What RuPaul Teaches Us About Avatars

RuPaul is wise. RuPaul is an oracle in glitter and heels, serving you looks and insight. 

Avatars are popular for a reason. The theory goes that when you understand your target customer and create an avatar for them, you can speak directly to this prospect. You define their personality and their pain points. You fill in the details of their life from demographics to where they shop, what car they drive, and what they dream about.

Most copywriting advice tells you to write to one person because if you speak to everyone, you speak to no one.

What About Identity

Enter RuPaul to disrupt the longheld tradition of customer avatars with a poignant reality check on identity that cuts sharper than a contour line:

“You know, the matrix says, ‘Pick an identity and stick with it. Because I want to sell you some beer and shampoo, and I need you to stick with what you are so I’ll know how to market it to you.’ Drag is the opposite. Drag says, ‘Identity is a joke.’”

Identity is an ever-changing thing. As people grow, evolve, get new hobbies, and drop old patterns, their needs, desires, and problems change — and so do their buying habits. 

It’s convenient to put people in boxes and pin them down based on who they are.

The Modern Day Marketing Dilemma

How do you market this when people are multi-passionate and don’t fall into one category? 

The maximalist of yesterday may suddenly take up minimalism. The bacon-loving carnivore may become a vegetarian and then switch back again.  

Identity is fluid, and your content should be able to keep up with that. 

While it can be useful to imagine your ideal customer is a 35-year-old woman who shops at Target, enjoys Starbucks, drives an Audi, and watches YouTube makeup tutorials, it might be more important to identify what problem you’re solving

Problems are universal regardless of identity. Your makeup-obsessed avatar and the Drag Queen are both looking for a long-lasting foundation. 

On paper, they belong to separate boxes, yet their problem is the same.

Your messaging will land if you focus on the problem they have and how they feel about it while keeping the identity part flexible and open. 

Ignore the Avatar

Let’s get meta for a second and recognize that the avatar is just one version of a human being. Humans are complex individuals that defy being put into static compartments.

Because of how the internet and algorithm works, we’re forced to segment people so that we can “target” them with our messaging. Otherwise, how would we ever find them in the massive sea of digital faces?

From a marketing standpoint, it makes it harder to reach your target if you’re hyper focused on avatars.

The issue that I see with most businesses is not that they don’t have a picture perfect understanding of their avatar, it’s that they don’t know how to speak about the problem effectively.

Who cares about the avatar? You are selling a product or service to a human. What you need to do is appeal to their emotions.

What Matters is Communication

I might be biased, but most marketing issues can be solved with better copy.

Copywriting is the backbone of all marketing communication, whether you know anything about copy.

What makes copywriting so important? Because despite the colors, images, or marketing channel, if you can’t get at the heart of what your prospect cares about, then you’ll get ignored.

If you can speak to the pain or desire, talk about the problem with empathy and understanding, then you have it mostly made.

With limited time to run a business, the focus should be on:

  1. How best to communicate to your audience,
  2. Finding out which platforms might be the most appropriate
  3. What targeting terms might make the most sense — I’ve seen way more successful ad campaigns based on “interest” targeting than on demographic or even psychographic targeting

People are in a constant state of evolution and expansion, learning and discovering new things about themselves. With an open mind and appealing copy, you can gain far more traction than limiting them to the prescribed boxes society and ad platforms have created and expecting your marketing to work based on that alone.

And when in doubt, don’t be afraid to put some glitter on it — make it big, make it memorable.

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