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Romain Aubert - Why you don't need personas, Google's disingenuous blog post, how to dodge facial recognition, Barbarian Days

Hey friends, 1/ As part of some work on product marketing, I've been debating whether creating person
Romain Aubert - Why you don't need personas, Google's disingenuous blog post, how to dodge facial recognition, Barbarian Days
By Romain Aubert • Issue #8 • View online
Hey friends,
1/ As part of some work on product marketing, I’ve been debating whether creating personas was the right thing to define product positioning and messaging.
It turns out that it is not.
I am explaining why.
2/ In a blog post, Google disingenuously outlines how to “building a private web;” I comment on why Google’s rhetoric is misleading.
3/ Reading and music
Have a good skim through/read.

A Snickers box back in the days
A Snickers box back in the days
We don't care about personas.
I was working on defining positioning and messaging for a product. The team and I thought we needed to understand who our personas were in order to move forward with defining positioning and messaging.
There were some hesitations in doing so: “What’s next? What do we do once we have description(s) of our persona(s). How is it going to help us on next steps for product development?”
We decided not to go for personas.
Below is why.
Why sticking to persona might mislead you in your product positioning and messaging strategy
If you sell Snickers, you don’t care to know that your target persona is 35 years old, has a degree in marketing, likes peanuts, chocolate and caramel, and has an active lifestyle.
Those are attributes and they might mislead you:
“We learned early the outcome a person wants is much more important than the person themselves. Knowing it’s a 37-year-old’s hands on the keyboard rarely changes how you design your product to deliver their outcome.”– Intercom’s team.
The jobs-to-be-done methodology stipulates that those attributes don’t help you understand why this person bought a Snickers:
“Personas look at roles and attributes. Jobs-to-be-Done looks at situations and motivations. Personas explain who people are and what people do. But they never fully explain why people do something. And why people do things is far more important.”
You want to know what “job” people “hire” your product for.
You want to know what their motivations are, as opposed to what their attributes are.
Back to our Snickers example:
Snickers’ consumer did not buy a Snickers because they are 35 years old, have a degree in marketing, like peanuts, chocolate and caramel, and have an active lifestyle.
They bought a snicker because they were on the go, in between meals, and needed to satisfy hunger.
Personas might mislead you when creating your acquisition strategies as you might be totally omitting what job people hire your product for as you focus solely on who they are.
“Personas artificially break apart audiences. And critically, they artificially limit your product’s audience by focusing on attributes rather than motivations and outcomes. — Intercom’s team”
Thanks to Daphni community and friends for sharing this framework with me.
Sources & more reading and watching:
Article: Intercom on Jobs-to-be-Done
Article: Know Your Customers’ “Jobs to Be Done” by HBR
Video: Jobs to be Done: from Doubter to Believer by Sian Townsend at Front 2016 in Salt Lake City, Utah
Comments on Google's disingenuous blog post:"Building a private web"
How Google wants to keep controlling the web
Google published a blog post on how they wish to make the web more private. I find the blog post disingenuous and misleading. Below are my comments on some of the statements Google team makes.
“Privacy is paramount to us, in everything we do.”
How can privacy be “paramount” to Google when the essence of their business model is to leverage personal data to maximize revenues from advertising.
“set of open standards”
Read: “set new constraints so all players have to do our way and we can remain in control.” This has nothing to do with “open.”
“Technology that publishers and advertisers use to make advertising even more relevant to people”
“Relevant” means targeted. That means getting people to spend more money by clicking on targeted ads. That is it. Academic research shows that targeting advertising can change the way people think and behave.
“blocking cookies without another way to deliver relevant ads significantly reduces publishers’ primary means of funding, which jeopardizes the future of the vibrant web.”
“Vibrant web” — read: a “free” web where people are products at the mercy of advertisers. Google is the master of advertising. A free web is a web where people pay for products.
A free web is a web where people pay for products. Definition of free: not under the control or in the power of another; If you give up privacy, you give up power: read Privacy is Power by Carissa Véliz.
“We want to find a solution that both really protects user privacy and also helps content remain freely accessible on the web.”
“we will work with the web community to develop new standards that advance privacy,”
How can google have people’s best interest at mind when their core business model is to leverage personal data to increase advertising revenue?
“we’ve started sharing our preliminary ideas for a Privacy Sandbox - a secure environment for personalization that also protects user privacy.”
Personalisation and privacy are oxymoron. There can be no personalisation if privacy there is.
Definition of privacy: “the state or condition of being free from being observed or disturbed by other people”– Oxford dictionary.
How can there be personalisation if there can be no observation of people?
“Some ideas include new approaches to ensure that ads continue to be relevant for users,”
Read: “Some ideas include new approaches to ensure that [Google and advertisers continue to make money]”
 “user data shared with websites and advertisers would be minimized by anonymously aggregating user information,”
If data is anonymized, it can be de anonymized.
 “We look forward to getting feedback on this approach from the web platform community, including other browsers, publishers, and their advertising partners.”

  • publishers = Google’s clients.
  • advertising partners = Google’s clients.
Jonathan Mayer and Arvind Narayanan beautifully highlight the dichotomy in their deconstruction of Google’s “open web” by quoting Shoshana Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism:
“Demanding privacy from surveillance capitalists or lobbying for an end to commercial surveillance on the internet is like asking old Henry Ford to make each Model T by hand. It’s like asking a giraffe to shorten its neck, or a cow to give up chewing. These demands are existential threats that violate the basic mechanisms of the entity’s survival.”
From the World Wide Web
  • Spotify started by giving you easy access to music, now they wants to access location of all your family members (link).
  • Facebook, Amazon, Google and Apple have been over using the word “privacy” for marketing purpose:
“Privacy is in danger of becoming a marketing term. Like artificial intelligence & machine learning, there is the possibility that it becomes another word tech firms need to promise users they’re thinking about – even if how it is actually being used remains largely unknown.”– Andrew Griffin, The Telegraph
  • Privacy International, an NGO, exposed 5 menstruation apps that have been sharing their users’ most intimate data about their sexual lives with Facebook and others (link:)
“If you have unprotected sex, MIA [a menstruation app] will tell you what to do. And share it with Facebook and others.”
  • Facebook is investing $1 billion into social housing (link.)
  • If the (police of the) city where you live is starting to use facial recognition, here is your anti facial recognition mask by Ewa Nowak:
Ewa Nowak - Incognito
Ewa Nowak - Incognito
  • Google has reached a milestone in quantum computing by solving a problem that would take a classical computer an impractically long amount of time (link.)
Books I enjoyed
  • Barbarian Days, a surfing life by William Finnegan. I was surprised to see this book recommended by non-surfers, that is what caught my attention. As one of its critics mentioned, the language used is breathtaking. An hymn to freedom and humility.
  • Never Split The Difference by Chris Voss. Although the book is marketed to business peeps as a negotiation manual, I found insights about how to converse with others whether it be about friendships, relationships, family or work matters.
  • Le Grand Marin by Catherine Poulain. The account of woman set to work in the man-dominated deep-sea fishing industry in Alaska in the 80’s.
  • A Voyage For Madmen by Peter Nichols. The daunting stories of nine men who set for the first single-handed circumnavigate sailing race in 1968.
  • Les Others (magazine). They are doing a great job at repackaging your mum & dad’s 3-hour Sunday hike into a 2-day adventurous bivouac.
Betti - Heleh Dan Dan (Bandari)
Betti - Heleh Dan Dan (Bandari)
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from Asia
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Romain Aubert

“The role of the organiser is to create power for others” — Saul Alinsky

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