Personas are sketches of fictitious users for your product or service. They’re a useful way to help your marketing team achieve empathy with its audience by visualising a typical user. Ideally, personas should be constructed from a variety of data – customer surveys and data, focus group interviews and discussions with front-line staff.
Having a wider number of personas helps with segmenting your marketing to each audience type. If yours is a multi-national organisation, it’s extremely valuable to have personas for each market you’re in. Trying to create a single set of personas for all your global operations is unrealistic because audiences vary across markets.
It simply isn’t possible for global brands to have one-size-fits-all personas for all markets. So what’s the best way to create and manage personas for your global organisation?
A paper by researchers at the University of Copenhagen identified that international organisations generally took one of three approaches when it came to reconciling their persona approach for different markets.
Some global organisations tried to create generic personas centrally for use across their entire operations. Others tried to create specific ones for each country, or created personas to fit all markets but adapted to information specific to that culture.
All three approaches have their drawbacks. Creating ‘one-size-fits-all’ personas for worldwide use is too superficial to be useful – and likely to be more focused towards Western culture. Providing additional persona information for each market is too long and confusing to be practical. And of course, it’s important to not assume all markets are homogenous.
Huge markets such as India or China need to be segmented for granular factors such as for urban or rural audiences, tier 1 or tier 3 city dwellers and different language groups.
It’s hard to argue that personas don’t need to be adapted to make them relevant for each market you operate in. But it’s not always easy to create effective personas for all markets.
Part of the difficulty is that regional marketing teams don’t always have the ability to create their own marketing personas. This means it’s hard to determine which personas to focus on locally and segment marketing efforts effectively.
It’s a particular challenge when an organisation is entering a new market. To create personas you need to be close to your audience and have data to base your personas on. Customer personas are a solid bedrock of your organisation’s marketing approach – they’re exactly what you need when you enter a new market.
But it’s tough to create them from scratch for an unfamiliar market, particularly if you’re trying to do so from a central marketing team in an entirely different market.
Creating global personas
If you’re tasked with creating globally-relevant marketing personas, you need to start with the core pillars that make up those audiences. What are your customer’s key pain points that your product or service can resolve? What are their needs, desires and challenges?
You’ll want to consider the best way to reach them – what channel and how? And what type of content do they favour? For a B2B brand, you’ll also want to consider your persona’s job description.
Business intelligence consultancy SiriusDecisions breaks personas into a series of attributes. To create B2B personas, they suggest considering the following:
- The functional attributes of that persona’s work role, such as their relative position in their organisation, what their role entails and what their job title is.
- The emotive attributes that contribute to their buying decisions, such as their needs and problems.
- Their decision process – how they approach resolving their challenges and what drives their decision-making.
- Behavioural attributes such as how they research information.
This kind of approach to building personas takes into account the differences between personas in different markets and segments. It’s valuable because it considers the relevant pillars of information that are pertinent to B2B marketing to that particular persona.
An alternative way to approach personas is to craft them based on emotion and personality, which makes them more relevant to people from any cultural background.
One such example is Mastercard, which has attempted to craft a more personality-based approach to persona creation specific to data sharing attitudes, which it claims is applicable worldwide. Taking the view that cultural factors aren’t relevant when people seek information online, the brand suggests that behaviour and attitude when online are what count.
Mastercard states that there are 5 distinct personalities online and that these are the same around the world. They include types such as ‘Open sharers’, a persona which is apparently confident online, relaxed about sharing data, canny about data shared but relaxed about parting with their personal information. Another one is the ‘Passive user’, a persona that’s less confident online and less likely to shop there.
Attempts to craft personality-based personas for global use do have some value, but they probably aren’t enough to base your marketing efforts on. It’s important to consider the specific role your persona plays, either at home or in the workplace, when they are making buying decisions.
Personality-based personas such as those proposed by Mastercard aren’t robust enough to use as a basis for marketing tactics.
Whatever market you’re operating in, it’s important to remember that personas are not rigid and unchanging. Audience profiles can change surprisingly fast, and it’s vital that your personas are responsive. Needs and preferences can evolve with technology, the economic and political landscape, and with social and demographic evolution.
If you’re working in markets with fast growth rates, volatile political landscapes or fast-moving demographic changes, your personas may need to evolve more speedily than in more static markets.
Creating and updating personas that are locally relevant for global organisations remains an ongoing challenge. But personas can really help unlock your marketing strategy, particularly in unfamiliar markets where your marketing team feel distanced from their audience.
It’s really valuable to get to grips with personas for local regions if your marketing efforts are to be successful.