BLOG 12th February 2019

Using visitor scenarios to improve marketing and visitor experience

If you work in marketing, chances are you’ve heard of customer segments, or ‘personas’ as they are sometimes called. Not sure what they are? In a nutshell, a persona is a realistic character sketch of one of your customer segments (a group of people who buy your product), and is typically based on research on your customers. For more information on personas and how to develop them, check out our Audiences Persona Toolkit.

Let’s explore an example of a persona

Now let’s say I’m one of the key customer segments for M&Ms. Demographically, I am female, in my early 30’s, live near the north coast of NI, am married and have a toddler. I also work as a researcher for the arts, cultural, and heritage sectors. And… I love M&Ms, especially the ones with peanuts in them. I grew up with M&Ms, and ate them all the time as a kid. As an adult, I buy peanut M&Ms frequently because I love the taste, my husband loves them too, and they’re great chocolate to have around the house because I can have a few with a coffee and not feel too guilty about eating chocolate. It’s also very easy to add them to our weekly Tesco delivery (sometimes a little too easy!).

Remember that personas are a character sketch and not a perfect science

Now, not everyone in this customer segment is going to be exactly like me (e.g., not everyone will be a female in her 30s), but the persona is a character sketch gives the Mars company a rough picture of what my segment is like, and what my demographics and interests are that affect my purchasing behaviour.

Now, I am a die-hard M&M’s fan, and have been for years. But when Valentine’s Day rolls around, I have to put my love for them aside – M&Ms just don’t seem special enough to be a “Happy Valentine’s Day honey, I love you!” type of a chocolate.

You might be thinking “but what happened to the persona? She’s in their target market!”

Personas are handy but can’t do everything

Personas are great because they can tell you about the type of audience you’re catering to. They can tell you a lot about your target market – their typical age, gender, and general attitudes towards the category – basically the more enduring characteristics of a person that don’t change. But that’s just the thing – personas are static. Just because you buy M&Ms at the supermarket one day doesn’t mean that’s the only chocolate you’ll ever buy.

This is where scenarios come into play

While a persona is a character sketch of a customer segment, a scenario is a description of an occasion segment. What’s the difference? Customer segments are groups of people who may buy your product in general, while occasion segments are groups of people who buy for a particular occasion or need. Customer segments (and their respective personas) are based on the intrinsic characteristics of your customers, including their likely demographics and attitudes towards the product category. These types of characteristics usually don’t change too often with time. On the other hand, occasion segments (and their scenarios) differ because they’re based on the needs of the person in that particular point in time

Valentine’s Day chocolates: a scenario

I’m not going to choose M&Ms for my husband because they’re everyday chocolates. For this occasion, I want something special – something that’s decadent and looks lovely as a gift. Why? Because I want to make my husband feel special. So instead of just adding (yet another) bag of M&Ms to our Tesco delivery order, I specifically go out to the shops to find something for my husband. What did I get? I bought a big box of Ferrero Rocher. Why? Because the presentation is gorgeous – they’re in a clear case so you can see all of the chocolate individually wrapped in their signature gold foil. I also know that he loves Ferrero Rocher (though he won’t ever buy it for himself), it’s a more expensive brand than our normal chocolate, and it looks great as a gift.  And most importantly, it makes me happy to buy him something that I know he’ll like. (And in addition to the chocolates, I bought him a new Xbox game. Because he needs something to do so he doesn’t eat the whole box in one go ;-) ).

So what do you need to consider when crafting a scenario? Think of the 5 W’s and the H:


  • Who are they buying for? (Is it for themselves or for someone else?)
  • Who else is in this occasion? (Does this occasion involve other people, like friends or family members?)


  • What are they buying/getting? (Is it tickets to a show? Or are they making the decision to go to an art gallery with free admission?)
  • What are their emotions before/during/after the occasion?

Where and How

  • Where are they when they’re making the decision? (Are they at home? At work? Out and about?)
  • How are they making the purchase? Is it online or in-person? 


  • The time of purchase: are they making a purchase for a specific time of year/week/day? Is it for something they will use immediately? How frequently do they make the purchase?
  • The occasion: how long does the occasion last? Is it minutes/hours/days?


  • This is the most important part. Keeping all of the answers above in mind, what are their specific needs in this situation? (Think of the functional, emotional, and experiential needs/wants). Are they also trying to satisfy the needs of someone else? (e.g., are they buying panto tickets for their child, or are they booking a class/workshop for an older parent?)

You’ll notice how demographics such as age, gender, etc. don’t necessarily come into play above – that’s because scenarios can apply to almost anyone, and the demographics aren’t always a key influencer in a scenario. In my Valentine’s Day chocolate-buying scenario, did it matter if I was 30 or 60? Did it matter that I had a child? Did it matter was my occupation was? No, no, and no. After all, you can be in your 30s, married with kids, and shop for a variety of chocolate brands depending on the occasion.

Using Scenarios in Arts, Culture, and Heritage

People are faced with so many decisions to make in a day, and not every decision is made based on the types of characteristics you find in a persona. 

You might well have a 'family' persona that you want to welcome into your venue or event. Developing your visitor experience, marketing, and programming to be family friendly has brought in a family audience for you. But, when Valentine's Day rolls around, a lot of those parents who usually visit with their kids may also be in the market for a more grown-up date experience without the whole family tagging along.

It makes sense to market similar programming to those who have attended before, but don't forget to give your audience members a chance to cross-over into different genres, products, and experiences.

Don’t get me wrong - personas are great, because you can use them in your organisation to evaluate your offer. Personas can help you:

  • Think of practical considerations (e.g., accessibility if your audience is older, timing of your events if your audience has children, etc.)
  • Brainstorm how your audience finds information on your offer (e.g. is it online? Is it through the local newspaper?)

…but scenarios are good to use in combination with personas, because scenarios help you to:

  • Keep customers’ specific needs in mind.
  • Develop different strands of products or programming to suit different scenarios.
  • Craft different marketing messages depending on the scenario.
  • Keep an open mind about what other programming your visitors might enjoy.

Remember that visitors and ticket-buyers are like a box of chocolates – you never know who you’re going to get, but with careful planning and the use of scenarios, you have a better chance of meeting your customers’ needs.

If you’d like more information on customer scenarios and personas, feel free to drop me an email.

Now, where did I stash those M&Ms? 

Alix Craig

Sector Programme Coordinator

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