November 3, 2019

We don’t care about personas

A Snickers box back in the daysA Snickers box back in the days

I was working on defining positioning and messaging for a product. The team and I thought we needed to understand who our personas were in order to move forward with defining positioning and messaging.

There were some hesitations in doing so: What’s next? What do we do once we have description(s) of our persona(s). How is it going to help us on next steps for product development?”

We decided not to go for personas.

Below is why.

Why sticking to persona might mislead you in your product positioning and messaging strategy

If you sell Snickers, you don’t care to know that your target persona is 35 years old, has a degree in marketing, likes peanuts, chocolate and caramel, and has an active lifestyle.

Those are attributes and they might mislead you:

We learned early the outcome a person wants is much more important than the person themselves. Knowing it’s a 37-year-old’s hands on the keyboard rarely changes how you design your product to deliver their outcome.”– Intercom’s team.

The jobs-to-be-done methodology stipulates that those attributes don’t help you understand why this person bought a Snickers:

Personas look at roles and attributes. Jobs-to-be-Done looks at situations and motivations. Personas explain who people are and what people do. But they never fully explain why people do something. And why people do things is far more important.” You want to know what job” people hire” your product for.

You want to know what their motivations are, as opposed to what their attributes are.

Back to our Snickers example:

A Snickers box back in the daysA Snickers box back in the days

Snickers’ consumer did not buy a Snickers because they are 35 years old, have a degree in marketing, like peanuts, chocolate and caramel, and have an active lifestyle.

They bought a snicker because they were on the go, in between meals, and needed to satisfy hunger.

Personas might mislead you when creating your acquisition strategies as you might be totally omitting what job people hire your product for as you focus solely on who they are.

Personas artificially break apart audiences. And critically, they artificially limit your product’s audience by focusing on attributes rather than motivations and outcomes. — Intercom’s team”

Sources, more reading and watching:

  • Intercom on Jobs-to-be-Done by Intermcom (link)
  • Know Your Customers’ Jobs to Be Done” by Clayton M. Christensen, Taddy Hall, Karen Dillon, and David S. Duncan (link)
  • Jobs to be Done: from Doubter to Believer by Sian Townsend (link)

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