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Designers will interact with user experience and marketing personas on a regular basis. But, what’s the difference?

Designers will interact with user experience and marketing personas on a regular basis. But, what’s the difference?

Creating an awesome user experience is the end goal of UX designers. But getting from good to awesome takes a lot of trial and error.

One way to get closer to that all important awesome user experience is through user personas.

UX personas are created from various research methods and are used to drive great user experiences whereas marketing personas are based on market research about your existing customers.

In short, a persona is just a snapshot of the person you’re targeting with your design or marketing efforts.

In this post, we’ll cover what UX personas are and how they compare to marketing personas, as well as discovering the key differences which separate them.

Before we get into it, we know how important it is to bridge the gap between product and users. 

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What is a persona?

First up, what’s a persona? The word persona comes from the Latin for mask – it’s a character, of sorts.

Personas, when used in marketing and design, are fictional yet realistic descriptions of the people who use your products or services.

It’s likely you’ll come across these characters with names such as Housewife Magda or Startup John, which help further develop the persona.

They provide the foundation for marketing and design decisions as they concentrate many types of data together into a focused, believable description of your audience.

When it comes to making a decision, having your personas in mind can make those decisions easier. But, how?

Even though you may be designing for or marketing to a wide audience, that wide audience is likely to share the same needs and those needs are reduced into a single persona. Focusing on the needs of a small group allows you to build better products for all of your customers.

Mo Goltz at Smashing Mag put it succinctly:

“Each persona represents a significant portion of people in the real world and enables the designer to focus on a manageable and memorable cast of characters, instead of focusing on thousands of individuals.”

What is UX persona?

We know that personas are fictional. Personas should also be specific and detailed so that as a designer or marketer you can empathize with your audience which will lead to better marketing and design solutions.


Information in a UX persona traditionally covers:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Profession
  • Specific competencies
  • Goals
  • Values
  • Technical skill (i.e whether your user is a technophobe or a technophile)

When it comes to a persona, the more detailed the better.

Personas are based on real users. They have to be based in reality to be effective as they help you to understand who will be using your products and services. If they were just guesses, then you’d end up designing the wrong thing for the wrong person.

UX personas are more powerful when paired with an empathy map. UX designers can get into the shoes of who they’re designing for as they gain a greater understanding of the user’s journey, including what they think, see, feel, hear and say.

This is important because in understanding your audience’s values, you can create content that strikes a chord with them which can evoke empathy.

Look at any mainstream commercial that’s popular right now, it’s likely that the commercial will be trying to evoke empathy from you.

Take this Airbnb advert, it’s using ideals of universalism and tolerance in their commercial to appeal to a specific globalized, mobile and young audience of people.

The copy in the commercial talks about what Airbnb believes and is appealing to all people, all over the world who share the same values.

The hope is that what Airbnb believes will be aligned with what its customers believe too. And those believes should be aligned, if they researched their personas properly.

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What is a marketing persona?

There are similarities between a UX persona and a marketing persona. UX personas are used for designers to empathize with real users. This helps them to understand their users goals and goals.

A marketing persona is simply a fictional representation of your buyers. No rocket science here!

The difference between UX and marketing personas is in their intent. Marketing personas represent people who buy products and services. You can buy a product but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to use that product.

Marketing personas focus on:

  • Demographics
  • Goals and challenges
  • Fears
  • Values
  • Elevator pitch
  • Purchasing habits

Using more than one type of persona

Take LeapFrog, the educational games and devices for children. LeapFrog might have two sets of personas: UX and buyer. The marketing personas will be focused on the parents buying the devices, whereas the UX persona will be focused on the user which in this example is a child but could also include the parents.

This is a clear way to see the distinction between each of the personas.

If you have a company blog, you might have two distinct personas in your sales funnel: one which prefers list articles and another which prefers long form informational content. From knowing this, you could develop your content calendar to accommodate both of your personas.

When we understand our audience we are able to cater to them and this will (hopefully) nudge them further down the sales funnel.


Why use personas?

It makes business sense to use personas. You wouldn’t go on a mountain hike without a map and a compass. Personas are your map and compass.

Instead of guesswork about what to market or what to design, personas act as a way of helping you make informed choices. Let’s look at a few reasons why to use personas.

According to Rob Petersen, marketing personas account for 90% of a company’s sales.  And HubSpot says using personas makes websites 2-5 times more effective and easier to use by targeted users.

That means personas can earn you money and create more effective work, such is the power of targeting.

Another case study by Act-On, found that using marketing personas added the following value:

  • 900% increase in length of visit
  • 171% increase in marketing-generated revenue
  • 111% increase in email open rate
  • 100% increase in number of pages visit

Who knew that understanding your typical customer could be so beneficial?

When you design a product or market something, you want to get the biggest reach possible for the most benefit.

That’s why it isn’t uncommon to hear people say that their target audience is everyone. When you believe everyone is your target audience, no one is. After all, do teenagers and grandparents have the same buying principles or user needs? Unlikely. That kind of thinking can really lose you money. 13% in overall cost per lead, in fact.

In HubSpot’s State of Inbound, they found that most company’s marketing challenges are generating leads and proving the ROI of marketing activities. The same report goes on to say that 41% of marketers confirm that inbound marketing produces measurable ROI and that 82% of marketers who blog see positive ROI for their inbound marketing.

One way to see numbers like that is to define your target market and create personas.

Key differences between UX personas and marketing personas

As mentioned, the most significant difference between a buyer persona and a UX persona is that a marketing persona isn’t necessarily a user of what they buy. Although, they can be (as in the case of LeapFrog).

In brief, a UX persona is used to help you map the needs of your visitors to what you’re building whereas marketing personas help you plan offers and content that map to your audience’s preferences.

Marketing personas help you know where to invest for your marketing efforts. They’re a tool used for businesses which can help them communicate with their customers better.

UX personas are based on field research using real people and real stories. They involve the user throughout the entire design-development process. Samantha Pede, designer at dribbble, says that UX personas are more specific than a classical marketing persona and are used to prevent any risk in the design process as a result of understanding their user profoundly.


The Ancient Greek aphorism “know thyself” can be adapted to “know thy audience” when it comes to personas. Knowing your audience – including their hopes, dreams fears – is what will empower you to market to them properly as well as design solutions that fit their needs.

Steven is the web editor at Justinmind

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