Posts tagged “persona”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Airwalk footwear – In the mid-90's, Mann left the company. After his departure, the decision was made to "go mainstream" and focus on a more general audience rather than just creating shoes for sport enthusiasts. There was a brief rise in sales, but some people loyal to the brand found the mainstream designs questionable.
  • What happens when underground brands go mainstream – Wharton marketing professors David Reibstein and John Zhang have been exploring how early adopters react when a product goes mass-market. When is there a backlash? When do early adopters switch to new products and when do they stick with the brand?
  • Personas for Firefox | Dress up your web browser – Finally, a definition I can live with: Personas are lightweight, easy-to-install and easy-to-change "skins" for your Firefox web browser.

Get our latest article, Persona Non Grata

My first interactions column, Persona Non Grata, has just been published. In the article, I consider some of the fatal problems with personas and how they can hurt while pretending to help.

Get a PDF of the article here. As the interactions website only has a teaser, we’d like to offer a copy of the article. Send an email to steve AT portigal DOT com and tell us your name, organization, and title. We’ll send you a PDF.

See what else we’ve written about personas.

Other articles

Segmentation Politics

Today’s NYT magazine included a letter written in response to How Do you Say ‘Got Milk’ en Espa?±ol? (about Hispanic advertising).

Giving catchy names to particular demographic segments is one of advertising’s oldest tricks to make the craft seem “scientific”. But why spend time defining the characteristics of each segment if it turns out everybody is a mix of all of them -“a Straddler . . . with certain Learner/Navigator undercurrents”?

Agreed. As I’ve written before, personas are user-centered bullshit.

Wash that patriarchal and limiting perception right out of your hair

This story (link may expire) about an evolution in Japanese shampoo marketing points to a loosening of traditional advertising personas (and an associated shift in beliefs about who their customer really is).

Kaori Sasaki, who heads a communication consulting company, said Japanese businesses long viewed female consumers in three oversimplified categories – the housewife, office worker and schoolgirl.

But that formula is rapidly growing obsolete as more women pursue ambitious careers and more mothers join the work force, she said.

“Marketing is changing to reflect a changing lifestyle,” Sasaki said. She noted a recent TV commercial for detergent that depicts a man doing the wash – something once virtually unthinkable in male-dominated Japan.

Seventeen ways to not suck at research

I spoke recently at Shift, the IDSA conference held at RISD. I outlined seventeen ways to not suck at research:

1. Quit worrying about jargon
2. Think more broadly about which people you want to learn about
3. Garbage in, garbage out
4. Give other people the space to tell their stories
5. Follow up, and then follow up, and then follow up
6. Do you really want to use a survey? Probably not.
7. Collect and use natural language
8. Don’t forget that any research process with real live humans is hard
9. Breathe their air
10. Learning anything new requires rapport, and building rapport takes time
11. Finding insights requires pattern matching, creativity, synthesis
12. Personas are user-centered bullshit
13. Phil McKinney says “You’re probably not listening.”
14. Practice noticing stuff and telling stories (updated: read more here)
15. Do some improv
16. Embrace pop culture
17. Don’t forget about culture and social norms

The presentation was very well received, and I hope to share this material with another group before too long.


Reality imitates personas


Seen at MacWorld: Annette, of Venus Hum, accessorizes in green. Her Griffin trio case does iPod covers in colors. Maybe, tomorrow, she’ll listen to Pink.

Turns out Venus Hum is real. I hadn’t ever heard of ’em, but either way, the (painfully awkward) copy reads more like a persona-driven blurb than anything. Maybe it’s the ungainliness of the writing is like the amateurish crap that people put around personas, or else it’s the matter-of-fact-ness of the tone.

Social Networking and Breaking the Fourth Wall

Last night was the season premiere of The L Word. I was struck by the inclusion of a social networking site into the plot. The Chart, so the story goes, is a new online social networking site that leverages the graphic device they’ve used for several seasons, in which sexual contact between different characters are charted on a large whiteboard in Alice’s home (see the whiteboard on Homicide: Life on the Street for something similar).

In this episode, the characters discuss the new version of Alice’s chart, now an online site, where they’ll need to be upgrading the servers soon because of all the traffic they are getting. We see how active Shane is (of course, we know this).

But wait, what’s this?
A new character, Papi, has more hits than Shane.
And the hit count goes up, while we are watching!

Interesting way to introduce a new character. Later on the show, there’s a call made for Papi to reveal herself, as the hits (i.e., number of new people she’s had sex with) leap up improbably in 24 hours. Is Papi real? Are the hits real? Interesting to see the question of real or fake social networking identities appear in mass media.

That was all I was gonna blog about, but when I went to find a link to The Chart, I found this story. I was on the road when it was published, so I missed it entirely.

From the first season of Showtime’s “The L Word,” a chart mapping the relationships of the character Alice has been a central motif, growing to take over an entire wall. Starting Jan. 7 with the start of the fourth season of the lesbian-themed drama, the Chart is going live, both on the series and in the real world.

Looking for compelling Internet component (like all media executives), “The L Word” creator Ilene Chaiken realized that she could spin off the Chart as an advertiser-supported social networking Web site aimed at lesbians and their friends and families.

Users of will be able to create personal profile pages and then, like Alice, link them into charts of their relationships, whether sexual or otherwise. Three of the show’s cast members – Jennifer Beals, Katherine Moennig and Leisha Hailey, who plays Alice – are among the site’s founding partners and will contribute original content to the site, as will other invited filmmakers and Ms. Chaiken, who is’s chief executive.

Great tie-in or shameless monetizing? And when the show starts to plug its own spinoffs, I dunno, smacks of inauthenticity.

Searching for love in all the wrong places

Ms. Dewey (no longer online) is a new search engine making the blogosphere rounds today. You can search, and this character offers you comments, some based on what you search for and others perhaps random. It doesn’t make me think about neat new visions of software interactivity, it seems more like a gimmick. It meminded me of Subservient Chicken, I immediately wanted to start talking to her about her, not about my search task. And of course she’s loaded with responses. Folks on digg are documenting what they are finding (just like what happened with aforementioned poultry) that they can get her to do.

Haw haw, or yawwwwn?


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