Behaviour Over Characteristics: Why Product Designers Use Mindsets Rather Than Personas

Here we explore why product designers work with mindsets rather than customer personas, and share key takeaways that marketers learn from product designers.

As marketers, we’re always on the hunt for innovative ways to understand our audience and create campaigns that truly hit the mark.

But have you ever considered looking outside our field for inspiration?

Take product design, for example.

Many product designers steer away from traditional customer personas and demographics, opting instead for mindset segmentation.

The reason product designers use mindsets rather than personas zeroes in on the ‘why‘ – the motivations, preferences, and behaviours that truly drive consumer choices.

So in this article, we’re going to dive a little deeper into why product designers often lean towards mindset segmentation over customer personas, and share some key takeaways that content marketers can learn from our talented product design pals.

Keep reading!

Why Product Designers Use Mindsets, Not Personas: 5 Key Takeaways For Marketers

1. Behavioral Tendencies Over Demographics:

Mindset segmentation prioritises behavioral tendencies and psychological patterns over strict demographic boundaries.

In other words, mindsets are broad enough to identify behavioral tendencies without prescribing personas with a name, age, gender, or any other fixed demographic.

This gives designers the flexibility to focus on the mindset and motivations of a group rather than being limited by specific demographic characteristics.

For instance, when designing the Tesla Model S, Elon Musk and his team didn’t focus on a specific age or income bracket. Instead, they targeted a mindset: individuals passionate about sustainability, tech-savvy, and willing to invest in innovative products.

This approach allowed them to tap into a wide range of demographics unified by a common mindset.

And judging from the exponential growth of Tesla over the past decade… it served them well!

2. Adaptable and Flexible:

Mindsets are fluid and evolve with time, societal changes, and personal experiences.

This provides product designers with the flexibility to adapt their designs as consumer behaviors and preferences shift.

Take Spotify, for example.

Spotify’s Discover Weekly feature isn’t designed for a specific persona; it’s designed for a mindset – music lovers eager to explore new tracks.

As users’ musical tastes evolve, so does the personalized playlist, reflecting the dynamic nature of mindset segmentation.

3. Understanding Motivations and Behaviors:

By focusing on mindsets, product designers can delve into the motivations and behaviors that drive users.

Consider the rise of fitness trackers like Fitbit.

They don’t target a specific demographic but rather a mindset: individuals motivated to lead healthier lifestyles and track their progress.

Understanding this mindset has been key to designing features that resonate with users, such as goal setting, sleep tracking, and social sharing.

Another compelling reason for using mindsets over demographics is when two users may belong to the same demographic but have entirely different mindsets.

Take Barack Obama and Donald Trump as an example.

They share the same demographics (male, politician, age 50+).

But their psychographics couldn’t be more different. Their beliefs and values are polar opposite.

A product designed around a persona based on their shared demographic may not resonate with either, but understanding their distinct mindsets can lead to more effective design decisions.

4. Creating Personalized User Experiences:

Designing products based on mindsets allows for a more personalized user experience.

Airbnb, for instance, doesn’t just target people who need a place to stay; they cater to a mindset of travelers seeking unique, local, and affordable experiences.

This understanding has shaped their platform, leading to features like ‘Experiences’ and ‘Guidebooks’.

As of 2023, Airbnb have expanded their offering into even more special features and ways to filter listings, like ‘Airbnb Plus’ and ‘Superhost’, as well as ‘OMG!’ (for ‘out of this world experiences’, as symbolised by the alien spaceship icon, which is a playful choice), ‘Amazing Pools’ and ‘Trending’.

5. Better User Experience:

It’s also worth noting that when focusing on the mindset of their end users, product designers can create a more personalized user experience.

They can design products that speak directly to the user’s motivations and behaviors, leading to higher user satisfaction and engagement.

Airbnb got back on their feet after a rocky road in the pandemic. Their roll-out of hyper-personalised new features has helped them secure more than a few loyal customers.

It goes to show that the more a brand or business personalises their services, the more seen a customer feels.

And when a customer feels seen and heard, they’re likely to stay loyal to your brand or business.

So it really is in your best interest to serve your audience’s needs as much as possible.

the smart strategist - why product designers use mindsets - customer mindset thinking

What Can Marketers Learn From Product Designers?

Okay, so, what’s the takeaway for us marketers?

While customer personas and demographics definitely still hold their value, there’s a lot we can learn from the product design world.

By shifting our focus towards understanding consumers’ mindsets – their unique interests, motivations, and behaviors – we can craft marketing strategies that not only meet their needs but also deeply resonate with them.

So, as you gear up for your next marketing campaign, don’t be afraid to think outside the box.

Dive into the ‘why‘, not just the ‘who’. It might just be the game-changer you’ve been looking for.

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