Marketing Personas Vs. User Experience Personas

Defining Digital Product Personas

Understanding who your users are when creating a digital product is of paramount importance for a user experience designer to design a successful product. But who are these users, and how does a digital product team begin to define them? This is done through the use of Personas. Persona is defined as “a role or character adopted by an author or actor to perform a role,” however within the field of digital product design, they have a slightly different focus.

A Digital Product Persona, instead of representing a role for an actor a persona represents a large group of similar users with a single individual. Personas (when used this way) are tools to allow the team to better empathize with the user groups, as the human condition allows us to better empathize with individuals, rather than large faceless groups. Digital Product Personas come in several varieties, depending on the goals of the project. Two of these persona types, Marketing Personas and User Experience Personas have sometimes been used interchangeably, leading to incorrect assumptions and flawed products.

What is a Marketing Persona?

Typically when people think of using personas within their digital product production they are using Marketing Personas. This persona type is focused primarily on the demographic information, business landscape understanding, and media consumption. Marketing personas are incredibly valuable when it comes to placing advertising, generating interest and tailoring content as the demographic information allows the team to understand where to access this user’s attention.

Unfortunately, many digital product teams stop here when creating their personas, and while this information can be crucially valuable when developing content plans and social media marketing, it lacks important nuances when it comes to understanding what the user needs to accomplish when using the future digital product. This leads teams to make incorrect assumptions and if the product isn’t properly validated through user testing later, these assumptions can make for flawed digital experiences.

How is a User Experience Persona different?

User experience personas build off the information gathered with the Marketing Persona and use that as a springboard to better understand their users. These personas are primarily focused on problems that the person is experiencing, what they do currently to alleviate the issue, and why these are even problems in the first place. For example, a marketing persona would say that construction workers need digital records on a job site because they are more efficient, whereas a UX persona would dig a bit deeper to find construction workers want to be more efficient on a job site so that they can spend more time working, less time with unorganized paper records and more time with their family. Now with that understanding, the business can position itself as the digital product that lets construction workers get home to their families quicker.

A simple way to understand the difference between a Marketing Persona and a User Experience Persona is this: a Marketing Persona is who that user group (as a person) is, whereas a UX Persona is what problems that user group faces and what the users (as people) do to confront those problems. By better understanding what those problems are by using a UX Persona, a digital product team can build a product that provides a more elegant solution and then the marketing team can use Marketing Personas to ensure that the potential users are introduced to the product.