Are you planning to start a campaign? If so, you’ll be better off working out just what drives your customers, finding out their needs, and understanding their behavior instead of focusing on details like zip codes, age categories, and average incomes.

The way we communicate is changing, shifting the power of choice into the hands of the consumers, putting brands under pressure to alter the way they attract customers and gain their loyalty. By using relevant content, you can influence your target audience. But by distributing mass information to people whose only common denominator is that they happen to be neighbors or that they have the same number of children, you run the risk of being judgmental – and of wasting content.

What do I mean? Well, take me and my best friend as an example.

During my morning commute, I spend my time reading Resumé (Swedish media and marketing magazine site) and e-mails, while my friend chooses to go through Dagens Nyheter (Swedish national paper) and Facebook. I buy clothes on the internet, and I’m obsessed with Instagram. She prefers Twitter.  

Before I book a holiday, I spend hours ploughing through reviews, travel blogs, price comparison websites, as well as investigating hashtags. My friend books last minute flights when she feels like it, and finds out what the best hotel is on arrival.

While I can be impulsive, I like to be in control and have some comfort. My friend is economical, spontaneous, and adventurous, and she doesn’t care one bit about comforts. We both go skiing, but for completely different reasons. She mostly does it to keep her family happy, whereas I think skiing is one of the best outdoor pursuits ever.

My friend and I have a whole range of different needs and behaviors. But if we were assessed according to our demographics, it would look as though we’re very alike. For instance, we’re both women between 25 and 30 and live in suburban apartments with our partners and children. We both drive station wagons. We earn about the same, are active on social media sites, and we like new experiences and going to restaurants.

But in actual fact, my needs and behavior are far more in line with those of my aunt, who is 22 years older and lives in another part of the country. Despite that, my aunt and I get different adverts on YouTube, and even though we both want the same things from a vacation, travel companies send us different newsletters, and assume that people over 50 love playing golf.

So what’s the point if the content doesn’t contain the right message, or if it reaches us at the wrong stage of the customer journey? If you who are responsible for your company’s brand, my advice would be to invest in resources to analyze the thoughts and wishes of your target audience rather than wasting time and money on trying to find out about personas that don’t exist in real life.

Before I sell something to a customer, l want answers to questions like: do they want to go on holiday for an adventure or a comfortable escape from reality? Is this customer buying a new car for business or pleasure? Does my customer prefer to carry out research on a smartphone or on a desktop computer?

Today, we have good tools to answer such questions. And it allows us to can create content that is both interesting and engaging – at the right time, in the right place, with the right message, and for the right target audience. And without it being judgmental or hypothetical.