NBC Digital scraps Madison Ave demographics in favor of personas

Nbc-logoDouglas Burdett points us to a fascinating story in the Media Post NBC News Kills The Demographic, Personifies Its Viewers Instead written by Joe Mandese.

The Media Post piece talks about how NBC News Digital is abandoning the traditional Madison Avenue demographics approach that has been used for decades that uses attributes like age, income, race, sex, and other factors to cluster audiences. This demographic approach is how advertising space has been bought and sold for a generation.

The new buyer persona approach on is based on their actual behaviors rather than a list of attributes.

The Media Post article lists the four personas used by NBC Digital as:

  • "Always On:" Consumers who are constantly connected to news feeds across multiple devices throughout their waking day.
  • "Reporters:" A slightly smaller segment of "digital natives" who grew up consuming news via online and mobile media, and who have manifested the behaviors of news disseminators, taking pride in their ability to break important news to their friends via their own social media postings.
  • "Skimmers:" Consumers who are not passionately connected to news.
  • "Veterans:" Consumers who primarily rely on traditional media as a trusted source for news.

NBC Digital is using the personas both to develop new content and to pitch advertisers.

Buyer personas and your marketing

The idea of buyer personas is difficult for many people who are used to traditional demographics to grasp. In a New Marketing Masterclass I recently conducted for several dozen consumer marketers, we were discussing a brand of premium grooming products for men and as I probed the buyer personas they target with the product, I heard language like: "Upscale, young, urban men in their twenties." This is a classic Madison Avenue approach and not as effective as a persona based approach. When I pushed a little about the market and who buys the products, we ended up with language like: "Shy single men who spend lots of money on products to increase their chances of finding a girlfriend."

Now we're talking! It is tough to create marketing for "Upscale, young, urban men in their twenties," which is why so much advertising ends up focused on the product attributes. However, creating marketing for "Shy single men who spend lots of money on products to increase their chances of finding a girlfriend," would be fun!

I recommend that you actually name your buyer personas. With the example above, we could name the buyer persona "Shy Sam." Armed with this sort of persona, marketers can then create online content that appeals directly to them. How about an ebook with a title like: "How to get a close shave that women love."

They key here is to develop buyer personas using actual input from interviews. You can’t just make this stuff up. The nuggets of gold here is that "Shy Sam" is shy and has trouble finding a girlfriend. You don’t guess at that. Rather you learn from your interviews with 25 or so members of the Shy Sam persona.

Buyer personas will transform your marketing. Building your content strategy around buyer personas is much more effective than prattling on about what your products and services do. With a switch to buyer personas, many organizations have dramatically better marketing success.

My book The New Rules of Marketing & PR uses buyer personas as a fundamental starting point of great marketing. If you want even more, my friend Adele Revella of the Buyer Persona Institute has great information.

I'm always looking for examples of buyer persona success. I'll be sharing an example from a professional services firm in the next week or two.

David Meerman Scott

Subscribe to Email Updates

sonic branding