What Avatars Can Teach Us About… Avatars

What Avatars Can Teach Us About… Avatars
Design Pickle

The Ideal Customer Avatar – or ICA.

If you are a business owner or are trying to be, you are hopefully familiar with the concept of an ICA, and it doesn’t get target tier in marketing than creating an ICA for your business. But why is it so important? And where do you start? I will help you, friend! It’s important to understand “why” and what is involved in ICA targeting!

Side note: Before you start on the ICA, however, make sure you are clear about the product or service you are promoting, as well as which niche you fit into.

Hopefully, you are not one of the seven people residing on planet Earth who has not seen the 2009 James Cameron movie “Avatar.” You’ve seen it? Excellent.

For those who haven’t a brief synopsis goes like this:

On the glowy rainforest-esque alien world of Pandora live the Na’vi – blue humanoid beings who appear primitive but are actually highly evolved. Because the planet’s environment is poisonous to human beings, human/Na’vi hybrids, called Avatars, are artificially produced and link to human minds to allow for human-controlled free movement on Pandora. Jake Sully, a paralyzed former Marine, becomes mobile again through one such Avatar and agrees to help the Resources Development Administration (RDA) which has funded the Avatar Project on Pandora, as RDA seeks to mine an invaluable rock called unobtanium on the planet. Jake’s task as an RDA operative is to gain as much knowledge about the Na’vi as possible, as RDA hopes to recruit the alien beings to work in its mines.

Riveting stuff! And packed with lessons that apply to our little chat about ICA’s. BTW it’s totally a coincidence that the name of the movie is Avatar, and we are talking about Avatar’s…totally.


It is imperative to create an ICA to get on your audience’s level and meet them where they are – to really drill down into the “who” so we can figure out the rest of the W’s. It is exponentially easier to accurately target your audience if you have given the ideal customer in that audience characteristics, preferences, and even a name and a face.

RDA knew it needed to be on the level of its audience if it was going to be able to mine unobtanium successfully, and that audience happened to be the blue humanoids of the Na’vi tribes, indigenous to Pandora. Instead of creating a persona on paper, however, they used actual artificially produced beings to integrate with their target audience and become part of their community – the ultimate “meet them on their level” attempt. This allowed RDA an inside view into the Na’vi that otherwise would have been impossible, and was also intended to open the door for RDA to recruit workers to mine their unobtanium.


It’s a PERSON who buys your product or service – it pays dividends to be clear on the characteristics of that ideal potential buyer. Every one of your marketing tactics will be impacted by your ICA – from email marketing to content creation to events to advertising, and on and on. Likewise, every strategic goal and objective you set will be directly affected by your ICA as well. It is a process, and requires concentrated effort – but the result is so worth it because your ICA will be incredibly impactful for your marketing!

If brave souls and forward-thinking scientific innovators hadn’t integrated into the Na’vi tribes with their Avatar beings, the mission on planet Pandora would have looked much different. Instead of civilly learning about the culture, habits, preferences, and customs of the tribe, if Avatars had not been used it likely would have been a disruptive armed robot with no sense for the language or culture. Being disruptive in the sense of providing a new product is fine, being disruptive like a bull in a red-patterned china shop is not. Know what I mean?


Your ICA will begin to take shape by identifying its demographic and psychographic characteristics. Of course, you know what demographics are – the word is practically household. But have you paid much attention to the psychographic elements of your audience? If not, you should. Demographics are basic factors of where or what we are (location, race, age, gender, income level, marital status, etc.) but psychographics go 100 steps further to define who we are and what preferences we have as individuals. Where does your audience prefer to get its news? What social media platforms do they use regularly? When do they go online, watch TV, or scroll through preferred outlets on their phone? Do they commute? If so, how, and what do they use to fill their commute time? What are their hobbies and interests? What about habits? Are they outdoorsy? All of these questions may be asked in a psychographic examination of your ideal audience member.

Let’s put it in Avatar perspective – the artificial Na’vi avatars RDA produced were created in large amnio tanks with the help of growth accelerants. The being itself is just a body, a vessel, completely inert until its human counterpart dials in and uses persona projection technology to control it. Even an unconscious, unfeeling, amnio-encased Avatar has demographic characteristics – we know its location, race, age, gender, and marital status. But it has zero psychographic components or preferences until its human brings it to life and projects thoughts, feelings, and preferences. See the difference? Psychographics. Get some.


Research. Figure out what questions you want to answer, or which preferences your audience has that will be relevant to your marketing campaign and get your hands dirty in some research. A multitude of information exists online from credible sources to coach you in discovering your ICA psychographics. Look at polls, surveys, compiled data from reputable sources, and check out university library pages online – these are often a hotbed of reliable source links. Write down what you intend to search ahead of time, it is very easy to go down a rabbit hole of information and get lost, which means you waste time and could lose focus of your ICA.


That’s right, find a picture of a person that embodies your ICA. And while you’re at it, name the ICA. This is not optional, but it may feel silly at first (and cause you to flashback to the imaginary friends of your youth). Put together a profile of your ICA and include the name and picture. Give personal details about the ICA in the profile you create – hobbies, family, habits, career, media preferences, favorite music and TV shows, etc. Keep the ICA profile handy and use it as your audience baseline as you plan any and every aspect of your marketing.


And that’s ok! Did you know that on Pandora the Avatar creatures created by RDA were originally intended to be the mine workers harvesting unobtanium? The cost of creating the Avatars proved too high for the numbers needed, however, and RDA only ended up producing 20 of them. Those 20 comprised the Avatar Project and were used in various ways to assist RDA on Pandora. While the original intent for the Avatars was a bust, with a few tweaks they proved to still be very valuable to RDA.

In spite of your best efforts, sometimes you will drill down into an ICA that is a dud and significantly underperforms. It shouldn’t happen often, but when it does if you can genuinely say you put your best thought into targeting that ICA, then it’s ok! Tweak the existing ICA if you’d like, or start from scratch, but definitely, don’t beat yourself up over it. The artificially produced Avatars may not have worked out as mine workers, but they certainly fulfilled their new intended purpose of improving communication with the indigenous Pandora dwellers.