Get More Personal with Motivation-Driven Personas

Get More Personal with Motivation-Driven Personas

Kendall Morris

At Authentic we are both consumers and marketers, and because of that, we have the unique opportunity to experience marketing while also creating it. As consumers, we are faced with the same experiences as every other consumer. Did you know that 63% of consumers describe themselves as “highly annoyed” by the way brands continue to repeatedly blast generic messages? We feel those same frustrations.

As marketers, we’re constantly asking ourselves how we can improve the experience for consumers. If we can do that, everyone wins. Consumers are more engaged in a positive way, and brands are getting better results from their content investments.

One critical step to creating better experiences is by truly understanding your customer. The old way of understanding your customer would prescribe that you identify a persona that informs who they are and assumes that translates into what they want.

The biggest problem with personas is that they have traditionally been based on large pools of customer attributes like age and income, which can be misleading when trying to deliver something of personal value. Instead of focusing on how to gain more insights out of demographic data, we’re here to offer a solution — user personas based on the actual motivations behind customer actions.

By adopting motivation-driven personas, you’ll truly connect with your audience in a way that aligns with their wants and needs rather than just their location or budget.

In this post, we’ll delve into why traditional personas aren’t getting the job done, and how bringing motivations and behavior indicators into the mix can help fill in the glaring gaps in the way you advertise to your customers. This will result in a much more effective relationship with your customer across the entire customer journey.

Goodbye, Demographic-Driven Personas

Typically, brands develop personas to paint a clearer picture of their ideal customer. Often this involves pulling data as generic as education, job title, and details about their personal lives. This demographic-based strategy leads to a few stereotypical personas to represent a diverse customer base.

More detailed personas may also include behavioral information, such as a persona’s interests, pain points, and content consumption level.

While these demographic-based personas are useful, they have proven weak in helping companies connect with their audience on a personal level. This has become particularly evident as consumers have engaged with brands across digital platforms at a greater volume. We now have visibility and data to inform how users are making purchase decisions in the user journey. As technology has become more sophisticated, so too have user expectations. Consumers have come to expect highly relevant, personalized, and instant interactions with brands, and when those expectations fall short, the brand pays the price. That’s when motivation-driven personas can come into play.

Hello, Motivation-Driven Personas

Personas based on audience motivations focus less on who your customer is, and instead uses data based on their behaviors to identify what motivates them to act, buy, or engage.

Conversely, traditional demographic-based personas may have a bank client creating up to 10 different personas based on age (millennial vs. boomer), life stage (single, married, has kids), homeowner (or not), income level, and gender.

If the client were to only use demographic data, they would have to create different content for each and every persona/user segment — which means doubling effort but not necessarily increasing engagement. However, by thinking about motivations of their key audiences, our client would quickly realize that multiple demographic groups are motivated by similar things.

The beauty behind motivation-driven personas is that they help create more personalized experiences while reducing time and effort in creating mountains of net-new content.

Sounds almost too good to be true, right? Well, let’s dive in a bit more.

The Positive Impact on Personalization

By understanding the needs, wants, and motivations of your target audience, you can produce content inline with what they actually desire.

Our presentation delivered at MarTech San Francisco 2017 summarized this quite nicely.

We explained how the success of personalization relies upon a deep understanding of your customer’s needs, motivations, and behaviors — not just a summary of attributes and demographic data.

Furthermore, we touched on the importance of knowing and understanding the dynamic nature of people over time. In other words, personas are never set in stone, and should be considered ever-changing, just like the flesh and blood humans they are meant to represent.

In fact, a truly wholesome customer experience should always be tailored to the motivations behind a customer’s journey, while being flexible enough to empower the customer to discover their own path. That’s the definition of the ‘personalized experience’ that your customers crave.

Fewer Personas + Less Content = Increased Results

On top of giving you a better understanding of your audience’s motives, motivation-driven personas also fit in nicely with the ‘less is more’ approach to persona building. And no, we don’t mean less motivations, we mean less personas.

The truth is that demographics lend themselves to creating more and more personas to create finite customer segments, which exponentially increases the amount of content that must be created.

However, we’re here to tell you that you can create fewer personas based on audience motivations and still achieve increased results, and then how you can do it.

Multiple “demographic groups”, the ones that traditional personas tend to focus on, often share similar motivations. So, by creating fewer personas based on those shared motivations, marketers are able to reach more of their target audience with fewer pieces of content.

For example, with traditional personas, a baby food company may have separate personas for Joan, a stay at home mom, and Wendy, a working mom in the following way:

  • Joan, stay at home mom
  • Age 28-42
  • Total household income $100k+
  • Makes 80% of the purchase decisions
  • Lives in a suburban neighborhood
  • Enjoys watching Bravo, HGTV
  • Shops at Target & Home Goods


  • Wendy, working mom
  • Age 30-45
  • Total household income $75k+
  • Lives in an urban center
  • Watches shows on demand when convenient
  • Primarily shops online via Amazon

But now that you’re adding motivations into the mix, the focus shifts away from these individual attributes that show differences, and what drives their consumerism. So, a motivation-driven persona for the baby food company might look something like this:

Moms are:

  • Budget-conscious
  • Make purchases based on convenience
  • Seek healthy, nutritious foods for their young children

By using this approach, you can group both Joan and Wendy together to focus your content on their broader motivations, rather than their narrower attributes. As a result, you’ll have fewer personas to cater to — and yet your content will have far more context for the audience that shares the same motivations. After all, we’re all more likely to share motivations than we are specific attributes.

And most importantly, your content will provide improved results because it will be more personalized and in tune with what your audience wants — not just whichever demographic they happen to fit into.

Adopting Motivations

With 59% of customers saying that personalization influences their shopping decision, making those personalized journeys even more personal is a no brainer.

The first steps to adopting motivation-driven personas will include defining the motivations that are most inline with those of your audience. To do that, you’ll need to study your existing personas, survey your audience, and start experimenting with gearing your content towards supporting those motives. It may take some time and experimentation, but the results will be worth it.

Need help defining your motivation-driven personas and a content strategy that delivers a more personalized experience? Get in touch.