Why Persona Development?

In order to truly put your clients at the heart of your organisation, you need to know more about them than target group segmentations allow because they are usually only based on socio-demographics such as age, gender or income. Individual needs, preferences, values and lifestyle are ignored. But today, these aspects are more important than statistical metrics to determine consumer behaviour. Genuinely different personalities with varying lifestyles can be part of the same target group, as the example of the socio-demographic twins Prince Charles und Ozzy Osborne illustrates. Both men were born in 1948 and raised in the UK.

Both are married for the second time and have two children of similar ages. Both are well off and are successful in their careers. But other than that, the hard rocker and the heir to the throne do not have a lot in common. This illustrates the limitations of target group segmentations. 

When developing a persona, the focus on a need-based group of consumers will be condensed into a single ideal figure. A persona is the personified portrayal of a representative of a group of consumers with similar needs and challenges. She or he receives a name, profession, place of residence, a family or a pet. They spend time engaging in their hobbies and personal interests. They have goals, needs and plans for their future. Some things worry them and there are buttons you can press if you’d like to irritate them (pain points).

This lively and personal portrayal helps to understand how consumers of a specific needs group think, feel and behave. Having this persona in mind makes it easier to express advertising messages, to improve products and to design new ones or to create social media content.

How to develop personas

The persona development process usually consists of the following steps:

  • Inventory: Summary, structuring and analysis of the all information that your organisation has about your clients
  • Persona Canvas Design: A workshop to define which characteristics and features are required to meaningfully describe a specific number of needs-based groups
  • Gathering consumer insights: Personal interactions with different clients take place in order to gather observations and findings
  • Developing personas: Using the persona canvas, the insights can be gathered, structured, analytically solidified and then visualised with the help of different persona set cards in a workshop
  • Knowledge sharing workshops with teams and other departments ensure that the personas will be disseminated and actively used in the organisation

Not only does technology change in the times of digital transformation, but so do people, who evolve and continually learn. Personal growth and life-long learning are important trends of our society and business. This is why personas should not be set in stone but be developed continuously and organically. The more actively teams and business areas make use of personas in customer surveys, user experience tests, market research and new product development, the faster their learnings can be reconciled and integrated into the personas. By treating them as living documents, your understanding of the needs groups will always remain up to date.

Consumer Insights

There are many ways to gain an understanding of your customers. They all have one thing in common: personal contact and interaction. Here are some examples of our methodological tool box:

  • During Consumer Visits you meet representatives of selected needs groups at home. Interview technique trainings and an interview guide will empower you to explore through observation and dialogue what your interview partners think, wish for, get annoyed about and appreciate.
  • In a Consumer Journey you observe how your clients use your products and services in their natural environment. Depending on your industry and goals, you will shadow your consumers when cooking, cleaning, grooming, styling, sewing, sawing or posting. You can accompany them when shopping (offline or online) to observe directly how they orientate themselves, compare and decide which products to go for. We analyse and solidify the consumer insights guided by the persona canvas in a joint workshop.
  • Moderation Training empowers teams with a degree of expertise in conducting personal interviews to moderate focus groups with consumers and users. On the first day, a mix of theoretical input and practical exercises in dyads provides the required conversation techniques and know-how regarding group dynamics. On the second day, participants (co-)moderate a small group with `real’ consumers. The topic of the discussion can pick up on a research or business matter currently relevant for you and your organisation.

Application and expertise

Initially, personas were developed to manage IT application requirements. Due to their strengths they are being used in various business areas:

  • Designing ‘physical’ products in various industries
  • Developing and improving services
  • Creating advertising campaigns and communication
  • Designing online and offline shops
  • Developing apps and digital products
  • User Experience Design
  • Content Management

I have experience in persona development in the following industries:

  • Automotive
  • Electric household appliances
  • Power tools
  • Financial services
  • Household hygiene
  • Personal care and health
  • Logistics
  • Food and beverages
  • Travel and tourism
  • Consumer electronics
  • Insurances

Case Study

Christian Schech and Bastian Wetzel, the founders and developers of SOI, wondered why women are constantly searching for items in their handbags. During a power blackout at a folk festival, women spontaneously used their smartphones as emergency light. The idea of a professional “bag light” was born – which would bring an end to fumbling around in the dark. The analysis of the competitive environment revealed that bag lights already existed. But they were difficult to use and uncomfortable. Insights that we at COLIBRI Research gathered together with WeJane (Amsterdam) and our global research network (Bag Stories), enabled us to support the product development process through profound psychological insights about women and their handbags.  

Four product design requirements were derived from the consumer insights:

  • Women usually use several handbags and change between them throughout the day. A central requirement was to design a handy, light-weight and mobile-use bag light.
  • A bag light must provide a comfortable and intelligent solution. The innovative product will only add value if the light automatically turns on as soon as women start rummaging through their handbags. Until you’ve found the power switch, you’ve already got your keys and so the light is obsolete.
  • Women do not have a purely functional, but always a personal and sometimes even an emotional relationship with their handbag. As a consequence, feminine design and materials that look and feel good guided the product design decisions.
  • Women already have a lot to do and are not really keen on laboriously keeping their handbags tidy. Hence, the bag light should be user-friendly and low-maintenance.

Bag Stories - What bags tell about women

”Every woman has an uneasy look if somebody glances into its sacred privacy. A decent man should always tactfully stare
at the ceiling whenever his companion opens her bag.”

New York Times 1945

We shamelessly talked with women about the content of their bag. So did our partners around the world, from Shanghai to Stockholm. Bags from 16 countries tell the stories of their owners. Feminine insights based on one of the most intimate accessories in a woman’s life: her handbag. Getting curious?

Read the complete case study now.

COLIBRI Research

Prof. Ute Rademacher