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If you’re the type of holiday shopper who’s making a list and checking it twice — if, in other words, you already know exactly what you’re going to get — marketers love you. We’ll call you “Remind Me Rhonda.”

If, on the other hand, you’re the type of holiday shopper that marketers must constantly cajole to choose between sugar plums and lumps of coal, we’ll call you “Persuadable Pete.”

Rhonda and Pete are examples of marketing personas. Personas are a highly effective tool to make abstract marketing theories easier to grasp. And understanding personas could be more important than ever during the pandemic holiday season of 2020.

Persona Very Grata

Here’s why the persona exercise is so valuable: Once you understand the dynamics underlying each persona’s approach, you realize that a standard measure of marketing success, return on ad spend (ROAS), is misleading.

Think about it. If you bombard Remind Me Rhonda with a succession of click-to-purchase ads, eventually she probably will click to purchase. And that boosts ROAS.

If you send those same click-to-purchase ads to Persuadable Pete and he decides that he’s not going to purchase, then your ROAS takes a hit.

But here’s the thing. Rhonda was going to purchase your product anyway. Eventually, she would have gone to your site (or your listing on Amazon) and clicked to purchase even if you never invested a dime in that deluge of ads.

Meanwhile, a small but significant percentage of Persuadable Petes will decide to purchase. And although the ROAS for the Persuadable Petes will appear to be a lot lower than for the Remind Me Rhondas, the reality is that the number of Persuadable Petes you manage to convert represents the true return on ad spend.

Why? Because it produced sales you would not otherwise have had without that marketing program.

Putting the Person Back in Persona

While the persona exercise is helpful in simplifying our understanding of the complex holiday marketing ecosystem, it’s important to remember that it’s just that: an exercise. In reality, most of us are a combination of Remind Me Rhonda and Persuadable Pete. If you have a nephew who obsessively collects a certain type of action figure, then all you’ll require to check him off your holiday shopping list is a click-to-purchase reminder from a particular toy store.

If, on the other hand, you have an aunt whose tastes run toward “postmodern incoherent,” you’ll shop for her in your Persuadable Pete hat. It becomes much more challenging for the marketer to reach you then.

Further complicating things this holiday marketing season is that oversized-mask-wearing elephant in the room, the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Bottom Line: Reminding and Persuading Are Not the Same Thing

Marketers need to accept that this will be a more subdued holiday season than usual. Both Remind Me Rhonda and Persuadable Pete will be sticking close to home. They won’t be going store to store to gather armloads of gifts to deliver door to door. They’ll be doing far more online ordering and having gifts shipped directly to the recipients.

That calls for a marketing approach that’s even more bifurcated than normal. So, sure, go ahead and allocate some of your budget for Remind Me Rhonda, knowing that click-to-purchase prompts will produce revenue and you’ll hit your metric and it’s simple to report on and very reassuring for your board members.

But if you want to produce meaningful ROAS, you need to go beyond serving simple online reminders. You need to parse visitors to your site to identify the Persuadable Petes — by separating them from same-day converters, for example, so you stop reminding the Remind Me Rhondas after they’ve already converted.

In short, you need to deliver sophisticated, precisely targeted Programmatic Direct Mail® to the home. Because that’s where Pete will be spending most of his time this holiday shopping season, just waiting to be persuaded.

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