Marketing Personas in Action

Hand Drawing Graph up to the right

Guest Blog: Steve Castrucci

Knowing Your Customers

Wouldn’t you love to know who your customers are, and how they would react in a certain situation? This is why you define personas, to help classify and predict how your customers will react to various components of your product offering.  In this post, we will look at how a well-known Canadian Bank used personas to improve their digital offering to their customers.

ProductCamp Toronto LogoAt ProductCamp Toronto 2015, I had the opportunity to attend a topic on personas, facilitated by Charles Dimov, a past president of the Toronto Product Management Association (TPMA) and a noted digital product marketing expert.  Charles’ presentation was based on his research titled:  Persona:  5 Quick Steps.  Charles defines the five steps to get started and create personas:

  • Define your Target Markets
  • Research your Customers
  • Summarize the Personas and Attributes
  • Communicate
  • Revisit

In our case, the bank wanted to define a persona framework to ensure future product decisions were based on their understanding their customer and prospect profiles. Product decisions include positioning, messaging, feature inclusion, and so on.

Behaviour based Personas

At the time, most banks defined personas by grouping the demographic information of gender, age, location and income into customer categories. In our case, the bank wanted to create behavioural based personas. Behavioural personas being the grouping of customers based on customer actions and reactions to various bank messaging. A decision to develop behavioural personas was consistent with their goals for developing the online channel – improve customer engagement and increase follow-on activity.


For their retail banking service, they defined the following personas:

  • A savvy and digitally engaged consumer who was constantly trying new ways to access the bank’s products and services
  • A consumer needing assurances about security and the processes concerning digital transactions
  • A consumer or prospect who was not online, but who wanted to pursue digital technology, time permitting
  • A transactional consumer, who used digital services, yet did not engage beyond the minimum needed to perform the transaction
  • An indifferent consumer who did not follow digital trends, and did not see the potential or benefits in learning more about technical banking solutions.

Due to the variety of the offerings, two sets of personas were developed. One set for retail banking and another for Wealth services.

Blue - Key to the persona development was definingWhat is it worth to you?

Key to the persona development was defining the profitability of each persona to the bank’s bottom line. Knowing and being able to calculate this key metric, the bank could ensure the messages were effective using profitability as the key success metric. Doing so helped determine the features and services in which to invest, to provide the highest return. Taking this approach also helped craft the messages for these personas that were most impactful, based on profitability.

How was this done?

To define the personas, the bank undertook a data analysis project to analyze the profile information of their customers, the transactional information they used and a thorough survey of customer attitudes. With this information, the bank worked out key behavioural traits and categorized them. Then with transactional histories and the profit of each transaction, the bank determined the likely profitability percentage for each persona.

How was it used?

Personas were used by marketing and development teams alike.

Marketing campaigns were developed for target personas, appealing to their preferences and behaviours. For example, once identified, mobile banking uptake campaigns were directed to the Savvy and Engaged consumer. When communicating with the Transactional consumer, it was always best to be direct and concise.

For web site development, buttons explaining security and other processes, were added for consumers needing assurances. Finally, colourful, attractive buttons were used for the digital-potential consumers, enticing them to try new features and capabilities.

Have fun!

Seth Persona (Photo: Ambro

Seth Persona (Photo: Ambro

To make personas realistic, the bank gave each persona a name and a backstory. For example, Seth was the Savvy and Engaged consumer with a university education, who worked as a sales executive for a local entrepreneurial software start-up. At least once a day, Seth used online banking on his computer at home, mobile banking on his phone, and he even had an iPad or tablet with him at all times, for access to his investments and his accounts.

It was interesting to note that at future focus groups when consumers were invited to be interviewed by the bank, participants behind the mirror were guessing which persona each individual in the Focus Group represented.

Once the personas were implemented, everyone got into the act. When planning, there were questions about how each persona would react to features on the web site, or marketing messages and campaigns. At meetings, an empty chair was often left for the persona being discussed, to symbolize that persona having a voice in the conversation.


Blue - Key Persona TakeAwaysBe sure that all stakeholders are in agreement with the personas you develop. Many divisions within the bank used personas, but initially they were not all using the same ones. This led to misalignment. All teams must agree on the concept, and commit to use personas to define specific deliverables. Deliverables might include developing marketing campaigns or predicting consumer behaviour.

Once developed, your personas need to be ingrained into the culture and fabric of your organization. To do this, you must have empassioned “persona” champions and enthusiastically train staff who direct need the persona outlines. An example are marketers who create collateral for each persona. As folk-lore has it, one retail organization created cardboard cutouts of their personas, placing them in their front lobby, as continual reminders.

Finally, track the effectiveness of the personas. A metric such as profitability can make a world of difference to gaining adoption among management, and business oriented staff. If you can measure profitability then track year over year growth. If this is not feasible, then track persona based campaign effectiveness, aligning the messages to the personas.


Not everyone can afford to develop personas with the depth of this banking example. However, personas are a proven tool used to understand and even predict the behaviour of your customers. Beyond that, have FUN with them!

For more information on personas or to comment on this blog, reach out to Steve on


About the Author

Steve Castrucci HeadshotSteve Castrucci is a Toronto-based Senior Product Manager with over 20 years of experience in defining and delivering business solutions to organizations.  With his strong belief in listening to the market, he is able to understand customer problems and use product management processes to define and create effective business and technology solutions to solve those problems.  He can be reached at


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