Changing personas

This isn't easy. It's not easy for people or for organizations.

A marketing persona is the posture or approach or attitude you bring to the market. Your strategy might be speed or generosity or petulance. Over time, we tend to adopt the ones that work for us and abandon the others.

A scrappy startup has a persona of thumbing its nose at competitors and convention. It works. They do it more. Then, one day, the startup is actually the dominant player, and there's no one to thumb. A new persona is needed, or the company fails.

A cute kid starts out using the cute kid persona to get attention, treats and preferential treatment. Then he or she grows up and maybe isn't so cute any more. Suddenly, all the tricks that worked before don't seem to work now. No longer cute, now just angry.

A non-profit gets a boost at first because it's the new one, the untested, the great hope. The persona of insurgent fits them well. There are foundations and grants for innovators. A few years later, those grantors aren't so interested anymore, because they only fund the new. If the non-profit wants to keep growing, it will have to change its marketing story and attitude and posture so it appeals to the middle, not the edges.

Someone has success with pouting, with being hard to please, with occasional bits of bitterness. We want to soothe and entertain and please him, so the persona is effective. And then we don't any more. Switch the method you use to get attention or get used to being lonely.

Acknowledging the urgency of the problem and being aware of the need to change personas is the critical turning point for any of these marketers. Once you can see how a game that used to work has ceased to work, then, and only then, can you dream up a new game, a better one.

Please don't tell me about authenticity. Brands and personas are made, not born, and we use them because they work, not because our DNA orders us to. When they stop working, it's time to change them.

Being comfortable with the familiar persona you see in the mirror is not the same as having an appearance that helps you reach your goals.