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The difference between brand personas and buyer personas

The difference between brand personas and buyer personas

Marketing technology has significantly increased our ability to design and perform truly targeted marketing. It used to be that we could guesstimate the target buyer profile we needed to send a direct mail piece to or create a trade publication ad for. Now, thanks to marketing technology and analytics, we can do and understand so much more. We get powerful demographic, firmographic and even behavioural data to analyse our buyers’ motivations, problems, challenges and responses on an individual basis, and at scale.

This breakthrough has led to the requirement to create marketing personas. More deeply understood than a target market, a persona is a fictional character we create to represent a specific user or buyer type that might use our websites, or interact with content or a product we offer.

Mapping buyer personas is a powerful strategy for effective segmentation, ensuring that each product or offering is value-mapped to the correct buyer persona, that is, that each segment receives the appropriate benefit messaging and information they need. This is crucial for b2b marketing, where we may have a number of decision-makers involved in the same decision. For example, a business owner, finance manager and IT manager might each have a say in choosing the right accounting software for their business. In some instances, the buying persona responsible for a buying decision can vary by company size, and therefore each of these personas must all be recognised and communicated with differently.

The buyer persona is now a fairly well-understood construct in modern b2b marketing. However, what seems to be confused, is how to ensure your company’s brand, or umbrella brand, can make a relevant promise to its whole audience, without looking like it has a watered down, feeble promise that doesn’t mean much, or worse - a split personality.

There is very little information in the industry on this topic, and we think it is a really important issue. Your company’s brand should be a stealthy powerhouse that sits behind your product or service brands. It should represent a compelling promise that tells your buying personas WHY you are the right company to work with. It should transcend your product and service benefits to connect with your audience on a much deeper level, creating the kind of emotional connection with all of your buyer personas that endures right through product lifecycles and key contact changes.

So which persona do you target with this relevant and emotionally compelling proposition? (Hint: If you can’t answer this, you don’t have a strong brand.)

Today, we’re taking a closer look at how buyer personas are built, and how to use your buyer personas to build a strong brand persona - and therefore, brand, for your b2b business.

One more time. How do we create a buyer persona?

Our buyer personas are typically mapped with information such as:

  • Persona Name
  • Career path or professional background
  • Typical age, hobbies and whether they live in urban, suburban or rural areas
  • Goals - what they’re looking to achieve in their role
  • Challenges - what hurdles are they trying to jump
  • Real quotes - what they say about their challenges
  • How we can help them overcome their goals and challenges
  • What their common objections are during the sales process - in their own words
  • Their role in the buying decision
  • Communications preferences, and where they go for information
  • Marketing message - what kind of messages do they need to hear from us
  • Real quotes - what sales objections you hear from them

Buyer persona: Coordinator Candice

Buyer personas, when mapped thoroughly, give us greater understanding into the needs and wants of your target segments. This means you can create more compelling messaging for them, and collect better insight on them too.

Once you have all of your buyer personas mapped, you’ll have a much better understanding of your buyer segments and the benefits you can offer to each. It also puts you in a great spot for the creation of another kind of persona: your brand persona.

What is a brand persona, and how do you create one?

A brand persona is a kind of persona we’ve been mapping for some time now. However, in researching what others are saying about this, we found that firstly, there is very little information on brand personas available, and secondly, the information that is out there, feels like it has some pieces missing.

These few articles talk as though your brand persona is actually the person your company brand would be if it were, well, a person. We don’t believe this is right.

Your brand personality is a set of personal human-like attributes your brand can have - such as humorous or formal, plain-speaking or quirky. It forms part of your brand platform (along with brand values, brand mission, brand vision, and tone of voice). In this context it is a way of describing your brand as a person and it is an invaluable technique for creating greater understanding of a brand.

But, if we agree that a marketing persona is a fictional character that represents a specific user or buyer type that uses our websites, or interacts with content or a product we offer, then we’d like to stipulate that a brand persona represents all user or buyer types that might interact with our brand.

Make sense?

And if we think in this way about our brand persona, as it being a person who interacts with our brand, rather than the brand itself, we can see exactly why the profiling of our buyer personas is a helpful precursor to the creation of a brand persona.

How to create a clear brand persona without a split personality

So if a brand persona represents all the personas, how do we create one that doesn’t seem to have a split personality?

To create a crystal clear brand persona, all you need to do is the following:
1. Choose your most important and influential buying personas - you’ll know who they are by the influence they have on your sales results. If you have ten buyer and influencer personas for example, choose the top three buyer personas who pack the most punch, and contribute to the biggest chunk of your revenue.

2. With your chosen brand team, line your mapped buyer persona posters up on the wall, and start circling the characteristics that are common to all. Naturally, these are different personas, with different needs, goals and motivations. However, there are also a few things that bind them. Maybe they all went to uni and have since worked their way up the corporate ranks. Perhaps they can be grouped in a similar age range. Perhaps they have one or two goals in common? And so on. Simply track back through all of your persona building questions and find enough commonalities to create a picture of a new person.

3. Name your new persona, so you can start thinking of them not as a meshed version of the others, but as their own person.

4. Now, let’s deepen our brand persona profile bit with some brand-specific questions:

  • What would be the best thing that could happen to them in their business tomorrow?
  • How would this make them feel?
  • What would be the worst thing that could happen to them in their business tomorrow?
  • How would this make them feel?
  • What motivates them to get out of bed in the morning?

5. Last, and most importantly, based on their challenges, fears, motivations and goals, map out what this persona needs most from you from you?

What do you do with your new brand persona?

Creating your brand positioning (or promise) requires customer understanding first and foremost. Skip this step, and it is likely you’ll have one of three alternatives:

1. A watered down, wishy-washy brand that nobody really understands
2. A split personality brand that attempts to be all things to all people, or
3. A brand that speaks mainly to one buying persona, and leaves the rest out in the cold.

Only once you have your brand persona well-mapped and understood, can you start to build your irresistible, relevant and differentiated brand promise for them.

Want to know more about the different types of brands? Download our free "Explorer, Hero or Outlaw: Which archetype is your brand?" ebook today.

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Brand chemistry is a strategic brand agency. With more than 10 years experience building brands, we know what it takes to stand out amongst your competitors. Take a look at our client case studies to find out more.

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