Gatorade and martinis: What do you want your buyers to believe about your company?

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If you agree with me about the importance of buyer personas in Web marketing, then the most important nest step is you need to know what you want each of your buyer personas to believe about your organization.

Consider the U.S. presidential elections of 2004. Marketers for the two major candidates segmented buyers (voters) into dozens of distinct buyer personas. Some of the names of the buyer personas (sometimes called "microtargets" in the political world) became well known as the media began to write about them, while many other persona labels remained internal to the candidates. Some of the better-known buyer personas of the 2004 presidential election were "NASCAR Dads" (rural working-class males, many of whom are NASCAR fans) and "Security Moms" (mothers who were concerned about security and worried about terrorism). By segmenting millions of voters into distinct buyer personas, the candidates built marketing campaigns and PR programs that appealed specifically to each. Contrast this approach with a one-size-fits-all campaign that targets everybody but appeals to nobody.

Once the campaigns had identified buyer personas such as NASCAR Dads and Security Moms, they had to create a set of messages and talking points that the candidates would use in speeches to these groups. For example, George W. Bush appealed to Security Moms with speeches and advertising that claimed that families would be safer from the threats of terrorism with his "stay the course" approach if he was re-elected rather than if John Kerry were elected. (Never mind politics – we're talking about marketing here…)

You must do the same thing with your buyer personas. What do you want each group to believe about your organization? What messages will you use to reach them? Remember, the best messages are not just about your product. What is each buyer persona really buying from you? Is it great customer service? The "safe choice?" Luxury? For example, Volvo doesn't just sell a car; it sells safety.


And don't forget that different buyer personas buy different things from your organization. Think about Gatorade for a moment. For competitive athletes, Gatorade has been the drink of choice for decades. I found some interesting messages on the Gatorade Web site, including "If you want to win, you've got to replace what you lose," and "For some athletes, significant dehydration can occur within the initial 30 minutes of exercise." These are interesting messages, because they target the buyer persona of the competitive athlete and focus on how Gatorade can help those athletes win.

Now I'm not an expert on Gatorade's buyer personas, but it seems to me that they could further refine their buyer personas based on the sports athletes play or on whether they are professionals or amateurs. If tennis players see themselves as very different from football players, then Gatorade may need to create buyer persona profiles and messages to target both sports separately. Or maybe women athletes make up a different buyer persona for Gatorade than men.

But there's another buyer persona that I have never seen Gatorade address. I remember back to my early twenties, when I lived in an apartment in New York City and was single and making the rounds in the party circuit and club scene. To be honest, I was partying a little too hard some weeknights, skulking home in the wee hours. Of course, I then had to make it down to my Wall Street job by 8:00 AM. Ugh.

I discovered that drinking a large bottle of Gatorade on the walk to the subway stop helped make me feel a lot better. Now I don’t actually expect Gatorade to develop messages for young professionals in New York who drink too much, but that buyer persona certainly has different problems from those that Gatorade solves for athletes. Imagine advertising for this buyer persona: "Last night’s third martini still in your system? Rehydration is not just for athletes. Gatorade."

Of course, the point is that different buyer personas have different problems for your organization to solve. And there's no doubt that your online marketing and PR programs will do better if you develop messages for each buyer persona, instead of simply relying on a generic site that uses one set of broad messages for everyone.