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Persona Thinking Personas

Connected Personas: Primary, Secondary, Served, and Anti-Personas

Often, people think of personas as a one-layered concept. Meaning, there is only one set of personas they consider. This set is typically the current customers (e.g., most loyal or most valuable) or potential customers (e.g., those currently served by the competitors).

However, an interesting alternative is to consider personas in a connected way. Meaning, there are many persona sets that are inter-related.

  • Primary personas = these are the main targets of decision-making, i.e., the customers or users of a product. For example, the highest-paying customers.
  • Secondary personas = these are personas that have additional needs for which you can adjust the product or service, without harming the experience of the primary personas. For example, visually impaired users (e.g., you can increase the font size without it affecting negatively the user experience of primary users — many accessibility best practices fall into this category).
  • Served personas = these are personas that are not customers or users of your company, but are affected by the use of the product. For example, say your personas describe receptionists at a hotel. Served personas would be the customers of the receptionists. Essentially, the clients of your client.
  • Anti-personas = these are users or customers that are not the users of the product or services of your company, and are not directly affected by the product either. For example, a hotel cleaner would most likely not be affected by the work of the receptionist directly. Sometimes, thinking of who the persona is not helps flesh out the parts that make the persona unique.

In conclusion, prioritization is needed to focus on one persona set at a time. Simultaneously, it is important to aknowledge that other persona sets also exist. To visually represent different persona sets and their connections (especially between primary, secondary, and served personas), one can create a persona map, which a diagram that shows the connections of the different persona sets.

By Joni Salminen

Dr. Joni Salminen works as a Scientist at Qatar Computing Research Institute, Hamad Bin Khalifa University, and as a Postdoctoral Researcher at Turku School of Economics, University of Turku. His research interests are heavily focused on personas, including topics such as automatic persona generation from social media data (YouTube, Facebook, Google Analytics), persona perceptions, biases in data-driven personas, optimal number of personas, etc.