Championing Representation and Equality: Why Diverse Buyer Personas Are Important


Are you currently using buyer personas in your marketing and business strategies? If not, you should be! Creating buyer personas can be the difference between marketing that works and marketing that doesn’t.

Buyer personas help you understand who represents your target audience. They define certain characteristics that you can then use in your marketing efforts to generate lead generation. It’s more than just demographics. It’s about really understanding who your buyer is, how they think and what they feel. Buyer personas help you tailor messaging and creative elements across your marketing content and assets.

One question I would pose is, how diverse are your buyer personas? Are they “truly” reflecting an accurate representation of your target audience? By creating a diverse set of buyer personas, you open up opportunities to a wider audience and foster business growth.

The Many Opportunities to Diversify Your Buyer Persona Universe

Buyer personas are kind of a big deal. Just do an internet search for “buyer persona template” and you’ll generate endless results. There are dozens of respected resources that offer templates designed to lighten the load for business and marketing leaders.

These templates do offer a good place to start. But we think marketing leaders need to go much deeper. There are many racial, ethnic, cultural, gender, age, and spiritual differences among consumers that can’t be tied up in a neat buyer persona bow. Reducing your target audience to a general demographic only hurts your potential.

For example, culture groups exhibit unique purchasing habits. In many Asian cultures, there’s a significant focus on collectivism versus individualism. Buying decisions are heavily influenced by what’s best for the family as a whole or even an entire community—rather than what’s best for just one person at that moment. Using “pop culture” references can easily get lost on certain cultural groups as well.

Racial representation and equality is another area that has been historically lacking. Despite a marketer’s best intentions, and anti-racist beliefs, representation may fall short. Buyer personas that are too broad don’t take into account the value of making sure consumers of every race can see themselves in a brand’s marketing. The same can be said for gender, sexual orientation, individuals living with a disability, and age. People want to know a brand is talking to them, too; not just the person who might be sitting next to them on the train.

Unfortunately, research reveals we’re still not doing a great job at this. A study conducted last year by Facebook IQ found that 54% of consumers do not feel fully represented in online ads. Underrepresentation spans multiple groups. Forbes Senior Contributor Charles Taylor states, “…surveys show that approximately two-thirds of Active Agers agree that adults age 55+ are still represented in unfair ways in advertising and marketing.” Jane Cunningham, one of the authors of Brandsplaining: Why Marketing is (Still) Sexist And How To Fix It, is quoted in this New York Times article saying, “It’s just a complete misunderstanding about the way that women think.”

One factor that may not be studied as much is one’s religious and spiritual beliefs. Research by Didem Kurt, J. Jeffrey Inman, and Francesca Gino, published in Harvard Business Review, found that people with strong religious beliefs spend less than the opposite cohort, as well as make fewer impulse purchases. This is essential information if you’re a consumer brand that serves a highly-religious community.

Removing Biases and Stereotypes

Some experts argue that buyer personas are actually an “outdated” approach to marketing. Perhaps they think personas are ineffective and thus a waste of time. I would argue that buyer personas are only ineffective if marketers don’t take the time and effort to fully understand their prospective and current target audience. Marketers also have to recognize their own potential biases when it comes to building buyer personas.

In this regard, I agree with Marguerite Moore, a strategist with an M.A. in Integrated Marketing and Communications. She writes, “There is still a place for personas, but they’re not innocuous tools. Any time you segment groups, you’re creating generalizations, and those generalizations always have the potential to perpetuate stereotypes. If we continue to create personas, we need to acknowledge our own biases as marketers, create astute observations, recognize groups as multifaceted and dynamic, and intentionally examine how intersectionality impacts groups.”

Representation Matters

Using standard buyer personas can also cause a brand to overlook the experiences and perspectives of marginalized groups, such as people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, and people with disabilities. This lack of representation can result in the brand not understanding the unique needs and preferences of these groups, and failing to create marketing messages and images that resonate with them.

This lack of representation can have a damaging effect on the brand perception in the marketplace, making it difficult to attract new customers.

Improving Buyer Persona Effectiveness

To promote diversity and inclusion, brands can focus on understanding their customers as individuals with unique needs, preferences, and experiences. This requires going beyond research by engaging with diverse communities, listening to their voices, and creating marketing efforts that resonate with a broad range of customers.

One concept that may help remove biases and increase representation is creating a “brand table.” Imagine you’re throwing a dinner party—you’d want a diverse and interesting set of guests, who are all there because you are the connector between them. Brands should want the same thing for their customers: a variety of people with different perspectives and interests, and a common thread in your brand, product, or service.

Expanding your buyer personas to be more diverse and representative opens up new opportunities for business growth. No one expects this to change overnight. To be truly authentic with your audience and market strategy, it will take some effort. It’s worth it.

Developing buyer and audience personas is one part of our process in developing social media marketing  strategies that work. If you’d like to help with your social media marketing strategy, Crackerjack Marketing can help. Connect with one of our experts today.

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