Scott Gardner is the Founder and CEO of Liquid Agency, a brand consulting and activation agency based in San Jose, CA.
Despite the omnipresence of one-dimensional customer personas, many brands still struggle to precisely identify how to connect their brand to a single macro audience. But if you’re familiar with this challenge, you might be looking at it the wrong way.
What if you could design what my agency calls a “brand believer profile” for your customers instead? Brand believers are communities of customers who are strongly connected by shared values, views or interests in relation to a brand.
Rather than creating a specific persona (e.g., “Dave” is a systems administrator, age 45, has two kids and a suburban house and enjoys functional technology that makes his work life easier), I recommend seeking to understand a group of like-minded customers’ mindsets, beliefs and attitudes, or what we call “mindset territories.”
Mindset territories are essential ingredients for designing your believer profile. Brand messaging and experiences based on a believer profile can improve resonance with your primary audience—whether customers or employees—and help you cultivate the authentic relationships and brand belief that every company seeks.
So, how do you get started on designing your believer profile?
Building Mindset Territories
The goal with mindset territories is to identify two or three mindsets that collectively describe your brand believers before extensively refining and narrowing data. For simplicity, you can break it down into three stages.
Stage 1: Gather Information
Information gathering, typically via surveys, begins the process. You can build these surveys by brainstorming questions based on customer psychographics—characteristics like beliefs, lifestyles and other motivations influencing how people self-identify, what they need from you and how they belong together as a group.
Crucially, make sure survey participants are relevant to your brand and market to prevent data pollution. Combining existing customers and a targeted market audience provides a good starting place.
Stage 2: Statistical Analysis
Next, statistically analyze the gathered information to understand what mindset territories exist among your ideal customers, grouped thematically by consistent survey responses. Specifically, factor analysis helps reveal all of their latent customer traits, values and aspirations.
But which mindset territories are most relevant to your brand? Determining that answer requires more rounds of statistical analysis, namely:
• Cluster analysis: Narrow the survey-revealed mindset territories down to a group of three to six that exhibit similarities or compatibility (despite their distinctions).
• Regression analysis: Revisit how the mindset territories within your smaller subset remain individually distinct from the others. The aim is to understand what uniquely identifies each via their defining characteristic—the primary underlying trait revealed through psychographics.
Stage 3: Establish Mindset Territories
Finally, it’s time to refine your list of mindset territories. From your list, choose two or three to create your brand believer profile based on how they align with the defining characteristics that your statistical analysis uncovers.
Revisit your survey analysis to flesh out the story for a data-backed character profile directly tied to each mindset territory, naming and better describing it. For example, you may end up with the following for a high-end minimalist camping equipment brand:
• The anachronistic adventurer: Views camping excursions as their regular escape—a haven from the constant input of data-driven daily life—and thus seeks the most simplistic, old-school-inspired equipment to accompany their trail-worn Hemingway novels.
• The occasional outdoorsman: Wishes for more frequent exploration, but it’s not possible between juggling work, kids and other pursuits—so they need simple, low-maintenance gear that holds up despite light cleaning, parenthood perils and extended storage.
• The weightless wilderness wanderer: Favors extended backpacking trips and off-trail amblings to explore the unknown, placing utmost priority on as-light-as-possible and minimalist-yet-multipurpose gear to follow their curiosity unencumbered.
Alongside creativity, keep your mindset territories rooted in the traits, values and aspirations that your statistical analysis uncovered—even though their brief descriptions don’t include any statistics from your research.
What Mindset Territories Are And Aren’t
Mindset territories—and, more specifically, your believer profile—intertwine with your strategy, acting as its muse. They provide a north star for high-level brand strategy and messaging (e.g., tag lines, advertising), ensuring that they resonate with target audiences regardless of any adaptations for more granular segmentation.
In fact, this strategic lens minimizes both overarching and segment-specific challenges, like concerns over alignment with or adequate coverage of each segment. The profiles identify and aggregate common threads across all potential brand believers aligned with various mindset territories—indicating whether people across multiple territories are likely to believe in your brand and how to determine both high-level and granular strategies for connecting with them.
Swarming—From Mindset Territories To Believer Profiles
If creating mindset territories represents the science of brand belief, what we call “swarming” and designing your believer profile represents its art. Rooted in our Silicon Valley Thinking method (a combination of design thinking and agile methodologies), swarming enables you to co-create an aggregate of your most pertinent mindset territory traits—transforming them into your brand believer profile.
Swarming starts with “divergent thinking,” where you assign each individual on your team a duo of possible mindset territories to reflect, analyze and expand on—with prompts like “How would other customers aspire to be more like the group?” or “How would targeting this audience help improve the brand?” Pre-assigning the territories helps remove inherent biases and gut reactions to what the data portrays, as some mindset territories may counter expectations.
Then, you collaborate in smaller groups via “convergent thinking,” aggregating your work before repeating this process again with the entire team. This enables the co-creation of a true brand believer profile rather than one person’s perception of the mindset territory—which is crucial because the believer profile represents an aggregate as well.
Brand Belief Based On Science And Art
Rudimentary personas often lack the critical, actionable insight that you need to identify and target your believers. Without the psychographic components examining the traits, values and aspirations behind their buying behaviors, it’s hard to learn how to connect with them and form meaningful relationships. Moreover, without extensive statistical analysis, you’ll likely lack the evidence to confidently pursue them.
But data-based insights still require an artful approach to transform them from numbers to a humanized aggregate—the brand believer profile—that you need to inspire communications and connection.
What follows believer profile creation is the subject of my next article: Activating your brand believer profile and testing that activation to ensure that it and your messaging truly resonate with the believers you’ve uncovered.
Forbes Agency Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?
When it comes to marketing, many companies focus heavily on the concept of customer personas. This is a great way of ensuring that you are creating content that speaks to the people you are trying to reach. However, an often overlooked tactic is showing that you understand and appreciate your fan base. Brand Believer Profiles are increasingly becoming a powerful tool for doing just that.
Brand Believer Profiles are detailed understanding and segmentation of people who are enthusiastic fans (or “believers”) of a brand, company, or product. Utilizing profiles in this way uncovers the deepest motivations and values behind why they like a particular company or product. Once you have a better idea of who your fans are, their beliefs, values, and qualities, you will be better positioned to craft meaningful messaging and create content that resonates with them.
So, how do you design effective brand believer profiles?
Start by assembling some basic details about your fan base. This should include everything from age, gender, occupation, location, and purchase history.
Next, use surveys and social listening tools to uncover deeper insights. This can include asking questions about lifestyle, values, motivations, and more. When looking for relevant data for surveys, look for social media conversations, comments, reviews, and past interactions with your brand.
Once you have gathered this data, you should use a segmentation tool to help group your fans into the different profiles. This can be based on the results of your surveys, and you should also look at any key themes and similarities between the people surveyed.
Finally, once you have created a profile for each of your fan segments, look for ways to tailor your messaging and content around these profiles. This may include products or offers specifically targeted to that particular group, or it could be something as simple as using language and terms that they will be familiar with.
The goal with Brand Believer Profiles is to create an emotional connection with your fans and show them that you understand them. By crafting meaningful messaging and content in this way, you will build greater loyalty with your fans, resulting in increased advocacy, sales, and growth.