When it comes time to develop a brand story, many companies focus primarily on what they do or how they were started. In other words, it’s all about them. The problem with that is that it completely neglects the audience, where they’re coming from, their goals, and what they think about when buying the types of things you sell. To audiences, this is usually pretty boring. What they’d rather hear is a story where they can see themselves. A story that tells the truth in a fascinating and emotional way and shows how the brand can improve their lives.
To create a wildly engaging story like that, you need to start with who your audience is. In our last article, we covered the 20 questions to ask about your audience. Once you’ve covered that step, it’s time for step 2: creating a persona.
What is an audience persona?
An audience persona is a fictionalized composite of your audience constructed from all the information you have about them. In other words, you may have identified your desired audience as 25-54 years old, living in urban settings, in possession of a college degree and making $150,000-$300,000. But that’s too generic to be useful.
The audience persona will be about Jane who’s 34, lives in Minneapolis, graduated from the University of Wisconsin, and works as a supervisor at John Deere’s machine learning division making $180,000 a year. This level of specificity makes the audience real and helps you understand how to reach your audience on a more personal level.
The persona would go on to describe what Jane cares about, how she thinks about the brand’s category, what her needs are, the order of her priorities as they pertain to the brand’s category, and so on.
Here is a persona that we created for a popular college textbook rental company after having several recorded phone conversations with actual customers.
Example buyer persona for a textbook rental site
Christine is a 19-year-old sophomore at a big 4-year university with very little money. She’s starting to get used to living and surviving on her own.
She studies a lot, exercises, hangs out with friends, and participates in intramural sports. But Christine is stressed. Very, VERY stressed. Mainly about money and her mounting debt. Aside from tuition, she also needs to buck up for textbooks, supplies, food, clothes, mobile device payments, and, ya know, other stuff. Beyond mere finances, she’s also stressed about grades, guys, responsibilities, social dynamics, and the prospect of graduating in a depressed job market. The stress is practically unbearable.
She goes online for most things that she buys: entertainment, beauty products, technology, school supplies, etc. She primarily buys on price and often refers to 3rd party reviews to guide her shopping choices (she can’t afford mistakes). She also shares shopping ideas with fellow students.
She sees textbooks as a necessary evil. So, given her financial situation and level of stress, she’s looking for the best deal possible. If she can get her books more conveniently, even better. She’s a busy bee.
By seeing the world through Christine’s eyes, we could create a story that would engage her. As we were doing that, we would ask ourselves, “Would Christine care?” A simple, but powerfully clarifying exercise.
To create this persona, we listened to and transcribed all of the recorded conversations that we had with members of the audience. As we did this, patterns started to emerge. We took note of those patterns and eventually converted them into this short description above. And a short description is really all you need to get a feel for them, how they think, how they feel, and what they need.
Not sure where to start? Go back and read the questions from our previous article, then conduct your own interviews. Or skip that click and get our free eGuide, Imagining Reality: Five Steps to Brand Storytelling.