Can You Tell the Differences between Customer Archetype, Customer Personas and Customer Segmentation?

futurelab default header

One big crazy week. We have clients visiting from San Diego, Seoul, London and Boston for big workshops, a local station TV crew (second TV stations this month) filming us at work plus 3 very cool project kick-offs that we need to prepare for (and also pitches). The workshops were great and clients were participating fully and great people. Our team always bring a lot of creative energy to our data rich process which is probably the most rigorous and scientific in the industry.

I didn’t spend too much time with them but managed to sneak into some of these meetings to get a peek at the concepts discussed. Some were busy drawing deep visual metaphors RISD style.

Can it get crazier than this? The answer is probably yes. No one has time to breathe. I need to have an oxygen bar in our offices.

One thing comes to my mind, marketers or designers or product planners sometimes confuse about the differences between customer archetype, customer personas and customer segmentation. There are also confusion around customer themes, marketing themes and customer archetypal themes. Marketers and designers are using those interchangeably but it shouldn’t be the case.

Customer archetype is created from a body of anecdotal material either through direct or indirect data and it is based on cultural constructs. Customer archetypes are constructs of shared meanings that encapsulate and articulate social understandings. They are used to organize narrative that comes out from hard and soft data so we can find meaningful analogies to a situation or bringing a customer story to life.

The creation of archetypes is particular useful when applied to brand marketing to make sense of aspects of customers’ lives and their rituals. Every ritual we have is tied to a hard-coded subconscious archetypal structure we can never get away from. Once brand marketers learn how to make the connections between archetypes and brands, they see can the connections.

On the other hand, personas are most useful when applied to interactions design. To assist you in designing specific features or user experiences. A persona is basically an imagined user profile that you can use to help make design decisions. These profiles are created from your knowledge of users, usually knowledge gained from secondary research, stakeholder interviews and user testing. It is a “virtual” user for you to bounce ideas and help you keep the goals of the user in mind throughout the design process. But you cannot have 10 personas. One time a client asked for 16 personas.

Marketing segmentation’s key purpose is to allow your marketing/sales folks to focus on the subset of prospects that are "most likely" to purchase your products or service offerings. Widely used bases for segmenting include geographic differences, demographic differences, psychological differences, and psychographic differences.If done properly this will help to insure the highest return for your marketing/sales expenditures.

There are three archetype manifestations and the least known among the three is customer archetype. And there are basically three types of customer archetypes:

  • Archetypal characters or customer archetypes are extreme or dramatized representations of idea customer’s characters.Very effective for brand development and marketing theme development.
  • Archetypal themes are extreme or dramatized representations of issues or concerns, such as "institution rebels" or "social connectors". Archetypal values are extreme representations of things that are given values, positive or negative, such as "deeply loyal", "trust", and "uncertainty".
  • Archetypal scenarios are illustrative scenarios of decision-making situations, such as "fear uncertainty doubt". Not used much but which may be useful in the future. Consider the possibility of archetypal relationships ("respectful adversaries"); intentions ("fake concern"); changes ("sea change", "mounting jeopardy"); and heuristics ("step back and look at the big picture").

They are all useful in sense-making opportunities but archetypes are not the same as stereotypes. Archetypes are uni-dimensional extremes, caricatures that could never describe a real person or issue or situation. Part of their utility is in their extremity, that they help us to discuss the boundaries of experience, which are usually the places we are most concerned with coping with. In short, stereotypes divide but archetypes integrate.

Have a great weekend!

Original Post: