It has become trendy for brand teams to develop Buyer Personas meant to make it easier to meaningfully reach their target. Thought of as easy points of reference, these generally involve naming the target and trying to embody her/him in a nice neat lifestyle photo.

Don’t get me wrong – names and lifestyle photos are nice. They are certainly better than the purely demographic breakdowns we used to embrace (Working Mother, 24-39, Married, College Graduate, HHI $100k+… ring any bells?).

But do they go deep enough? Do they provide the in-depth insight into the hows, whens and why of our buyers’ purchase decisions that we need to truly connect with them in the ways, at the times, and in the places that matter most? If not, then they become an exercise meant to placate our exec team – not the powerful tools that can make us more successful.

Without any doubt, it was certainly a step forward when marketers began to move beyond demographics into psychographics – incorporating personality, values, opinions, attitudes, interests, and lifestyles. At first this mostly focused on what shows they watched, what magazines they read, and what their hobbies were. In order to represent these cohorts in a more visual way, marketers then began naming them and slapping pictures of their representatives into their marketing plans and creative briefs.

While better than just pure demographics, this still falls way short – because it still focuses on the ‘whats’ and not the ‘whys.’ It doesn’t dig deep into how, when, and why our buyers make the decisions we need to influence. It doesn’t uncover what triggers our buyers’ needs, what shapes their perception of a successful outcome, how they identify alternatives, what barriers get in the way of them making purchase decisions, how they determine the competitive set within which they will consider purchasing, nor who ultimately influences those decisions.

All of these pieces of information work together to form a more complete picture of who our target is, how they think, what they value, and how we can best help them.

Pictures are nice – they help us remember. But we must make sure that our Buyer Personas actually go deep enough to facilitate better decisions – decisions that will separate us from our competition and foster the bonds with our customers that are hard to break.

Brand ManageCamp 2015 speaker Adele Revella is an expert on Buyer Personas. She is the author of “Buyer Personas: How to Gain Insight Into Your Customer’s Expectations, Align Your Marketing Strategies, And Win.” She is also the founder and CEO of The Buyer Persona Institiute. She is dedicated to developing compelling strategies that tap into true actionable insights. And you should be too. At Brand ManageCamp 2015, Adele will shed light on the methodology she has created to help us segment our customers, develop the most persuasive marketing and content strategies, and best align marketing activities across functions and channels.

If Buyer Personas is one of the things you think could help your team make better decisions and lead more profitable brands, I hope you choose to join Adele Revella and the rest of our speakers on Oct 1-2 in Las Vegas!