Jackie Anderson [Posted by Jackie Anderson]


I often find myself in conversations with clients about the great segmentation that they’re using or the personas they’ve created. And, more often than not, these terms are being thrown around incorrectly. I’ve explained the terms many-a-time, and am happy to do so. But finally, someone much smarter than I said, “Do you have these written down somewhere? I’d like to share these internally.” So, here you go, a cheat sheet to all things target market, segment, and persona related…


Let’s start with a target group since it’s the most basic term. In the marketing world, a target group is generally defined as the profile of the most desired consumer prospects for a product or service, identified by basic characteristics such as demographics. In other words, it’s a basic classification that helps you identify key consumers. It’s something that is easily communicated and identified. For example, the target market for Product X might be “young, affluent singles in the Boston Area.” This basic classification allows the target individuals to be easily identified in both market research applications and media planning and buying.


A market segmentation is “the process of forming distinct groups of consumers for marketing purposes. In general terms, the purpose of market segmentation is to identify individuals who can be expected to behave in a desired manner…the basic idea is to form groups of consumers such that consumers belonging to the same market segment are very similar to each other while consumers in different segments differ from each other.”[i] Sometimes marketers will choose a target market based on the most appealing segment. However, a segmentation does not need to be created before a target market can be identified. And in many instances, a segmentation analysis will be undertaken to further define a target market. For example, a company that is targeting young moms for baby products might conduct a segmentation of all young moms to more closely define and understand the variances that occur in this large group. They might end up with moms who are concerned about having the best items for their babies, moms who are concerned about being perceived as having the most stylish items for their babies, and moms who are mostly motivated by cost. These segments will have been created based on a statistical analysis of data collected in research.


A persona is a term often used by web development teams to describe a particular web user. It refers to the complete profile that is developed to fully understand and imagine a distinct user type. The term also carries over to the world of segmentation. After a segmentation has been defined, personas can be created to bring the different segments to life. This is a critical step in ensuring that the segmentation is adopted and understood throughout the organization. The personas allow the segments to go from numbers on paper to actual people with faces, hobbies, and personalities.


Obviously, there is a lot more to each of these topic areas but hopefully this helps you communicate to other people what it is you’re working with on a daily basis. For more on segmentations check out these articles:


Segmentation: The Allure and the Risk

Why Good Segmentations Fail

The Consumer Product Strategist’s Guide To Segmentation Analysis


And for more on persona development check out these great articles from our CXP team:


Thirteen Obstacles to Persona Success

Common Persona Misconceptions Debunked

Design Persona Best Practices From Japan  

[i]This particular definition was taken from Hutton and Mulhern’s, “Marketing Communications: Integrated Theory, Strategy & Tactics” but there are similar definitions that can be found from a multitude of sources simply by scouring the Internet.