Exercise: Defining Your Brand Message And User Personas

Help develop your brand position and user personas with a simple exercise in empathy.


To better understand your customer or client, we’ll perform a simple exercise in empathy. We’ll begin by writing from the perspective of our core customer – and walk through their day. We will not mention or refer to our product or service in any such way throughout the exercise. They key is to determine the pain points of our customers, our contribution to it’s improvement, and (at least) a surface level understanding to the problems our clients face outside of our services.

This exercise will allow us to better position our brand messaging by targeting detailed user persona’s of our product.


We’ll start this exercise by providing an example:


Waking up was difficult today. After a stint of work lasting till 1am the night prior – I’m eager to brew the first cup of coffee. Before beginning the business a 5 years ago I was barely a coffee drinker. I headed out the door while checking my e-mails at stoplights, making a call with a client on the way.

Payday is here. For the first time in my career, employees are counting on me to continually bring in new business. It’s a heavy responsibility, but one that I am taking in stride.

One of the partners presented the fiscal projections for this next year – not as great as we hoped. We only still seem to be making ends meet, and the promise of continued growth seems to be waning. Another partner suggested a marketing budget, but none of us have experience in this arena – and we don’t, at this time, trust a marketing agency with the only profits we have.

I worked for the rest of the day inundated with the rote business tasks normally reserved for lower level employees. The partners and I have had little time lately for higher level tasks and business development, and frankly are a bit out of our comfort zone. The pride and vision I have for the company are what keep me going strong – and I believe, one day, it can be as successful as we envision. I want the respect of owning “that place” and for the community to accept us with adoration.

The clock strikes 12 and I compel myself to relax. After cleaning a few things around the house, and checking e-mails one more time, I head to bed with a book to take my mind off the busy day. A vibrating cellphone on the sidetable, once again, beckons me to the e-mails waiting.


So what have we determined about our customer? Let’s list just a few takeaways:

  1. Our customers are generally owners, partners, and CEO’s of small and mid-level companies
  2. Our customers are short on time for formal processes
  3. Our customers have complex problems with their business – stemming from positioning in the market and internal processes
  4. Our customers are generally distrusting of larger entities with what money they have
  5. Our customers have generally not worked with an agency before


…and the list goes on. How accurate this is, is determined by your experience with your customers, their feedback, and digital metrics.


Your customer is the hero of this journey – and you, the mentor and service to assist them.


This is true regardless of the service you offer (assuming there is a market for your product, and you aren’t pulling this narrative out of your ass). For instance, as a food preparation business – I can see the inherent value of saving my customer time with pre-produced meals. As an accounting service – I could use my brand voice to communicate the importance of book keeping in order to cut our financial waste and spur growth. Hell, I could pretend to be an erotic store brand, and play on the long hours they work, to stoke some excitement in their marriage.

Whatever it is you do – speak to the customer through your company values, biography, and other marketing materials. While you collect new data – invest more time in your user personas. But always remember: the key to great brand messaging is empathy for your core consumer.


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