As important as demographics, psychographics and values can be to characterise and understand the target audience’s needs and wants, it’s even more important to remember that organisations and their brands, products and services live in the world of the end user, and not vice versa.
A few years ago, I did a brainstorm for a major bank in Australia. A group of us interviewed 60+ suburban mothers in focus groups (persona name: Jill) to learn about her family’s spending habits about food and nutrition, particularly her attitudes and purchase behaviour in grocery stores. In the (very simplified) chart to the right, we put our initial questions and areas of concern into two circles:
- The blue circle was originally the only area our bank client was interested, naturally focused on opportunities where the bank could focus its specific products and services
- The white circle was a big-picture perspective of Jill’s life, including everything she focuses on what’s important for her and her family. Few if any of the bank’s products and services linked to the areas in the white circle.
The bank originally asked us to focus only on the blue circle. In our brainstorms, ideas focused on food, making dinners, eating, her key’s dislikes about food. The problem was none of the ideas were particularly interesting, and none of them fresh or unique.
When we began to focus on areas in Jill’s white circle, we generated ideas which which transcended the food category and spoke to her wider interests – her desire to exercise more and her kid’s school activities were the two big areas. Once we were playing in these non-bank areas, we began to find ways to bend to Jill’s wants and needs, but still insert the bank into the conversation in organic ways. Not surprising, the client balked: they felt the bank’s brand name was not the obvious focus. Yet, when we returned to a few select Jills to get her perspective, she overwhelmingly preferred ideas generated from the white areas. And, the ideas were eventually implemented were even more successful than we anticipated – simply because we focused on her, not on the client.
Here’s some key takeaways. Ideas in the blue circle …
- Keep you linked to your category, and frankly, are more difficult to differentiate from your immediate competition
- Create less impact – perhaps because they don’t have a surprise factor, or again – the competition may already be working in these areas
- Are safer, but as a rule, safe ideas are rarely successful
Ideas in the white circle …
- Allow you to fit in the target audience’s mindset more often. In other words, they’ll consider you more often throughout a typical day.
- Resonate more. They also tend to have higher media interest, either through traditional or social media.
- Always carry more risk – of all types.
What are other ways you’ve used to focus on the world of the end user (and not your own)? Please add your thoughts and opinions in the Comments area below.