The Changing Nature of Consumer Personas

Targeting in the age of programmatic is not about demographics anymore. It is about the consumer's passions, interests, and habits. In this opinion piece, John Snyder (pictured below), CEO, Grapeshot, looks at personalisation and how the GDPR will make a positive impact on marketer-consumer relationships in the future.

In the realm of broadcast TV, we were all once relatively simple, rigid audiences pigeonholed into clear and predefined silos of content. However, the internet is, of course, an entirely different experience. There is now a seemingly infinite number of small pockets of intense interest hobbyists. However, as brands create experiences through emails, websites, and more, they have an opportunity, but not always the ability, to actually understand what these individual experiences look like.

John Snyder, CEO, Grapeshot

Marketers are now able to unpack a very different type of persona than old TV broadcast model. Classically, brands used segmentation to help understand and target an audience. This meant taking into consideration general details about the average customer, such as their demographic, gender, socioeconomic status, and so on. Content would then be created for an audience – this would guide a brand’s creative as well its media plan – matched against expected audiences, as communicated by channel owners based on historic (often modelled) audience insight.

But, in the new world, we have the opportunity to break down character and audience, meaning marketers might find new consumers who turn out to be more important than the ones they originally thought were their goal. This is not about age or gender, it is about understanding what people are passionate about. It allows marketers to better understand these different groups, and to recognise key traits within them. And if they can unlock that subtle difference between a music festival goer to a food festival lover, for instance, then they can fundamentally change the way they communicate with them, while evoking their creative, branded content, copy, or video to meet the needs of that specific persona.

In today’s always-on, omnichannel, digital world, marketers must be able to unpack and personalise content in the moment. Owning customer data is nothing without being able to implement simple actionable insights at the right moment. To be able to do this, marketers must listen to their users’ habits. They need to understand what they like to spend their time with and then turn that insight into more valuable and personalised experiences.

Ultimately, to do this effectively marketers need to have sensors on every single digital touchpoint so they can understand what their users are reading and the context. By doing this in real time they will gain intelligence that is not rigid or based on predefined rules. Moreover, it needs to be constantly evolving, just like our own likes and loves from one moment to the next. Personalisation should be seen as an ever-evolving reflection of the consumer’s own interests as they wander around the digital and analogue world. There is then the opportunity to automate and evolve the next recommendation based on current and previous behaviour.

This has never been more important with GDPR just around the corner and brands now need to prove their role in their customers’ lives. This will ultimately be dictated by the quality of the content and conversations. To demonstrate value, brands and content must show contextual relevance in the moment. GDPR is, therefore, an opportunity to refocus brands on nurturing the users they have (and creating value for new ones). At every single turn, touchpoint, and engagement there is an opportunity to add value. Gone are the days of building the biggest database possible – it’s now about serving engaged customers with content that is relevant and in-the-moment. Context, or marrying the right ads to the right content in real-time, ensures a brand can drop in when it matters to engage a consumer it will resonate with.

Simply put, when it comes to ad targeting, if we can understand the content on the page, in that exact moment, we can also very accurately determine the type of consumer who will gravitate towards it and, therefore, we can determine the best-suited ad content.

We now have this wonderful feedback loop between the digital outputs that marketers create in order to tell a brand’s story and how they understand the types of people who actually responded to their brand’s story. That insight will be a marketer’s definitive guide to shape new brand content that they can then put out to multiple platforms. By channelling and funnelling all this insight down into simple actionable insights, marketers can take full control of business growth and, more importantly, value amongst their customers.