written by
Justin Theng

Artificial Intelligence vs Buyer Personas. Who Wins?

Digital Transformation Change Future 4 min read


As the old adage goes, 'If you show me the heart of a man I can sell him anything.' But the tricky part is, no one is going to just go ahead and show you their heart because let's face it, they know you're going to try to sell them something 8 times out of 10.

A person’s intentions are one of the hardest things to understand. And the truth is, often people themselves aren’t really aware of their own intentions.


We are only aware of about 5-10% of what is going, the other 90% or so is hidden deep within our subconscious and unconscious minds. This is something that Bernbach and Ogilvy, the pioneers of modern advertising discovered back in the 1950s.

The way our conscious and unconscious minds work together is likened to a man riding an elephant. Our rational mind is the man, thinking he’s in control. While our emotions and unconscious mind are the elephant.

No matter how much we think we’re in control, if the elephant decides he wants to go off course to pick some bananas, there’s not a damn thing the man can do about it. And so it is with our unconscious mind.

If marketing can trigger our deepest subconscious and unconscious drivers, the things we desperately crave for… it’s almost impossible for anyone to rationalise themselves out of that desire once it has been awoken.

In the 1950s, Wendell Smith was attributed as introducing the truly revolutionary concept of product differentiation and market segmentation, in other words, the target market. This was a game changer that carried the entire advertising industry around about when the internet came along.

A bit over 10 years ago, Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah introduced another game changing concept to help marketers sell to tech-savvy customers with a world of information at their fingers - Inbound.

Now marketers do a little research and create the six or so buyer personas that they’re catering to and build content and advertisements around these fictional archetypes.

If the elephant decides he wants to go off course to pick some bananas, there’s not a damn thing he can do about it.

But in reality, things are a lot more complex. We are all individuals with unique interests, tastes, values, lifestyles, goals, and buying habits. That means to effectively serve up an advertisement to any one person and tick all their boxes, we would need millions of personas.

What makes it even trickier is that even on the individual level, out intentions are deeply entrenched with the constant fluctuations of our mood. This Psychology and Marketing study shows how the positive and negative moods of an ad’s audience can powerfully impact our perceptions of perceived risk and purchase intention.


If it were a couple years ago, I would totally agree. But change is coming to how we market, whether we like it or not.

With AI, marketing is set to go even more micro than the persona. Using cryptographic identities, the technology behind blockchain, AI is going to allow us to have the tools to effectively market to the person NOT the persona.

I call this the Personally Identifiable Consumer, or PIC.

This one area is the greatest potential for any marketer that wants to make a major impact in the way they do business. It is almost critical.

Adobe’s 2018 Digital Trends Report (above) shows that top-performing companies are more than twice-as-likely to already be using AI, and almost 60% of “mainstream” companies have no plans on integrating AI into their business. You could argue that it’s purely correlation and not causation, but is that really a gamble you want to take?

Even then, AI alone is like a Ferrari shell without its ‘Columbo’ V12. It’s nice and shiny, sure. But it needs some power to get the sales department roaring like an F40 down a freeway.

Big data is the engine, the oil, the petrol. When marketers without AI and big data line up against those that do, it’s basically bringing a Camry to a Grand Prix, you’re gonna’ get smoked.

That’s why the big 4 consultancy firms are all buying agencies. These are the organisations that have access to the data and technology that can give marketing the legs it needs to absolutely explode.

Because we are in this new era of marketing, we cannot hope to keep competing with the same worn-out strategies. We’re going hand-to-hand against Goliath.

To compete in today’s, and even more so, tomorrow’s marketing landscape. You need to be investing in AI and big data NOW. Because tomorrow you might just be bringing a knife to a gun fight. See where you could be overspending in marketing, so that you can free up resources to put towards AI. Visit marketingspendcalculator.com

Try the Marketing Spend Calculator at marketingspendcalculator.com
Business Leadership