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The Difference Between Segments and Personas

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Digital Marketing - Study Notes:

Difference between segments and personas

Most organizations feel they know who their customers are. After all, they have been servicing them for a long time already!

Pre ‘Age of the Customer’, an organization had to understand the size of an audience, their location, and their prospective value. This enabled the organization to create products knowing already there was an audience prepared to buy them.

Segments still have a role today. They enable media planning and financial modeling. Personas are the same but different. Importantly, they capture, through primary research, mental models – that is how we think.

By documenting what is mandatory, what is a gain, and what is a pain, CX can actively design for those things.

Your organization should use both segments and personas.

Empathy maps

Empathy maps are tools which document what the organization assumes about each audience.

They capture the hypothesis of what the customer is:

  • Seeing: environment, with friends and what the market offers
  • Saying: attitude in public, behavior towards others, measures of success
  • Thinking and feeling: what really counts, major preoccupations, worries/aspirations
  • Hearing: what friends say, what boss says, what influencers say

The challenge with empathy maps is that they’re loaded with assumptions. Over time, these assumptions become ‘supposed truths’ inside organizations and it’s hard for people to accept they might not be true.

By using primary research, documented as personas, better decision-making can take place throughout the customer experience.


Segmentation is a good starting point for a recruitment screener. Typically, five candidates per segment provides a good relevance. A detailed discussion guide enables a researcher to ask each individual some questions to uncover how they think, what matters to them, and how they go about it.

After all the interviews are complete, the organization undertakes a rigorous exercise of combing insights and grouping those together. This notes any cultural differences or allowances for different country behavior.

Typically, the number of personas generated is not the same as the number of segments. For example, most organizations may have around 12 segments, but only four personas.

The reasons for this are two-fold:

  • Attitudes (needs and goals) from multiple segments are the same, so they are concatenated to a single persona.
  • Each persona is a design tool in itself. Having more than six personas becomes too challenging to use practically.

The simplest use from personas is to review the mandatory needs, and then see how your organization fully meets these needs and where they occur. Don’t be surprised if there are several areas where you fall short.

This process is known as User-Centered Design. Most organizations historically do not follow this process.

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Jonathan Lovatt-Young

Jonathan has over 20 years' experience in the areas of digital design, brand strategy and user experience. He has held senior roles within a number of high-profile agencies and consultancies including Tribal DDB, Accenture Digital and DigitasLBi, working with a range of major clients. 

By the end of this topic, you should be able to:

  • Systematically analyse CX within an organisation
  • Evaluate methods for delivering a designed CX
  • Reflect on tactics for maximising customer experience for an organisation

    The following pieces of content from the Digital Marketing Institute's Membership Library have been chosen to offer additional material that you might find interesting or insightful.

    You can find more information and content like this on the Digital Marketing Institute's Membership Library


      CX Essentials
      Jonathan Lovatt-Young
      Skills Expert

      This short course covers the principles of customer experience, or CX, and demonstrates techniques and useful tools that you can use to manage CX for an organization.

      You will learn how to:

      • Understand the basic concepts of CX
      • Understand the steps involved in assessing the current CX
      • Understand the best practice processes to design what the CX should be
      • Understand the best practice methods for delivering the planned CX
      • Understand how an iterative approach to customer experience design can improve organizations’ overall performance