The difference between brand personas and buyer personas

7 min read

difference-between-brand-personas-and-buyer-personas

Advances in marketing technology and analytics have significantly increased our ability to design and perform truly targeted marketing. With access to powerful demographic, firmographic and behavioural data, we can now create buyer personas based on specific segments of an audience and how they interact with our website, content and products

But while buyer personas are now a fairly well-understood construct in modern b2b marketing, what’s often misunderstood 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 offering that doesn’t mean much, or worse - a split personality. In other words, how does a brand persona support multiple buyer personas in a cohesive and powerful way?

Unfortunately, there is very little information in the industry on how brand and buyer personas differ and interact, despite it being 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 buyer 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 you create a buyer persona?

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 your company 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 you
  • 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.

Download Brand chemistry's brand archetype ebook

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

While some articles talk about brand personas as though they’re 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 being 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, describing your brand as a person is an invaluable technique for creating greater understanding of a brand. It’s not a brand persona though.

But, if we agree that a marketing persona is a fictional character that represents a specific user or buyer segment interacting with your website, content or products, then we’d like to stipulate that a brand persona represents all user or buyer types that might interact with your brand.

For example, IBM is the classic Ruler brand. Their customers are powerful and important (or think they are), with authority, dignity and a preference for hierarchical systems. They want to project a sense of security and stability in a chaotic world, and IBM helps them do this by being a clear market leader, offering high quality products and services that help people to maintain or enhance their power.

Or consider FedEx, the Hero brand. Its customers want to triumph over adversity and the problems holding them back from success. They keep going in the face of all odds with courage and strength. FedEx enables this by being competent, always delivering on their promises and helping customers achieve their goals.

With these examples, you can see clearly how the brand persona represents a broader picture of your buyer personas - the people who interact with your brand. And your brand should enable your customers to live out their archetype: to be the hero, ruler, outlaw or explorer that they believe they are. (Learn more about the 12 archetypes in our ebook.)

Make sense?

So if we think of brand personas in this way, we can see exactly why the mapping of your 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 personas, for example, choose the three who pack the most punch and contribute the biggest chunk of your revenue.

2. Identify the most common characteristics amongst your chosen personas
With your brand team, line your chosen buyer personas 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 together. 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, or they have one or two goals in common? And so on. Simply track back through your persona building questions and find enough commonalities to create a picture of a new person.

3. Name your new persona
This makes it easier to start thinking of them as their own person, instead of a meshed version of the others.

4. Deepen your brand persona profile 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. Identify what this persona needs most from your business
Last, and most importantly, based on their challenges, fears, motivations and goals, map out what this persona needs from you.

What do you do with your new brand persona?

Creating a 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
  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.

Originally published on 9 March 2016. Last updated on 14 January 2021.

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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