Consumer brands often develop big brand bibles, but they are largely ineffective at helping companies navigate social media. That is because they lack authentic personas, like people have. Yet shifts in the media and advertising landscape are creating a growing urgency for brands to have well-defined personas.

Time spent with digital media is surpassing conventional television use this year. And time spent with smartphones and tablets now makes up the majority of digital media minutes. In this world, social and other apps that emphasize information feeds are rising in prominence. They are heralding an era where more natural, relevant content and conversation become the advertising.

This new environment of in-feed advertising is more human and interactive, and requires that brands up their game in levels of interest, relevance, speed and scale. These attributes can’t be realized without strong personas. Here’s why:

1. Being interesting: First of all, people who are more interesting attract more attention. The same goes for brands with interesting personas.

2. Relevance: New expectations of what advertising should be in dynamic environments will lower tolerance for messaging that is irrelevant and disconnected. Personas set the foundation to speak with greater relevance and emotional connection to different customer segments.

3. Speed: To be relevant in social and within feeds, a brand must be quick to sense and respond to the environment. Simple, concise personas are actually frameworks to express brand voice with agility and confidence. There should be little question as to what your brand would say in any situation, if it were a person.

4. Scale: A brand’s employees and extended marketing teams must adopt the brand’s personality and live it out at scale. A simple, concise persona is a framework to enable this to happen. Just as a director would arm a large cast of actors with character personas, so should a marketer do so with the extended brand team.

To be sure, brand personas are nothing new. They’ve long been part of many brand marketing playbooks. But new digital advertising environments are forcing a new standard that favors a more authentic voice and personality of “someone interesting I want to know” versus the voice of a faceless institution.

Personable brands have long become fashionable for online community management, but personality now is becoming a prerequisite for paid media success.

Is your brand persona setting you up for success?

This essay also ran in MediaPost. Photo:  Nicolas Nova.

Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.