Similar Strokes for Different Folks

March 14, 2013 by Beth Handrigan

Cognitive Mindsets

A young single adult, living with two roommates—a stay-at-home mom with three children under six—a busy professional who works 14-hour days… What could these three types of people possibly have in common?

Questions of this caliber haunt marketing executives day-in and day-out. They sit at their desks into the late hours of the night with a solitary lamp and a cold cup of coffee, unsure when they’re going to make it home to their family. They know they have a great product or service that people want—but how can they possibly market to each seemingly unique segment with a single, simple message?

If they subscribe to the typical persona development process that many marketers and agencies do—which begins with segmentation by demographics then shifts to a needs and behavior analysis, they’re going to be drinking that cold coffee for a long time. When the process ends there (and it usually does) marketing executives have missed a vital step.

Taking the process a step further—and identifying the common cognitive mindsets among these groups of target customers is where companies can not only increase their understanding of their target customers, but also increase their bottom line.

Let’s take our singleton/ stay-at-home mom/ busy professional example. By examining their personalities, their attitudes, their motivations, and even their fears—we can begin to see common mindsets emerge. If we focus on their online purchasing behavior, these may include:

  • I don’t ever want to pay for shipping
  • I will abandon my shopping cart instead of searching for items to make the minimum required purchase for free shipping
  • I’m busy! I want my online order to arrive quickly
  • I want a large selection of items that qualify for fast and free shipping
  • I want an easy way to find items that qualify for fast and free shipping
  • I will only buy items with good reviews, at what I think is a fair price
  • If I don’t like what I buy, I don’t want to pay for return shipping
  • I’m willing to pay a premium if someone can make it even easier to shop online

Suddenly, this seemingly disparate group is not really so different after all. Demographically, they may be about as similar as a Russian figure skater and a Fortune 500 CEO, but cognitively, they share a mindset like two members of any political party.

Understanding personas at the cognitive mindset level is precisely why programs such as Amazon Prime, a membership program that gives you and your family (or three friends) unlimited free two-day shipping on over 15 million products, are so successful—from college grads to busy moms to business professionals.

Even I will admit that I am a proud Amazon Prime member. Every time I purchase something, I think to myself, “They really get me.” Just in the last week alone, I’ve purchased several items I would otherwise have put off buying or purchased at a brick and mortar store whenever I got around to it. But if the price is fair, the reviews are good and the shipping is fast and free, there’s nothing to hold me back.

Clearly, Amazon understands the needs and motivations of these target customers—as evidenced by the fact that once an individual joins Prime, they spend 130 percent more than a regular Amazon customer.

Of course, Amazon Prime is only one example of successfully harnessing the power of cognitive mindsets when it comes to persona development. Have you experienced any others recently?

Beth Handrigan
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Director of Consumer & Channel Insights

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