How much weight should we give to the persona in 2023?

And the different strategies

Iaguen David


A Marketing concept originally invented by Alan Cooper, the term persona appeared in 1999. Its inventor, a software developer, created the notion of persona in order to design interfaces according to users. 20 years later, should we continue to use this method?
There is no doubt that the debate is here to stay, but rather than adopting one position or another, the idea is to give an objective opinion about the different possibilities and their advantages.

What is a persona?

Or at the very least, what should it really be? Many marketers define one or more personas thinking they are doing the right thing.
Of course, the intention is praiseworthy. Especially given the fact that a large part of professionals do not even consider creating customer profiles.
But the main problem is that they fail to see the project through to the very end. Most people stop after defining 1 or 2 characteristics, not enough to get a holistic picture.
To cut to the chase, a persona is the typical profile of your customer/user. It’s a kind of sketch of a strategic customer. The objective is to create a profile that represents a group of customers with homogeneous behaviors.
Generally, we use several dimensions to define personae:

  • Their profile: Demographic factors such as where they come from and who they are.
  • Their key values: Their likes, beliefs and thought process.
  • Their buying process: How they obtain information, their decision-making process and their preferred channels.
  • His purchases: Their purchasing behavior with respect to preferred products and brands.
  • Level of satisfaction with the products and the experience delivered.
  • Consumer and attitudes: Relating to their need, want, and desire and how they buy and use products.
  • Their expectations: What will drive them to buy, what they prefer, what they expect in terms of customer experience.
  • Their obstacles: What will tend to slow them down, what they don’t like.

Why and how to define personas?

It goes without saying that a perfectly defined persona will be extremely useful and is undoubtedly one of the key factors driving the success behind an advertising campaign.
But there are a couple of limitations when it comes to defining personas.
Many marketers define each persona themselves during brainstorming sessions, often with the input of sales teams. In this discussion phase, everyone brings their vision of the customer and contributes to the development of the personae.
But this often happens without the customer being interviewed and is largely subjective, resulting in the profile being out of touch with reality.
The only people able to share relevant and objective information are the customers themselves. Brainstorming sessions need to be supplemented with field research.
This practice is referred to as UX Research. Initially, it allows you to understand the user’s journey by asking them about their uses, their obstacles and their expectations – valuable information necessary for building and refining a persona.
The challenge is to gain a better understanding of your end users instead of influencing their answers. Even without knowing interviewing techniques, you can learn a lot by directly questioning even 10 or 15 people interested in your product or service, or even by using an online questionnaire,
If the interviews are conducted objectively, without the interviewee being coerced, the data collected will give valuable information about who they really are and more details about their needs.
Finally, strategies and content can be developed to accompany users throughout their decision-making process thanks to a well defined persona such as:

  • Creating, modifying or evolving a website.
  • Define its editorial line.
  • Manage your content strategy.
  • Launching an inbound strategy.
  • Write / have written white papers.
  • Publish blog articles.
  • Distribute business cases.
  • Putting videos online.
  • Set up marketing automation processes.

The concept of JTBD (Jobs-to-be-Done)

A much more recent concept, JTBDs are results-oriented and based on a representation of client needs.
We are not looking for people, but for needs. Why? Because two people in the same job, living in the same city, playing the same sport, married with two children, and the same age, may have diametrically opposed needs. Therefore, segmenting people can be too complex and make you miss potential customers at first.
A person who is passionate about digital does not necessarily like everything digital. They can always use a notebook to write down their appointments, rather than an application.
Still, with JTBD, you don’t segment, but target everyone instead.

The fishing metaphor :

The bait refers to the product – the water is the market – the fish are the customers.
As a company, you throw a bait in the water and the fish take the bait. In reality, alot of fish have taken the bait, but at this point, you have no interest in focusing on the type of fish. You simply met a need and since you didn’t segment, you didn’t miss any fish that would have been interested.
That’s how Apple works, their products are designed for needs / ways of thinking, but in no way for pre-defined personae. Apple customers come from many different backgrounds, age groups and regions in the world, meaning there is no shortage of socio-demographic profiles.

Which method to define Jobs-to-be-Done?

To define needs, the technique is more or less the same as for personas, except that it is necessary to interview a group of people as large as possible and only through questions related to their needs. Then, it is enough to analyze and uncover groups of needs according to the identified common points.
It is therefore more interesting to have a product for a widespread need, rather than for a segment of people whose precise interests vary and are difficult to identify.
In advertising, targeting is initially broad and it is up to the market to self-determine for whom your advertising works. After a short time, you may find that 40-50 year olds are the most interested, whereas your intended targets were 30-40 year olds. In this case, it is enough to adjust / optimize the campaign.
This JTBD approach is intrinsically linked to Design Thinking, which consists of carrying out a series of tests and interviews with several potential users during the design of your product. Note that this research and optimization must continue when the offer is officially proposed.


In layman’s terms:
The persona method consists of studying your customers as precisely as possible to adapt your messages.
The Jobs-to-be-Done method consists of launching a product and discovering the feedback to perform analysis and optimization.
In the end, these two methods are complementary. In marketing, any customer information is useful. So even if we focus on the JTBD method and collect any kind of information, there is nothing to prevent us from drawing up typical profiles, in other words, personae.
Also, it is very important to underline the importance of the target: B2C, complex B2C (as opposed to e-commerce such as the purchase of a property) or B2B…?
It is true that for B2C, the JTBD method can sometimes be sufficient (cf. Apple example), but what about when the buying process is long and complex?
The reflection phase of a B2B customer is much longer and more sophisticated, which is why creating personas within the audience helps to produce content adapted to each customer and according to their stage in the purchase funnel.
For example, if you decide to create automated email scenarios, you will be able to automatically adapt the content according to the characteristics of the leads.
In short, these two methods have their place in any marketing strategy, but must be conducted with great precision and reflect reality. We therefore banish the “I think” and ask the customer directly what he thinks!

If you want to learn more, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We at comtogether are happy to help.

About the author

Iaguen David
Skilled in the creation of written and visual content, Iaguen develops our Inbound Marketing division. Calm and conscientious, he carries out each of his projects with the same precision he frames his photos!