What is your first childhood memory of stickers? Was it when your teacher gave you a gold star on your arithmetic test because you got 100%? Was it trading Garbage Pail Kids with the neighbor down the street? Was it your first car or guitar case that was plastered with them?

Stickers on a guitar case

Guitar cases and car bumpers have at least one thing in common.

Whether stuck to a bathroom stall or stuck to a car bumper, stickers have always been a popular way of expressing who we are.

Stickers can signify many things – places someone has been, causes they believe in, the number of “stick-figure” pets and family members in the household. To strangers they are messages of what we want to be identified as and associated with; our cars are often the perfect vehicle (no pun intended) to express ourselves all over town. How many times have you pulled up close to someone to read a sticker on their bumper (safely, of course)?

There are even unique stories about people connecting through bumper stickers. In the case of Leisa Mundy, the stickers on her car were a way to keep the memory of her late husband alive. Each sticker from a location that they visited and loved, each one memorializing a different adventure.

Methods for Building Personas

So what do bumper stickers have to do with digital marketing? If we are looking to create and develop personas and we are thinking about psychographic data and the relationships that can be garnered through this information, the back of a car can be a great place to start.

There are many ways to build personas. Generally you determine what method to use based on the type of data you have access to and the resources available for the project. The old fashioned way involved interviews and focus groups, but like any type of research, these can have limitations. In the digital age things get a bit more complex. Typically you get key people in a room to brainstorm, collect and analyze your data, see if it is applicable to the online world, segment your audience, do some affinity mapping, jotting down what problems are being solved on post-it notes, grouping these users, and then backing them up again with data points. Many experts agree that no matter what approach you take, it is best to group users by the problems that the product or service solves.

Having different types of approaches to persona building in your back pocket can be very useful. There are so many creative ways to develop personas and exercises that we can do each day to think about our customers, get in their heads and build out solutions with the products and services we are promoting. Persona development, like writing, takes practice. The more you do it, the better you will be at connecting the dots.

Persona Building Using Stickers

I have developed two exercises that take traditional methods and use bumper stickers to think differently about personas.

Exercise 1

The first exercise is one that can be done on a daily basis, or at least anytime you see a car with bumper stickers. Snap a quick picture (when the car is stopped at a light of course or you happen to walk by the vehicle; safety first!) and share with your team to analyze. Ask yourself these questions in relation to a product or service:

Map out the same type of data you would when creating a traditional persona:

Once you have all of your data, proceed with creating your persona board. Test it against the other personas you have created and see how well it performs.

A random note: According to one study, the more stickers you have on your vehicle, the more likely you are to exhibit road rage. This can certainly tell us more about our persona. What does the combination of that notion and the stickers on the vehicle say about them?

Exercise 2

The second exercise is to work backwards, using a vehicle as a means of developing a persona. First, envision a use case for your product or service. In that story, who is the main character (hint: this is your customer)? Grab a stack of magazines, we’re getting ready to decorate your customer’s car. What vehicle does this persona drive? A luxury car or a beat-up old pick-up truck (I miss mine)? Based on their likes, dislikes, what stickers would they have on the vehicle? Start ripping out images from magazine or print them from online and start plastering your car with stickers. From there you can describe the persona by mapping out the same data as shown in Exercise 1 as you work towards who the driver is.

Practice Makes Personas

With these exercises, you can utilize the same tools in your arsenal that you would when taking a more traditional approach to persona building, i.e. looking at any demographic data you have available, site search, surveys or questionnaires, FAQs, analytics data, market research, open graph and a whole slew of other tools that can help you qualify your data and backup your personas.

When you are done building out personas using bumper stickers, you can move on to guitar cases or bathrooms stalls. That is where things can get really interesting.

What types of persona building are you doing? Have you discovered a new way to create personas that works really well for your team? We would love to hear about it in the comments below.