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Marketing personas, which can act as guides through the murky world of purchase intent, have revitalized marketing in the 21st century, especially for companies in the automotive industry. A serious roadblock to building a 360 degree view of the consumer, however, involves a psychological effect known as the “uncanny valley.” The “uncanny valley” describes things that look like people, but are missing essentially human characteristics so they end up just looking creepy. That’s why dolls, robots, digital avatars and animations often give people the chills. Something is missing.

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The exact same effect applies to CRM-based personas. For far too many marketers today, the something that is missing in the persona is offline data. Without it, marketers are left with a customer view of only 310 degrees or so. Consumers can definitely feel it when the marketing direction is just a little bit off in an undefined way. Now, a few leading automakers have discovered a way to fix that.

The Ideal CRM Persona

The concept of customer personas built from CRM data was born at the same time as the World Wide Web in the early 1990s. Advertising giant Ogilvy built what they called “Customer Prints” for marketing purposes, based on the earlier idea of defined personas for software users. A persona concisely gathers all the critical data about a representative user, including what they do, their emotion pain, their common objections to a specific solution and a sample quote.

Personas put CRM data into context so marketers can improve the quality of marketing messaging, evaluate the quality of data collected and apply insights to the lead flow process. Under ideal conditions, marketers would combine online activity data with offline actions to build a full 360 degree view of the consumer. Then that model can be applied to finding lookalike audiences.

The Digital Head Start

Over the past two decades, online metrics have gotten more accurate and finely tuned, but offline data collection often remains a mystery. A new digital trend report by Econsultancy found that when marketers are confident in using consumer data to adjust their digital ad spend, they are twice as likely as their peers to exceed their business goals.


However, these same marketers don’t have visibility into, or confidence in, data about their offline campaigns. The report concluded, “It is important for brands to have a full view of their total digital investment in terms of how digital and more traditional forms of advertising work together.”

Fortunately, technology is now finally catching up with data gathering tools for dealership events, test drive sentiment analysis, and post-car-show follow up. Without integration of this kind of data, marketers often struggle to gain the true value from their CRM personas.

When Personas Go Bad

Persona marketing works, and works well, but only when used and supported correctly. Many companies give up on personas after failed attempts that were never fully implemented in the first place.

One of the biggest problems companies have faced is that digital activities and offline purchase intent are not commonly in sync. With digital only data, marketers have no insights into how well live events are performing or how the consumer’s perception of the brand changed as a result of the event.

Dealership interactions and other offline efforts go unmeasured and unreported as this data is never integrated into the system. Even when offline data is collected, too many companies don’t have a way for systems to talk to each other, so data from sign ups, CRM, DMP, etc never make it into the persona generation process. Blind spots abound and blind marketing results.

How OEMs Are Getting a Better View

Learning from the mistakes and successes of others is the fastest, least painful way to get ahead of the market. Take a look as some brief case studies on what automakers like Cadillac, Porsche and BMW did to gain a full 360 degree view of their customers:

Cadillac - The reach of digital marketing is truly global, but how can a brand like Cadillac really know what customers think? They’ve put in place a 5 stage program to combine online data with sentiment information gathered from live events.

Porsche - The customer journey doesn’t end when a prospect makes a purchase. Some believe it just begins there. Porsche found a way to keep customers engaged with a portal connecting their online and offline worlds through a smartphone app.

BMW - The benefits of getting big on the multinational scale can be limited by a loss of control over messaging and consumer direct interaction. BMW sought out software that could combine the best of both worlds - online and offline.

Offline Marketing Is Behind

Building a holistic, 360 degree of the consumer with digital data is hard, even when you have tons of data to work with. While digital channels like digital ad spend, digital marketing, mobile ad spend, mobile marketing, etc. are sophisticated in measurement and data synchronization, offline marketing is not.

Companies who don’t incorporate offline data into their CRM personas have a debilitating blind spot when they try to connect with their customers. For everyone working day in and day out with data quality and lead flow, the blind spots add up quickly and companies can’t afford to operate like this in highly competitive markets. Bring the virtual and physical together for a complete picture of who customers really are and what they need from their preferred brands.

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