While building audience personas is a vital piece of any marketing campaign, it’s also a bit strange. We build this very specific idea of who the customer is, knowing that this exact person doesn’t exist. In his book, “The Design of Everyday Things“, author Don Norman says:
There is no such thing as the average person. This poses a particular problem for the designer, who usually must come up with a single design for everyone.
When it comes to marketing, that’s fine. We can aim for our persona and things tend to turn out pretty well. If you’re designing products, though, the lack of “average” can be tough. The U.S. Air Force discovered this the hard way back in the 1950’s when they tried to design a cockpit for the “average” pilot and failed miserably.
Norman also dropped this little quote in his book, which expresses the problem well:
Some problems are not solved by adjustments or averages: Average a left-hander with a righthander and what do you get?
When your head is in a refrigerator and your feet on a burner, the average temperature is okay. I am always cautious about averages.
Building a generic audience persona can be wildly helpful, as long as we’re careful to not rely on the specifics too much as we move forward.