Persona’s in segmentation research: a task apart

There is a debate currently raging on Twitter on the advantages and disadvantages of personas. Alan Klement, the author and expert on the Job-to-be-done (JTBD) theory, makes the case against personas because the naming and locations often do not reflect the most important elements of a demand segment (persona) although they are the most exciting in terms of communication.

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A picture emphasises the age and gender of a person, whereas the demand expressed is secondary. This runs the risk of placing people in the wrong boxes. This is an issue that I also encounter in practice.

The wrong box

In a recent study on home comfort, the marketing manager  reluctantly admitted that he was actually an “Antoinette”; the chic lady who impose high standards on quality and design and is prepared to pay for them. He did not recognise this at first as he is of a different gender. Another example: the typical backpacker may be in his or her early twenties, but I know ageing hippies who have the same requirement for basic, low-budget accommodation, where meeting peers and exchanging travel stories is an important part of the experience.

Best of Both worlds

Klement also argues for the use of JTBD in place of Personas. However, the advantage of persona’s is that they work very well in communication. 

1) Give a name that reflects the need. So not Antoinette, but ‘chic connoisseur’ for example.
2) Make the pictures gender neutral, or even better, genderless, ageless and raceless. So use unisex puppets instead of photos.

This might make the personas a bit less interesting but it ensures the correct focus: what you need to offer and why you need to offer it is ultimately more important than the question of who.