A History of Personas in Marketing

Personas in marketing are critical in planning business goals. They establish a target demographic, customer attitudes and behaviors. Developing personas in marketing represent a user group’s compiled characteristics.

These traits encompass ethnicity, age, profession, buyer preferences, locale, behavior patterns, education, etc.

The company will give these personas anything from a name to a face.

Benefits of Using Personas in Marketing

Personas in marketing are extremely helpful in projects and developing products. With personas, a project team can focus on user needs and behavior patterns in targeted segments.

They offer a comprehensive understanding of customers, potentially improve product quality and create shorter design cycles.

Many large corporations develop and use personas in their marketing, enabling project prioritization, calculating how individual personas — or group of users — would respond to factors at any point of a project.

Personas in marketing may be given full identities: picture, education, family, job history and more.

That simplifies the project process for team members, as opposed to referring to the demographics that cover “male customers aged 45 to 55 that live in the southern most region of Maryland that have at least two children and make between $90,000 and $120,000 a year,” the team member can simply point out how “Jim Morgan” would be affected.

The personas, in essence, put a face on what would normally be abstract data. It’s a psychological inference, giving team members someone to relate to.

Personas in marketing are particularly helpful in determining what’s going on with your business and the web. Though personas in marketing and advertising are utilized in all fields, never has it been more useful than in the age of the Internet.

Customer contact is fast becoming a thing of the past because so many people use the Internet for commercial transactions, to learn about the newest trends and latest models and to purchase a pair of sneakers or find a doctor.

Personas in marketing allow a company to compile and focus on aspects like distant, unattainable users. It allows the engineering of better strategies geared toward the needs and behavior of a target segment.

History of Personas

Using customer segments under the umbrella of personas in marketing was a concept of Angus Jenkinson, a professor of integrated marketing. His idea was adopted by OgilvyOne Worldwide, a premier interactive marketing organization, and CustomerPrints, essentially an off-shoot OgilvyOne developed to implement the persona strategy.

With the intent of developing archetype descriptions to represent customer segments, they imagined the advantages of using fictional characters in an interface of behaviors and attitudes in relation to a single brand.

With these profiles, a company could better understand common values, attitudes and conceive better assumptions about group segments.

Coincidentally, noted software developer Alan Cooper was engineering a “personas in marketing” concept similar to Jenkinson’s. Cooper actually called his personas.

According to his 1999 book, The Inmates are Running the Asylum, he’d developed personas for a very specific use: to interface with software. Jenkinson’s model was a generalized application.

Cooper uses his book to delineate how the characteristics, uses and practices of personas in marketing could not only be beneficial, but how they were best employed using specified and unique software.

Types of Personas

While the concept of personas in marketing is easily grasped, the execution is not easy to perfect. Developing a persona is as time consuming as any marketing campaign the persona may be used for.

  • Buyer Personas

This profile would revolve around groups of users that purchase a product or service. 24 year old Casey is a college student at NYU. She’s grown up in an electronic age where walking around with a phone is the norm. She has a tablet, an iPod and a computer at home. Her television has over 200 channels. She has no idea how music was packaged before the digital age.

Is Casey the best person to target for a car with all the latest tech features? Does the persona include any interest in vehicles?

The persona helps the team locate specific issues for specific types of customers.

  • User Personas

These personas in marketing entail compiled details about consumers that use a service. Charlie is 52 years old. He owns a home in Mt. Vernon and lives with his wife, 4 kids and mother-in-law. He’s a loan officer at a national bank and has a time share in the Hamptons. He plays golf and putters with power tools.

Is Charlie a good candidate for group health insurance? What are the most likely incentives to draw him to the idea?

The persona lets marketing teams establish what elements of a project are most likely to appeal to a certain segment of their target community.

  • Ad Hoc Personas

These are a simpler form of research based personas in marketing. An organization uses information it already has to create their characters. It’s inexpensive and engineers a customer focus base that can be used in projects.

Personas, Task Based Design and User Journeys

UX/UI and Information Architects use personas in marketing to design a better user experience. The user experience being how the given project and strategy will affect the user’s behavior or attitude given a set experience.

With the key insights into customers offered by personas in marketing, there’s a greater chance of a solidified formulation toward suitable goals, features, content and functionality that can be defined in detail in any design documentation.


Personas in marketing are a powerful tool. If anything, they create empathy for customers in teams and projects that normally wouldn’t be able to find a human connection.

They help pinpoint speed bumps and deterrents that could negatively affect progress in high quality services and products.

Personas in marketing are essentially a critical component to ensuring the customer will always be considered first before an enterprise makes a decision.

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Analytics & AdWords certified growth engineer with over a decade experience in making businesses successful. I own and operate AXZM and often speak at top national industry conferences on the topics of strategy, design and marketing technology. Work with me or learn more about me here. Follow me @nawlready

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You must be pretty smart because you're here. We like your style. You can have all of our latest tools, tactics and growth strategies FREE, in your inbox, every month or so. 

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