THE RIGHT PEOPLE: Segmenting audiences by applying personas

Being human-first means putting people at the centre of any strategy, and to do this… we need to understand who they are. One of the best ways we can understand our audiences is by conducting research. Methods include interviewing customers (qualitative), giving out surveys (quantitative) and observing website metrics (behavioural data). Data from these methods are rich sources of information derived from people’s experiences and perspectives, which lay the groundwork for human-centric marketing. 

At Reflect Digital, we use behavioural science frameworks such as the Monkey, Lion, Dog (MLD) and MINDSPACE to make sense of human data. 

The MLD framework explores contextual, rational, and emotional drivers for behaviours. We’ve illustrated the use of this framework to understand customers’ behaviours during the cost-of-living crisis. 

The MINDSPACE framework explains nine drivers of human behaviours (Messenger, Incentives, Norms, Defaults, Salience, Priming, Affect, Commitments, and Ego) and we’ve demonstrated its use through experiments. These frameworks can strengthen personas and ensure that the insights the personas capture, despite being conceptual, are grounded in real human insight.

In paid media, personas guide audience segmentation. Combining rich data and an appropriate behavioural science framework enables us to craft personas with specific characteristics relevant to the CTA we want them to perform, and identify whether these characteristics are differentiated enough to build distinct audiences. 

For example, we can include an affinity segment for “family vacationers” in Google Ads if we know that the audience tends to have young children and they value spending time with their children.



THE RIGHT MESSAGE: Engaging the audience in a meaningful way

Understanding our audience enables us to craft and tailor messages that resonate with people’s needs and realities. Through behavioural frameworks and principles, we can identify specific motivators and barriers relevant to the audiences. This has many implications for how we do marketing, such as when choosing which brand USPs to highlight and the emotions we convey when communicating with customers. 

In paid media, behavioural science principles are used to guide us in crafting ad copies that address customer barriers. For example, identifying cost as a barrier to booking family holidays would lead us to highlight discounts and the word ‘free’ in ad copies:


However, a motivator for one segment may be a barrier for another segment. The same ad copy highlighting the price may be associated with low quality, a barrier for more affluent segments. This can guide us towards using a different set of ad copies that suggest premium quality, such as through using words like ‘luxury’ or ‘5-star’:


Behavioural science principles can also make our brands appear more desirable by tapping into people’s motivators. Scarcity, which describes our tendency to perceive objects or experiences with limited availability as more valuable, may also be used in ad copies to encourage action. For example, emphasising limited offers and setting deadlines can encourage booking:

Through behavioural science, we can create relevant ad copies that attract the audience by acknowledging their motivators and barriers and then presenting our brand or product as the relevant choice.


THE RIGHT TIME: Being present at a relevant point in their journey

Part of understanding people’s behaviours is recognising the patterns and influencers that lead to what people ultimately decide to do. In the context of marketing, this is known as the customer journey

Google refers to this as a ‘messy middle’, wherein people engage in a complicated, non-linear journey involving different touchpoints when they make purchase decisions. While this seems daunting, having a clear understanding of the different stages of the customer’s journey enables us to identify what needs and concerns customers prioritise, and which marketing strategies are most effective at those specific points. Customers could be in different stages – they could be interested but not actively engaging (awareness), currently seeking information (consideration stage), or ready to make a purchase (decision stage).

Recognising these differences allows us to decide what behavioural principles could be applied at the most appropriate time in our campaign strategy. In behavioural paid media, acknowledging the customer journey allows us to deploy different ads and address what people need in relevant channels. Applying behavioural science enables us to incorporate decision-making science, such as the System 1 and 2 processes, which refer to the two modes of the human brain - automatic and emotional thinking, and slow and logical thinking - in ensuring these campaign strategies are relevant to how people make decisions every stage. Merging behavioural science and paid media strategies allows us to target the audience with the right message at the right time.

If people are in the awareness stage of the journey, they may be less engaged and devote less attention to information. At this stage, they may be idly browsing their social media feeds without looking for anything in particular. The awareness stage requires driving appeal and curiosity, particularly associated with System 1 thinking. Behavioural principles such as appealing to emotions (eliciting emotions such as curiosity or excitement) or imaginary rewards (imagining positive outcomes from performing a behaviour) may be more appropriate in this stage. 

An example is the following ad for a family holiday offering, which focuses on ‘fun activities’ and emotional images of children:

Once the audience has gained familiarity and interest in the products they want, they may click sponsored ads and visit the product’s landing page. People are more engaged in the logical, System 2 process during the consideration stage as this involves educating themselves about the product and evaluating different options. We can apply anchoring (relying on the first piece of information to compare succeeding information) and social proof (using feedback from other users or purchasers) to guide their decision-making. 

An example is the following page from First Choice, which lists several options for family holidays. The lowest-priced option serves as the anchor or baseline for what is affordable, which becomes a point of comparison for the succeeding options. Including the number of stars and ratings from TripAdvisor also provides reassurance about the quality of experience based on those of other people.



Key Takeaways

  • Successful paid media campaigns involve targeting the right people with the right message at the right time.
  • Behavioural science offers frameworks to make sense of data about our audience, which are important in audience targeting.
  • Behavioural principles may be applied in different ways to strengthen the message for the audience across the different points of their journey.

Are you curious about how behavioural insights can be applied to your paid media campaigns? Get in touch with us!

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As part of the Human Behaviour team, Ariane helps ensure that Reflect Digital’s work is centred on people by applying insights from audience research and behavioural science. She aims to inspire others to see different perspectives and appreciate the diversity in being human.

More about Ariane

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