Do Buyer Personas = Stereotypes? Yes, but…

We recently responded to a reporter’s question of: “Are buyer/audience personas just a better way to say ‘stereotypes’?”

The answer:

Yes, but…


You see, effective marketing is, at its core, all about stereotyping. But, despite the fact that the word “stereotype” has come to take on a definite negative connotation, stereotypes exist precisely because there’s often an element of truth behind the sentiment.



No, it is not reasonable in most situations to make broad generalizations about people simply because they share certain characteristics. All blondes are… All millennials are… All retirees are…

But doing exactly that is what advertisers and marketers do when they seek to influence a certain segment of the population. And, in the marketing and advertising world, doing so is a definite best practice!

A few years ago I was teaching a PR Capstone course at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire where the class project was to develop a campaign to attract more minority students to the Communication and Journalism Department (overall the campus has a very low minority population). Despite the fact that, throughout the semester, I talked about understanding the target audience, learning about their media consumption habits, interests, values, etc., and creating promotional materials to appeal specifically to that audience, at the end of the semester none of the campaigns submitted had a clear focus on a targeted minority population.

In a debriefing at the end of the semester we discussed why this was. I learned that the students felt it was “wrong” to stereotype minorities.

The experience was fascinating to me because, inherently, advertising IS about stereotyping. It’s about STP (segmenting, targeting and positioning) to best create messaging, and the placement of that messaging, to influence a clearly defined audience. While there are still products and services that appeal to “the masses” — these tend to be the products and services you see advertised during the Super Bowl — in most cases advertisers want to hone in on a very specific target market.

It’s important, therefore, to create buyer personas to help you understand the target audience from two perspectives:

  • What media do they consume or where do they go (to help you determine channels for your communications)?
  • What do they value/what’s important to them (to help you create key messages)?

In another class I taught — Advertising Copy & Design — the students that took the creation of buyer personas seriously, and did a good job of researching and understanding their target audiences, invariably “won” the client accounts.

We live in a very “politically correct” society and that’s a good thing on a personal level. However, in the field of marketing/advertising, not only is there nothing “wrong” with attributing attributes to a specific target audience, you’re foolish if you don’t, and your marketing results will suffer because of it.


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About Us

Strategic Communications, LLC, works with B2B clients to help them achieve their goals through effective content marketing and management with both internal and external audiences. We are adept at evaluating and analyzing communication efforts and working with clients to plan, create and publish high-quality, unique content, through both on- and offline media to achieve desired results. Our background in business journalism, marketing, PR/media relations and online communications makes us well-positioned to serve the needs of 21st-century marketers.

We serve clients who are looking for help creating content for a wide array of channels—from social media posts to full-length manuscripts, and everything in between. We focus primarily on service-related B2B topics and work with a number of independent consultants interested in building their thought leadership through online channels. For ongoing content management, our first step is to fully understand your goals, objectives and competitive landscape.

Then we’ll conduct a thorough analysis and assessment of your digital presence, compared to competitors, and recommend a communication strategy to achieve your goals. But, we also regularly take on individual projects – white papers, blog posts, contributed articles, etc. If you’re interested in learning more, let us know!

(Strategic Communications is certified as a Woman-Owned Business Enterprise through the Wisconsin Department of Administration.)

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