As a B2B marketing creative, stepping away from the grindstone where my nose is placed directly each day, to spend a few hours with my children is a welcome reward. The past few evenings I have been reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, to my five year old son each evening before he goes to bed.
Roald Dahl was one of my favorite authors as a child, as his stories were irreverent, funny and often macabre. Dahl’s literature is so well-wrought that later transitioning to advanced reading was easy, as he, like other writers such as C.S. Lewis, Jane Leslie Conly, Shel Silverstein, Lewis Carroll, Jules Verne, and others helped me become a voracious reader as a child. Although written for a young audience, Dahl did not dumb down the narrative to be more digestible. Instead he connected to his reader through a common theme and crafted a story that, presenting phrasing and complexity that may be unfamiliar, delighted the reader enough to consume and comprehend the narrative nonetheless.
The book that I am reading is the very book from which Charlie Bucket, Willy Wonka, Oompa Loompas, Augustus Gloop, Snozzberries and Scrumdiddlyumptious Chocolate Bars were all introduced to me at five years old. I have kept the same paperback I was read to by my parents in 1976, and now am passing along the story to my oldest boy. Something I like to do is read several chapters and ask him to draw a picture from the events that happened. Developing a visual narrative has always been an important part of my life as a graphic designer, artist, and B2B marketer. My hope is that this may spark his ability to share a creative dialogue, and eventually make visual expression an easy means for him to communicate. I noticed very quickly through this exercise that his interpretation of the story had a unique perspective that I had not foreseen.
As many have read the book, reread the book to others, or watched the two film adaptations of the story. The general takeaway would be that Charlie Bucket is the hero of this story. A character in need of a break in life, as his honesty and never-ending spirit of hope must prevail over those who take for granted those qualities that make life flourish. These qualities are also those that best fit the person whom may learn and be trusted to run the world’s most amazing chocolate factory in the world.
My son sees this story differently, or so it would seem from his drawings thus far. He sees the story as a tragedy, whose central character, Augustus Gloop, is punished for his want of candy. My child has a sweet tooth, more so than myself and perhaps a lot of other people. While I connected to and made heroes of Willy Wonka and Charlie Bucket, my skinny five year-old son saw his reflection in the massive boy who becomes a victim of his own gluttony. A boy described as, “fat bulging from every fold, with two greedy eyes peering out of his doughball of a face.” Fascinating!
The manner in which we build B2B buyer personas is much like my exercise of asking my son to progressively draw the narrative. We create unique portraits of our customers and build marketing campaigns and websites with calls to action that will engage directly to these people and delight them. Roald Dahl knew what readers like me wanted. So he created the narrative to deliver and delight me as a consumer of his literature. By knowing the buyer personas of his readers, he became an incredibly successful writer with scores of lifelong fans of his work.
If I had presumed my son was reading the story as I had read it, I would have missed out on this incredible nugget of how my son was absorbing or, in the case of my son’s unique perspective, getting sucked into the giant glass tube of the story.
If my son were a paying customer of the reading experience I was presenting, I never would have gained insight to how to adequately engage him as a buyer. Is my presentation focused on his unique persona? How would I engage him to buy again? Will he become a Roald Dahl convert, or be turned away as he felt his problems as a consumer were not being addressed with an adequate solution?
Sometimes the brain of a B2B marketing creative stays on the grindstone even after the nose calls it a day. What everyday instances have you experienced where having a better understanding of them would offer you a better means of engagement just as you may do building a B2B buyer persona?