paradox needs to be solved is that essentially we are often dealing with marketers, very experienced people, who come from a background where audiences and personas is a really key thing. It's been really sort of drilled into them as being the right way to go to market. Part of our role as digital marketers is to be empathetic with that audience group. There's no point in us saying, "Oh, your audiences are useless to us because it's all about the data." That doesn't really help the collaborative cause. So we need to be on the same page.

The third reason actually is that in a very tangible sense, when we think about content marketing, and that's such a massive part of what we do now, actually audiences and understanding the personas are really, really critical, because fundamentally if we're creating a piece of content, whether it's a video or an article or an infographic or something like that, knowing that it is being designed to engage with certain types of people of certain ages, certain demographics, certain genders and stuff is a really vital part of what we do. So actually being purely data-led is just not enough anymore. We need to be really thinking about the audience and thinking about the eventual consumers of our content and the people who are going to engage with the brand.

So enough of the theory. Let's talk about the practicality of using personas and the way that we do that at Jellyfish in terms of digital marketing. We can think about it in three distinct levels. The first level is extremely broad. In other words, you're looking to think about persona in relation to mass market or the audience as it exists globally, essentially.

So for that we can use a couple of tools. Our preferred tool at the moment is a tool called the YouGov Profiler. That's a really great tool. We'll put a link to that into the notes around this video. But essentially YouGov assembles lots of polling data about consumers, and as part of that polling data, they ask consumers what kinds of brands they like and why. So the YouGov Profiler allows us to put into the profiler a brand name. So let's take 'A-Sauce' as an example. It will give us a very detailed demographic breakdown on the people who consume that brand, ages, geographic locations, other brands they consume, preferences, media consumption. It's a really useful tool to start to build out a persona on a very broad level.

The other way we can do it broadly is to look at Google Trends. So if you put a search term, keyword-based, into Google Trends, let's say something like pet insurance, for example, Google Trends will give you a broad breakdown - and it's not that detailed, but it's useful - of age, demographic, and regional interest in that search term. So that's quite helpful as a start point. That's very broad.

In a more specific sense, so think about this at a keyword level, we can use a tool such as Brandwatch, which is a social monitoring tool, and if we put into Brandwatch certain brand names and keywords, it will give us a much more detailed view on the demographics and interests of people who are engaging with that brand online. So for example, if I'm talking about 'A-Sauce' on Twitter, for example, Brandwatch will pick that out, it will aggregate that data, and deliver me a demographic profile that's quite specific to that particular brand. So that again is a great way to start to build out, either build a persona or to add detail into an existing persona that already exists.

I guess the third and most specific route is actually to look at your site analytics, because Google Analytics will actually provide you with a level of demographic information around consumers of your product. That's obviously mostly based on them being Google users, but that again is very interesting because that provides you with a very on-site and brand-specific view on that user group.

So across those three different groups, that's broad, sort of a YouGov Profiler, kind of medium, which is the Brandwatch view, and the much more specific site view, you can either say, "Okay, the client's given us these personas. We can detail those in a granular way," or you can actually build out personas yourself. I guess the end point of the practicality is to then say, "Right, I've got maybe two or three, maybe four personas. It's not a bad start point."

What do we then do with that? Well, we then look at that in terms of the user journey and actually to look at how, with the brand, we can interact digitally across content and direct response throughout that user journey against those different persona types.

So there's more on that in another video. Thank you very much.

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