Segmentation of Stereotypes

Historically, data on populations and their segmentation was the backbone of decision making, seeking insight into future markets or growth strategies. Data was king! Unfortunately, data also has its shortfalls.

Demographic and psychographic research is predominately historic in nature. It is not living, evolving information: it is based on a cycle of census data that is collected every ten years. By the time data is categorized and segmented into markets, the results could already be ten years old by the time the new data is available for use.

Another issue facing data? It inherently becomes stereotypical information. There are assumptions that demographic and psychographic data produce. Data is sorted in pre-defined categories. These categories are limited sets of stereotypes of comparable data. Stereotyping begins when creating possible consumer snapshots into who they are, how they act, what they do, and more.

For instance, two people exist in the same demographic categories: equal income, education, family size, and same community. One is a current consumer at a specific financial institution, but not the other. Why? Both match all the data, yet the second may never be a consumer at the same provider.

There is more than meets the eye. What the data cannot show is that the two have completely different behaviors and motivations behind their spending. One may tend to be a movie watcher and spend a majority of his income on entertainment, while the other is a weekend craftsman who spends his income on tools and making furniture. When it comes to your business, your perceived value aligns while the other does not.

This is a high-level example of how data does not see the person themselves, but only a basic categorization of people. Data creates stereotypes of what could be a match, and still falls short of what consumers could be compatible. Like demographics, data, is good to identify clusters in a specific location, yet a different methodology is needed to get a clearer picture of the true market.

The Shift

Enter persona profiling. Similar to demographic data, personae are grouped. That’s where data and persona similarities end. Unlike demographic data, personae are unique characteristics of human behavior versus historic grouped data points. Personae are created from observations of consumer interaction and intention inquiries. Always evolving, persona knowledge is current insights about real people, not an assumption of universal consumers.

The challenge? Avoiding the tendency to use data to help identify distinguishable characteristics of a persona. A persona is a representation, a character created from a person’s behavioral DNA. Any hard data blended with a pure persona becomes a hybrid stereotype. Many firms have incorporated data with the idea of persona. Data criteria such as age, gender, and education are commonly used.

Pure persona mapping focuses on the human behavior versus the assumption of similarity in data. Personae are characteristics of observation and investigation. The other challenge is that humans can possess multiple personae at any given moment. We have many facets and are not just one persona all the time, but rather a collection of personae.

A Pure Persona               

Personae do not create fictional characters we call consumers. Personae are unique combinations of behaviors, attitudes, motivations, and intentions. These are the core elements that define a persona, rather than simple demographic or psychographic categorization profiles.

Surprisingly, we use persona constructs every day. Personae carry inherent information about a person that others can quickly relate to. Typically, personae bubble to the surface in a social atmosphere. For example, there might be a person who stands at the office coffee machine waiting for others to get coffee. The person uses this positioning to command attention. Let’s label them as “Coffee Commando.” Every office has one! The ‘Coffee Commando’ spends most of their morning trying to engage others in conversations. Depending on the intention of this character, others may make attempts to either avoid or fully engage given their connection or capability.

A few more common personae that can be identified in the office are ones like ‘Eaves Droppers,’ ‘Go Getters,’ and ‘Busy Bodies.’ The list can be extensive given the conditions of the environment. Each of these have unique and distinctive behavioral characteristics that make them stand out.

The Application

Besides these office humor examples, many businesses can use this knowledge to enhance growth, strengthen their brand, or stand out from the competition. To understand how to use this process of persona profiles, a shift needs to happen. Where segmentation stereotypes find potential consumers or locations in new markets and play the percentages, persona profiles are about leveraging similar characteristics of current consumers and shaping a business around them. It focuses on a deeper understanding of current customers, and uses that insight to target new consumers and deepen the relationship with current consumers.

By understanding what drives a persona, a business can modify their interactions, communication, and even the environment to entice other similar personae to engage with their business.

The Impact

Knowing consumer behavior and intention has a far deeper impact on product offerings, brand communications, environmental design, and staffing procedures. By identifying consumers as unique versus a collection of data, businesses can better communicate to attract similar consumers, or refocus on additional consumer personae that may be a better fit.

Product Offering

For years, the tourism industry has relied on traditional market methods anchored in demographic or psychographic profiles. Advertising distinguished one company from another. Then, a few shifted from demographic data to persona design to improve market penetration, differentiate themselves, and better connect with their consumers. The better connection also increased consumers’ perceived value, making them willing to spend a little more because they believed the company knew them better.

American Express was one of these companies who employed persona mapping to improve their travel programs. By creating travel personas based upon information they had acquired over the years, special packages could be designed that spoke to each persona they wanted to attract. These packages were custom travel packages that even if the consumer was not sure where they may travel to, they still knew that the package would be a perfect fit for them.


Language is a critical element in communication of a business’ message. Identifying the persona that a company wishes to connect with, language can be reshaped to speak directly to that persona instead of blasting a broad message that may not connect strongly with any particular consumer. By shaping a narrative to a persona, a company can tailor their communications.

In this age of digital channels and social media, finding and acquiring the attention of consumers is much more complicated. With a unique voice that connects to a single consumer by leveraging a persona profile, a company can focus its communication to its target consumers and spread awareness about the company and its offering. Persona profiles make the communication more personable.

The most powerful channel of a company’s message is through the consumer’s voice. As the adage goes, ‘I’m like you. I like you.’ This connection creates more interest and eventually increases interactions, boosting ROI.


To complement the conversation, companies can use the persona profile to address the environments where the consumer and the company interact. Just as the type of language used in a conversation is unique, the environmental elements can also reflect that connection. Different color palettes, furniture style, artwork, décor, and even conversation sitting configurations can greatly impact the relationship with the consumer.

Imagine if the target persona liked movies. The space could incorporate elements of a movie theater. Adding a popcorn machine in the lobby or the waiting area reflects a bit of a cinematic look. Using cues from the top personae can help establish a place that is inviting and they are comfortable being in. The options blend the persona’s likes and the company’s brand together physically. The more you connect with the subtle notes attached to a persona, the greater chance of enhancing the relationship and increasing the perceived value to the consumer.

Positive and Negative Personae 

One final aspect of persona profiling is the culture for staff and consumer interaction modifiers. Eventually, a staff member may be engaged with a negative persona that is the “O-Please Please” or the “Fist Pounder” because of an issue they have encountered.

Agitated and upset, these consumers create uncomfortable and unwanted engagements between the staff and themselves. These types of interactions usually occur in public spaces where others can witness. No company wants that! The power of persona allows a company to develop a series of behavior modification tactics to help take the “Fist Pounder” and transform them back to a persona that is more positive.

By knowing the behavior and motivation of both negative and positive personae, consumer engagement tactics can be established in advance to help guide the staff to resolve the problem. Once resolved, further tactics can be established to transform the consumer from a negative persona to the desired positive persona.

Duality and Polarity: A Business Challenge

Earlier this year I was offered an opportunity, no, a challenge to develop a visual that demonstrated the duality and polarity relationship in business. The first question I needed to be answered was how the presenter defined each of these terms and the application.

Si Alhir, an Executive Coach for Business Agility and Digital Transformation, was preparing to present this idea for a webcast and needed some visual to help frame the conversation for his listeners.

The challenge was complex. There were many moving pieces, conflicting ideas as I was very limited with my experience on this subject. After reading some of his content, the idea became much clearer and evoked a very old idea of duality and hinted at polarity.

Along with the illustration, Si asked if I could provide some language that he could present along with the image. The following quote is what was provided to help support the illustration.

“Business agility, as illustrated, is more about duality, the use of opposites, rather than focusing on the polarity of direction and tactics.”

To provide a basis to the illustration and the quote, I chose to reference the classic court cards, A.K.A. Face cards of poker cards, I was able add a bit of twist to convey the idea that polarity and duality are coexisting in the world of agility, fragility and anti-fragility.

What this opportunity provided was a clarity to complexity. Many businesses have similar complex ideas and systems within their own organization. Complexities that may create gaps to achieving agility. These gaps are intangible, and many times, unseen. It is not until they are made tangible through one form or another can a organization identify the gaps and begin building methods and paths to cross those gaps.

If you have a few moments, take a look and listen to the webcast and learn about business agility from one of the most resourceful and insightful business coaches I have met in a long time.

Until next time, find ways to make your intangible ideas tangible.

Coloring the Experience Economy

Finally pushed all those sketches, illustrations and doodles off my desk and into my first, I emphasis first, graphic book ‘Coloring the Experience Economy.’ After working with B. Joseph Pine II, co-author of ‘The Experience Economy”, I have created a collection of ideas, principles and frameworks adapted from his work. Not a just a graphic business book, but also a visual entertainment book.

See the Experience Economy like you never have before. Discover the visual interpretations of the text. Call it a visual translations of the best business book for the past 20 years and still going strong.

The ‘Coloring the Experience Economy’ is a great companion to the original text. So, if you read the book, see the ideas and if you pick-up a copy of the coloring book and explore all the wonderful images, I hope it makes you want to learn more.

Beyond the Capture

Over the years I have connected with some wonderful and creative graphic recorders and graphic facilitators. I have seen them work as small as a 8.5×11 and as big as 5ft x 20ft. Each with a unique talent and style. This is what makes this profession so intriguing and wonderful. Yet there is still something missing with most people in the industry…

Not Packaging Their Work

When I started recording, I set out to understand the overall purpose of the work, not just the initial capturing during a session, but the entire life cycle of the work. How were clients using what was created and how were graphic recorders working with clients to leverage the work to its best?

I challenged myself not to just dive in a work it out as I go, but to formulate a complete process and offering. One that may need working longer with a client than merely the event performance. I read online, viewed websites, looked at examples of work and scanned through many social media postings to see what others were doing and how I could shape my offering to stand out in the industry.

What I discovered and wanted to avoid was most ‘do and dash.’ What I mean by this is that they “perform” the work, yet after completed, leave the work and move on to the next assignment leaving the client to handle the graphic work.This is very much like a music band moving from venue to venue. This action was leaving a huge opportunity on the wall to expand and extend the offering.

Before the Show

The first place to start is the pre-work time with the client. Many, I found, do not work deeply enough with a client on the expectations and possible applications of what will be captured. This is the time to have the discussion with the end in mind of what will be the deliverables and how can they best be used to convey the ideas expressed and captured. it is also the time to discuss the working environment.

Pre-work and initial expectation outcome meetings are important processes and may need multiple departments to be involved. It is best to understand what the client believes is going to be happening and guide their expectations to the possibilities. This requires preparing the client for what will be created during the session and the various channels it can be distributed after the session.  This also means there must be a method to capture the content cleanly and efficiently.


The next step is to ‘stage’ the performance for the best results. Typically I’ve seen and read is that the paper is hung in some inconvenient available space, usually not the best location(s) for doing the work.  Poor lighting and uneven work surfaces add to the complexity. The work environment needs to be controllable and optimal engagement for the client, observers and the recorder. If all possible, I believe in a site visit if all possible or at the least ask the client where they want the work to be done that is beneficial to all parties.

During the capturing, keep the end in mind. Having an architectural background, I tend to work in zones or blocking. This is important as it allows the image to be dissected into small usable pieces for later delivery. It also helps key segments of the event organized visually.

Extending the Show

After the event, the work needs to be scanned digitally in order to do corrections, enhancements and changes. By scanning digitally, I create an archive record of the artifact that can be reprinted later if a client so wished.

Size limitations of scanner technology needed to be considered.  I decided to work on the largest possible format that can be scanned at a local print service. Typically, large scanners can handle up to 36 inches wide and as long as needed. It also helps calculate cost of reproduction since they charge for square footage.

The next process is to transfer the digital scan to the computer for edits, clean-up and dissection to be used in various application that would have been discussed during the pre-work meeting. The files would also be saved at various resolutions for quick application by the client as most would not have access to image editors. Assume limited tech on the client’s behalf. Do the work for them.

Digital images are very easy to create various digital files for multiple applications such as print, digital communications, websites and even social media. Creating digital files allows me the ability to create a customized portfolio for prospects that match closely to their needs and the event.

The Package

Finally, the original artifact is rolled and placed into a sturdy and colorful shipping tube with a physical storage drive of the digital files and sent to the client. In some cases, I can also provide the same files on a cloud storage for quicker retrieval if the client request.

The Sum of It’s Parts

What I know and what I have learned before starting and now years performing is that the whole of the experience is far greater than the sum of the pieces to create the experience. Don’t fall short and don’t cut corners in order to save time or cost. What you do is your brand. Be complete and exceed what is expected.

I hope this helps others who wish to enhance what they do and help provide clarity that the fee is not just for the time doing, rather the time creating the visual experience.





Seeing IS Believing for Success

During a conference that I attended a few months back, I had the opportunity to heard a speaker present on the topic of failure in business. Granted, there were other presenters who also referenced business and start-up failure, yet this one speaker said something that struck a curiosity.

I had spent a few days listening to various theories and professional point-of-views on the subject of business failure, however, all the data and conversations paled in comparison to one single statement, “The single most important reason that ventures fail is simply because others can’t see your idea.”

Being a Visual Translator and facilitator for businesses, this idea that others must see an idea was a feather in my cap. I have always believed that mapping an idea is the best method of communicating an idea to others and keeping you on track. Hearing that not seeing only reinforced my stance on using the talents of a visual translator or graphic recorder to help solidify a concept.

But that wasn’t the end of the statement. After a few more moments of letting the thought sink in, the speaker add two more points that anchored the whole of the presentation. “If you can’t see the idea, then you and others can not truly believe in that idea. And if you can’t believe in it, your chances of you or others acting on that idea fall dramatically.”

Being from the Midwest, especially from Missouri, we have an old saying about proof and belief, “Show me.” So maybe there is more truth in this idea of seeing is believing than most give credit. So I went digging for more information on the power of seeing an idea to help promote success.

In 2015, TD Bank performed a deep dive study into visuals and business. After interviewing over 1100 people and 500 small businesses, the survey results were amazing. About 67% (335) of the small business responses agree that visually mapping of a business idea helps in the plan development. Unfortunately, only 20% (67) of those business respondents actually used visual mapping or image boards in planning. Interestingly, 76% (51) of those who utilized visuals in planning indicated by response that they were successful in achieving the goals they created in those visuals.

So 76% of visual users actually were successful in achieving their vision. Imagine if 76% of those 500 small businesses were assisted by a visual translator or facilitator. The rate of failure would drop dramatically.

In summary, for your idea or strategy to have the best chance of success you must first make it visible to you and others. Once the idea is visible, then all involved can begin to believe it. If all believe it, then they can act on it to make it a success.

Designing Happiness

Much has been said about the Experience Economy over the past 20 years. Some professionals talk about it as the next economic era and the logical progression of value. I agree with this thinking and have come to believe this is greatly due to the shift in consumer demand and the rapid change of goods. The race to have the latest is quickening. No longer is it about keeping up with the Joneses, it’s about try to keep up with ever-changing goods in order to achieve happiness. Somewhere along the line in history, consumers have been directed to buy more and newer goods in the promise that consumers can buy happiness.

Take a look at any advertisement on television, digital screen or a photo in a magazine or on a billboard. Its filled with smiling happy people holding the latest and greatest version of a thing. They all look happy that they have the newest thing. Manufacturers are changing models, product mixes and even design faster than the normal consumer can keep up. Why?

There seems to be this condition called Hedonic treadmill. The feeling of happiness after buying something. Unfortunately, that happiness fades quickly, especially when the manufacturers are producing newer versions of goods at a faster rate. This speed of change only shortens the Hedonic adaptation cycle and shortening that sense of being happy.

So what are consumers to do to overcome this treadmill? It begins by understanding the Hedonic treadmill and what actually helps create happiness in a consumer. It means looking at why buying things is not the answer to achieving happiness and looking to what does. In a recent article by Dr. Brooks on this subject, he states that experiences offer more value over things. Happiness can be achieved through experiences.

So, as designers who developing experiences for as economic offerings, it is key to focus on how the experience creates happiness in the consumer. In other words, design with happiness in mind. To achieve this, designers will need to keep in mind that experiences are personal and unique to each individual and that customization is at the heart of every experience, because each person experiences events differently and for different reasons. Also, positive experiences create lasting memories, memories people share.

Elixirs, Fixers and Snake Oil Mixers

Experiences, Experiences, Experiences!

It’s what everyone is taking about these days. Customer experiences, patient experiences, employee experiences and even user experiences. They seem to come in all shapes and sizes. The strange thing is, there appear to be so many “Experience Designers” and “Experience Specialist” it’s almost as if it’s the Wild West of the Business world.

Are they really selling you a solutions or is it a bit of snake oil wrapped up as an ‘Experience’?

The problem is that you, the business owner, can’t tell if these solutions are Experiences or marketing stunts bottled as experiences. Worse yet, it maybe the same old Great Customer Service concept renamed and repackaged as customer/patient/employee/user experience because so much has been written about the Experience Economy in the press. Be cautious about what you are being sold. Experiences, as economic offerings, are not stock solutions.

A true Experience that drives economic value must be created for each individual business. The Experience is a reflection of your brand and the brand promise. Experiences are about the customer doing something and time well spent with your business. It is not just about providing a solution about delivering a good or great customer service. The customer already expects that from you. No my friend, it’s about staging an interactive engagement that is memorable and creates economic value.

During the past few years large retailers have shuttered and closed. There has been much reported that consumers have shifted their attention away from things and to engaging experiences. One of these has been Toys-R-Us. In an attempt to save their business, TRU attempted to infuse experiences into their stores in order to drive more traffic back to the physical place. Many speculate that the digital shopping realm kept this from happening, and this maybe true to some extend, but I feel there is a larger issue.

The experiences TRU were providing had two major failures. The first was the experiences were not a reflection of their brand or the brand promise. These experiences were provided to TRU by outside vendors with the intention to drive sales for their goods. The experiences were not about TRU, but about those companies that sold to TRU.

The second failure was that the experience solution that was created were digital VR experiences where the children could see and interact with digital versions of the physical toys. Something that they could do in the privacy of their homes. They didn’t need to go to the store for the experiences. In addition, if they came to the store, those experiences would have been better if they were able to ‘play’ in the store with real toys.

TRU’s whole brand is wrapped up in the idea of toys, thus their name “Toys-R-Us”. Unfortunately, the experiences provided had nothing to do with TRU being all about toys and the things you could do with these toys. The TRU experience should have been an experience with the toys that kids could not do at home. TRU should have been the destination location for playing with toys.

So, if you are considering hiring a specialist to design an experience here are some simple things to keep in mind.

  • What is the customer doing in your place they can’t do anywhere else?
  • Is the experience focused on time well spent and being memorable?
  • Is the experience a manifestation of your core brand promise? (is it yours?)
  • And finally, is the experience customizable and personal to the customer?

True experiences are a value all to themselves. Customers are willing to pay more because of the experience. So when thinking about evolving from the Goods or Service economy model to that of Experiences, make sure the consultant or design firm understands you, your customers and what engagement reflects your brand. Avoid the Dr. Transformos of the world, because they are out there ready to sell you anything you are willing to believe in to make your business healthier.