Bringing personas to life in social media

Larry Irons · October 23, 2008 · Short URL:

Nokia's 7610 Supernova

 David Armano recently made a distinction between interactive advertising and social media which he depicts in the image on the left. He noted that many companies mistake interactive advertising with social media and notes that the two differ in the place of PEOPLE in the strategy.

Specifically, David points out that interactive advertising involves Human-Technology Interactions. Whereas, social media involves Human-Human Interactions enabled by technology.

David summarizes the point,

The gap itself is bridged by participation, meaning that a company empowers PEOPLE to engage and interact with other PEOPLE. This means public and private conversations, activity in comments and a commitment to be responsive in real time. This is potentially messy business and requires a long term commitment. Interactive or digital marketing techniques traditionally do not include this dimension and ... the end result often times comes across as traditional marketing using a social channel or worse, can result in a community backlash.. [emphasis mine].
In a post on the same topic, Peter Kim discusses an interactive advertising strategy underway by W+k London for Nokia. The example shows one potential way to bridge the human-technology interactions of interactive advertising with the human-human interactions of social media. Specifically, Peter asks if Nokia's interactive advertising strategy signals a moving line regarding what is acceptable in social media marketing. He notes that,
Over the weekend, I learned that Anna lost her phone. Jade and Luca did too. You can find out more on their Facebook pages (linked). And let me know if you notice anything odd about them...It turns out that it's all made up, part of a campaign from W+K London for Nokia. As a story concept, I think it sounds cool. As an advertising campaign, it's different than most of the standard executions around today. I like it...It seems to me that "The Line" has shifted in social media advertising, separating what is and isn't commercially acceptable content. Bloggers used to revolt against commercial profiles...Are you now more accepting of fake people posing as real ones? What's the deal?
The Nokia strategy points to a new way of using personas in marketing, especially to engage customers with a company's brand. In fact, you could say that allows prospective customers to engage Nokia's brand "Connecting People" through the interactive advertising strategy for the 7610 Supernova. However, to answer Peter's question, the line is probably shifting a bit as increasing numbers of people use social media. Though it seems pretty obvious that the personas in the Nokia social media campaign are not real people as much as characters depicting situations, i.e., losing a cell phone, that anyone may experience. In The Persona Lifecycle, John Pruitt and Tamara Adlin noted that, "Personas are detailed descriptions of imaginary people constructed out of well-understood, highly specific data about real people" (p. 3). Personas were initially used by Alan Cooper as an interactive design tool for software products such as websites. However, Robert Barlow-Busch offers a chapter in The Persona Lifecycle on "Marketing versus Design Personas" that pins down the relevance of personas to marketing strategy, especially social media marketing. Barlow-Busch notes that marketing communications increasingly emphasize a dialog model rather than a broadcast model, a point made in an earlier post here in the context of customer support. Barlow-Busch suggests that a dialog model to marketing communications using personas means the following:
All of the characteristics that make personas so powerful in design make them equally so in marketing; portraying cusomers as people and not just targets; communicating insights in a distinctly human form, to build empathy; and bringing customers alive through the telling and sharing of stories...To design and market a customer experience we need rich, multidimensional models of the people who will enjoy it (pp. 611 - 612).

The stories around the lost cell phones of Anna, Jade, and Luca provide a set of personas embedded in their own unique contexts within the same scenario, i.e., the lost phone of each character with all the connections it contains. The personas each ask, "If you found my phone would you look through it?" Nokia's social media ad campaign is inviting us to engage the three personas through the experience of finding someone else's cell phone. Along the way we are provided the opportunity to discover the 7610 Supernova and its features.


Larry writes the blog Skilful Minds.


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