A recent meme made me spit coffee across my keyboard. Not only because it was funny, but because it encapsulated so easily what has always frustrated me about audience personas.
The phrase “soccer mom” did women a huge disservice by instantly squishing them into a single dimension. You can picture her now…she’s never Latina or in a wheelchair or wearing a suit.
Beneath side-by-side photos of Ozzy Osbourne and King Charles, the text noted that both were male, born in 1948 and raised in the UK. Each is famous, wealthy, twice-married and living in a castle (I don’t really know where Ozzy lives, but I’ll take their word for it). In the world of personas, these two men are virtually interchangeable. However, when it comes to tastes in entertainment, clothing and eye makeup, the two couldn’t be further apart.
As a writer, personas based on demographic information, fictional quotes and untested user details have always frustrated me. They read more like personal ads than who audiences actually are. After all, people are messy. They are different colors with different interests and needs and abilities. In the 90s, the phrase “soccer mom” did women a huge disservice by instantly squishing them into a single dimension. You can picture her now. White, shoulder-length hair, minivan, no goals of her own. In a persona document, she’s never Latina or in a wheelchair or wearing a suit—or male—making it easy to forget all the people she might really be and taking attention off whatever problem she was trying to solve.
Trading up to user scenarios
Don’t get me wrong—I want to know everything I can about an audience:
- What they think
- What problems they’re facing—how they got there and how they’re feeling
- What gets in the way or moving forward
- How they’re most likely to interact
- What steps will guide them to “yes”
But what does this person look like? Don’t bother. Sure, tell me the predominant age and gender, but be careful—those tidbits can lead to the idea that everyone in your audience cares about golf. I’m more interested in knowing things like that so we can get the type size big enough or avoid all-cap headlines for certain cohorts.
When I’m charged with creating messages that motivate, I’m much more interested in user scenarios and research-driven insights than a stock photo that invites stereotypes to flood in. Tell me a rich story about how a person’s days go off the rails when tech doesn’t work as it should. Share the details of the task to be completed, the consequences if it isn’t, and how the experience is different for everyone involved in making the purchase decision. Then we can figure out how to solve the problem and everyone can go home smiling.
Want to connect more meaningfully with your audiences? Connect with FATFREE first. Let’s find out what turns your prospects into customers into brand loyalists, and act on it.