What Is a Persona? Definition & 30+ Examples

Ever wondered how Sherlock Holmes’s analytical mind, Apple’s innovative spirit, or an ad’s persuasive appeal make you feel a certain way? Welcome to the fascinating world of ‘persona’.

Encompassing literature, arts, psychology, marketing and beyond, personas serve as mirrors reflecting or influencing human thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

They are carefully crafted characters or identities that interact with our subconscious, shaping our perceptions and relationships with brands, stories, and even ourselves.

Embark on this riveting exploration to unlock the secrets behind personas and their pivotal role in shaping our world.

Definition of Persona

A persona, in the general sense, is a social role or character played by an actor. The term is derived from Latin, where it originally referred to a theatrical mask. It has taken on various meanings and uses in different contexts:

Psychological Concept

In the context of Carl Jung’s analytical psychology, the term ‘persona’ refers to the social face an individual presents to the world, akin to a mask designed to make a specific impression on others while concealing the true nature of the individual.

This persona, or outward-facing character, develops due to societal expectations and norms, representing a role we play or feel compelled to play for acceptance or success in society.

While not inherently false or detrimental, problems arise when an individual over-identifies with their persona, potentially neglecting other aspects of their self, such as personal desires, needs, and the less conscious elements of their personality.

Essentially, the persona is the consciously presented version of ourselves to the world.

Marketing and UX Design

In the fields of marketing and user experience (UX) design, a persona is a fictional character created to represent a particular user type that might use a site, brand, or product in a similar way.

These personas are typically created based on user research and embody the needs, goals, and observable behavior patterns among potential users or customers. They may include details such as demographic data, professional background, skills, motivations, and behavioral tendencies.

Digital World

In the context of the digital world, a persona can refer to the online social identity of a user. It’s the character or personality that a person embodies and presents in digital environments. This could be on social media, online gaming, forums, or any other online platforms where individuals interact.

An online persona might be a direct reflection of a person’s offline self, but it could also be quite different. Some individuals create entirely new identities online, which may include altered or fabricated names, ages, backgrounds, and other characteristics.

Literature and Drama

In literature and drama, a persona often refers to the character or role assumed by an author or an actor. It represents the voice or figure through which the author speaks, thinks, or acts in a literary work.

This can be especially prominent in poetry and first-person narrative where the persona might be a character created by the author to tell the story, distinct from the author themselves.

In drama, a persona is the role that an actor assumes. This extends beyond just the character’s script and includes the character’s behaviors, attitudes, and physical characteristics. An actor’s persona is the means by which they portray their character’s personality, motivation, and actions.

It’s worth noting that while a persona in literature or drama might share characteristics with the author or actor, it is ultimately a constructed identity, not a direct representation of the creator’s personal identity.

Latin Roots and Etymology

The term persona has its origins in the Latin language, where it is associated with the word personae, meaning a mask or a character in a play. In ancient theatrical performances, personae referred to the masks that actors wore on stage.

These masks represented specific characters, known as dramatis personae, within the performance. As the masks suggested, a persona was an outward representation or face that a person would present to the world, often in the context of a particular social role.

Persona in Literature and Art

The concept of persona has been an integral part of literature and art for centuries. Persona, derived from the Latin word for “mask,” refers to the characters, images, or voices created by authors, actors, and artists to convey their ideas and stories.

Famous Literary Personas

There are countless memorable literary personas that have been created by authors over the centuries. These personas range from first-person narrators to fictional characters embodying the voice of the author. Here are a few examples of notable literary personas:

Literary WorkPersonaDescription
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. SalingerHolden CaulfieldHolden is a teenager navigating the adult world and its phoniness, serving as the troubled, cynical voice of youth.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldNick CarrawayAs the novel’s narrator, Nick is a character used by Fitzgerald to provide an outside view of the titular Gatsby and his extravagant lifestyle.
Moby DickIshmaelIshmael serves as the narrator of the story and acts as our guide into the world of whaling and the obsession of Captain Ahab.
Lolita by Vladimir NabokovHumbert HumbertDespite his reprehensible actions, Humbert Humbert’s erudite and confessional narration forces readers to see the world from his skewed perspective.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeeScout FinchScout narrates her childhood memories, providing an innocent and evolving perspective on the racial tensions in the American South during the 1930s.
Heart of Darkness by Joseph ConradMarlowMarlow’s narration of his journey into the Congolese jungle is a critical commentary on the evils of colonialism.
The Book Thief by Markus ZusakDeathThis novel employs an unusual persona, Death itself, to narrate a story set in Nazi Germany.
Great Expectations by Charles DickensPipPip, as both the narrator and protagonist, shares his journey from a poor boy to a gentleman, reflecting on the Victorian class system and the concept of ambition.
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel HawthorneHester PrynneHester Prynne is used as a persona to explore themes of sin, legalism, and guilt. She is a woman condemned by her Puritanical society for committing adultery.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne CollinsKatniss EverdeenKatniss serves as a persona through which Collins explores the harsh realities of war, authoritarianism, and social inequality.

Role of Persona in Poetry

In poetry, a persona is essentially a speaker or voice that a poet creates to present the themes or perspectives in the poem. This voice can be a character, an abstract idea, or even a version of the poet themself, but it’s important to note that the persona isn’t necessarily a direct reflection of the poet’s own thoughts or beliefs.

Personas can add depth to a poem by providing a unique perspective, and can often add emotional layers that engage readers. They allow a poet to write about topics or experiences outside of their own, expanding the range and depth of their work.

Here are some examples of the use of persona in poetry:

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. EliotJ. Alfred PrufrockThe persona in this poem is J. Alfred Prufrock, a middle-aged man experiencing a profound existential crisis. Through this character, Eliot explores themes of indecision, isolation, and the passage of time.
My Last Duchess by Robert BrowningDuke of FerraraIn this dramatic monologue, the Duke of Ferrara is the persona, and through his voice, Browning examines themes of power, control, and jealousy.
Ulysses by Alfred Lord TennysonUlyssesThe aged Ulysses speaks of his discontent with his current sedentary life and his yearning for the adventurous life he once led.
Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers by Adrienne RichAunt JenniferThe persona in this poem is Aunt Jennifer, an oppressed woman who expresses her desires for freedom and power through her embroidered tigers.
Goblin Market by Christina RossettiLaura and LizzieThe personas in this poem are the sisters Laura and Lizzie, who encounter the enticing and dangerous goblins.

Narrator and Author Relationships

In poetry, a persona often functions as a distinct character or voice separate from the poet, through which the narrative of the poem unfolds. This serves several critical roles:

Narrative Distance

By creating a persona, a poet can establish a degree of separation between their personal experiences, views, or feelings, and those expressed in the poem. It provides them the freedom to explore diverse perspectives, situations, or sentiments that may not align with their own.

Authenticity and Versatility

The use of personas allows poets to delve into different times, cultures, experiences, or viewpoints that they might not personally know or understand. This diversity can enrich the work, making it more engaging and authentic.

Reader Engagement

Personas can provide a tangible, identifiable voice or character for readers to connect with. This connection can intensify emotional impact and deepen reader engagement.

Persona in Theater and Film

In theater and film, a persona often refers to the role or character that an actor portrays. Like in poetry, the persona in theater and film is distinct from the actor’s personal identity, although the actor uses their skills to bring this character to life.

The persona can be seen as the mask that the actor wears during the performance, embodying a character’s particular traits, motivations, and behaviors. The development of a convincing persona is crucial to the success of the performance.

In theater and film, the audience typically expects to see characters who are believable and consistent, and it’s through the persona that this is achieved.

Here are some examples:

  1. Heath Ledger’s Joker in “The Dark Knight” (2008): Ledger transformed into a chaotic, nihilistic persona that is distinctly different from his personal identity. His character has become one of the most iconic portrayals in cinema due to its convincing persona.
  2. Daniel Day-Lewis’s Daniel Plainview in “There Will Be Blood” (2007): Day-Lewis is known for his extreme method acting, fully immersing himself in his characters. In this film, his persona as the ruthless oilman Daniel Plainview is a compelling portrayal of ambition and moral corruption.
  3. Meryl Streep’s Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady” (2011): Streep embodies the persona of the UK’s first female Prime Minister, capturing Thatcher’s determination, leadership style, and distinctive way of speaking. This is a clear example of an actor adopting a persona based on a real historical figure.
  4. In Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”: The persona of Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark, is a complex character who grapples with revenge, mortality, and existential dread. Different actors may interpret and portray Hamlet’s persona in different ways, but the essence of the character remains the same.

Persona Types and Examples

Celebrity Personas

Celebrity personas are the public images or characters that famous individuals present to their audience. These personas can be carefully curated and managed, sometimes becoming as famous as the celebrities themselves. They can be authentic extensions of the celebrities’ real personalities or largely fabricated for public consumption.

Celebrities’ public personas may not necessarily align with their private lives. For instance, singers who seem to always perform live in a wild and outrageous manner may be completely different in their personal lives, focusing on family and maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

It is crucial for these types of public figures to manage their personas with care to maintain their relevance in the industry.

Here are a few examples:

David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust

Perhaps one of the most iconic celebrity personas, Ziggy Stardust was a fictional androgynous bisexual rock star from outer space, which Bowie portrayed during the early 1970s. This persona became a cultural icon and played a significant role in establishing Bowie as a leading figure in the glam rock movement.

Beyoncé’s Sasha Fierce

Beyoncé introduced her alter ego, Sasha Fierce, during her 2008 album “I Am… Sasha Fierce.” She described Sasha Fierce as her more assertive, confident, and sensual side, which she channels during performances.

Lady Gaga

Stefani Germanotta, known by her stage name Lady Gaga, has crafted a persona known for pushing boundaries, both musically and visually. Her daring fashion choices, provocative music videos, and theatrical performances have made her one of the most distinctive artists in pop music.

The Rock (Dwayne Johnson)

Dwayne Johnson’s persona as “The Rock” was initially developed during his career as a professional wrestler with the WWE. Known for his catchphrases, eyebrow-raising, and charismatic smack talk, this persona was a fan favorite and played a significant role in Johnson’s transition to a successful acting career.

Marilyn Monroe

Born Norma Jeane Mortenson, Marilyn Monroe created a persona that has become synonymous with Hollywood glamour and sex appeal. Her breathy voice, platinum blonde hair, and hourglass figure made her one of the most iconic and enduring sex symbols in film history.


Known as the “Queen of Pop,” Madonna is famous for her ever-changing image and persona. Over the years, she has adopted various personas, including the Material Girl, the Like a Virgin bride, and Evita, to name a few. These reinventions have been crucial in maintaining her relevance and influence in the music industry.

Eminem’s Slim Shady

Slim Shady is Eminem’s alter ego, a character marked by outrageous behavior, violent tendencies, and dark humor. The Slim Shady persona helped Eminem to stand out in the rap industry and enabled him to express controversial thoughts and feelings in his music.

Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow

Johnny Depp created a memorable persona for the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise as Captain Jack Sparrow, a witty and cunning, yet eccentric and flamboyant pirate. Depp’s performance brought a unique charm to the character, making him one of the most iconic figures in recent film history.

Sacha Baron Cohen’s Characters

Cohen is known for his comedic personas like Borat, Ali G, and Brüno. He fully immerses himself in these personas in his films and interviews, often leading to controversial and satirical moments that blur the line between fiction and reality.

Taylor Swift

Swift’s persona has evolved over the years, starting as the girl-next-door country singer, then transitioning into a pop superstar, and later taking on a darker, edgier image during her “Reputation” era. These transformations have allowed her to explore different musical styles and themes while keeping her audience engaged.

Political Personas

Political personas are personas adopted by politicians and public officials to shape their reputation and gain support from their constituents. These personas are derived from factors such as experience, education, and the position they hold.

A politician, for example, might present a persona of being an approachable and relatable individual from a humble background, enabling them to connect with a broader range of voters.

An important aspect of political personas lies in stories that showcase the politician’s character and values.

Crafting such personas might involve projecting an image of being a family person, an advocate for education, or a fighter for social justice. Discrepancies between a politician’s public persona and their actual identity can lead to controversy and potential loss of support.

This persona can be shaped by a politician’s behavior, speeches, style, values, and actions. It often plays a critical role in attracting voters, influencing public perception, and maintaining political power.

Personal and Social Personas

Individuals often adopt personal and social personas to navigate different situations and relationships within society. These personas are not limited to public figures or celebrities but rather are relevant for all people. Personal and social personas can be affected by factors like age, education, and social background.

Personal and social personas are different facets of an individual’s identity. They represent the various roles we embody in private and public life.

Personal Persona

This can be seen as your ‘authentic self.’ It’s the way you perceive yourself, encompassing your personal values, beliefs, likes, and dislikes. It’s the persona that’s usually visible when you’re alone or around people you trust deeply — those who know the ‘real’ you.

In essence, your personal persona is how you view yourself in your own personal narrative, separate from societal expectations.

Social Persona

This is the ‘public self,’ the persona you project to the world. It’s a tailored version of yourself that you display in various social contexts. Your social persona can shift based on the setting you’re in — it could be professional at work, relaxed among friends, or formal at a public event.

This persona is influenced heavily by social norms, expectations, and the roles you play in different groups.

Let’s use some examples to illustrate the concepts of personal and social personas:

  • Personal Persona

Imagine an individual named Alex. Alex is a quiet person by nature. He values creativity, enjoys solitude, loves painting, reading, and listening to classical music. At home, he often spends time in his personal library, engrossed in a book, or in his art studio, working on a new painting. This is his personal persona—his authentic self that he fully understands and embraces.

  • Social Persona

Now, Alex works as a marketing manager in a large corporation. At work, he is outgoing, speaks confidently during meetings, leads team projects, and is known for his sharp professional acumen.

This persona is quite different from his personal persona, but it’s a role he plays to fit into his work environment, and meet the expectations of his job. This is an example of his social persona.

Now, let’s take Alex to a different social setting: He volunteers at a local animal shelter every weekend. Here, he is gentle, patient, and caring towards the animals. This is another social persona that Alex has, distinct from his work persona, but still a representation of who he is in a specific social context.

User and Buyer Personas

User personas and buyer personas are used primarily in the fields of marketing, product development, and user experience (UX) design. They represent fictional, generalized characters that encompass the needs, goals, and observed behavior patterns among a business’s potential customers.

User Persona

This is a representation of the goals and behavior of a hypothesized group of users. In other words, it’s a fictional character created to represent a user type that might use a site, brand, or product in a similar way.

User personas are used in designing products that meet the needs of the majority of users. They often include demographic information, interests, behaviors, and user goals.

The purpose of a user persona is to help the design team understand the user’s needs and wants, so they can develop a product that is user-friendly and meets those needs.

Persona NameStudent Sarah
Demographics22-year-old university student, studying psychology, lives on campus.
InterestsEnjoys reading, hiking, yoga, and hanging out with friends.
GoalsWants to find reliable resources for her studies, balance her busy schedule, stay healthy, and maintain a social life.
ChallengesStruggles with managing time, keeping up with coursework, staying active and eating healthy due to a tight budget.
Tech usageFrequently uses her laptop for studies, owns a smartphone and is active on social media.
Preferred ProductsSimple-to-use apps and tools that can help manage time and tasks, affordable meal planning or workout apps, online resources for study materials.

By creating this user persona, a company can design a product (for example, a time management app or an affordable meal planner app) that meets Sarah’s needs, helping her overcome her challenges and achieve her goals.

Buyer Persona

A buyer persona, also known as a customer persona, is a detailed profile of an ideal customer that represents a segment of a business’s target market. This persona will typically include demographic data, behavioral insights, and information about consumer motivations, preferences, and decision-making processes.

The purpose of creating a buyer persona is to help businesses understand and relate to their customers in a way that allows them to satisfy their needs and expectations more effectively. This can be particularly useful in tailoring marketing strategies and sales pitches to attract and retain the most valuable customers.

Persona NameExecutive Eric
Demographics45 years old, married, two children, lives in a suburban area.
ProfessionCEO of a mid-sized tech company.
InterestsGolfing, reading business books, spending time with family, traveling.
GoalsWants to grow his company, stay ahead of competitors, maintain work-life balance.
ChallengesHigh-stress levels, finding time for personal interests, staying updated on industry trends.
Shopping habitsPrefers high-quality, reliable products. Values good customer service and after-sales support. Not highly price-sensitive.
Media habitsRegularly uses LinkedIn, reads the Wall Street Journal, prefers email for business communication.

This buyer persona helps a B2B company (such as a software solutions provider) understand Executive Eric’s needs and preferences. They can then tailor their marketing strategy, product features, and sales approach to cater to executives like Eric, maximizing their chance of a successful sale.

While both user and buyer personas are important in developing and selling products or services, the main difference between the two lies in their focus. User personas are more focused on how people use a product or service, whereas buyer personas are more concerned with how decisions to purchase are made.

Creating an Effective Persona

Creating an effective persona, whether for marketing, user experience design, gaming, writing, or other creative processes, can be a great tool to understand and empathize with the audience or character you are trying to target or create. Here are some general steps and tips on how to create an effective persona.

Define the Purpose

Understanding why you are creating the persona will help guide the type and depth of information you gather. For instance, a persona for marketing purposes might focus more on buying habits and demographics, while a persona for user experience might focus more on user needs, goals, and frustrations.


Collect data to inform your persona. This could include user interviews, surveys, market research, and more. The type of data you collect will depend on the purpose of your persona. You want to collect information that will help you understand your target’s needs, wants, habits, and preferences.

Identify Patterns

Creating effective personas, whether for literature, marketing, UX design, or psychology, hinges on identifying patterns.

This involves gathering and analyzing data about characters or user groups, uncovering common behaviors, motivations, and characteristics. These shared traits form the basis of each persona, encapsulating the essence of the group they represent.

Remember, patterns provide clarity and focus, enabling you to create personas that resonate and guide decision-making in meaningful, targeted ways. The art of creating a powerful persona is in capturing the commonalities that define a group while respecting its individuality and diversity.

Draft the Persona

Start creating your persona by giving them a name and a picture. This helps make the persona feel more real and relatable. Then, outline the key characteristics that you’ve identified.

This might include demographic information, needs and goals, behaviors and habits, pain points and frustrations, and even personal details or quirks that help bring the persona to life.

Refine the Persona

Review your persona and refine as needed. Make sure it’s realistic and based on your research. Also, ensure it’s specific enough to be useful but not so detailed that it only applies to one individual.

Use the Persona

Incorporate your persona into your decision-making processes. When faced with a decision, ask “What would [persona name] do?” or “How would this impact [persona name]?” This can help you stay focused on the user’s needs and goals.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Creating personas is an essential step in many fields, but there are common mistakes that can render these personas ineffective. Here are some of the common pitfalls to avoid for all types of persona creation:

Basing Personas on Assumptions

Creating personas based on assumptions rather than data is a widespread error across fields such as literature, marketing, and UX design. While intuition can play a part, personas should primarily be grounded in careful research and analysis.

Relying on assumptions can lead to inaccurate personas that misrepresent your audience or character, resulting in strategies, narratives, or designs that miss the mark.

Always strive to base your personas on solid data to ensure they accurately reflect the realities they are meant to represent.

Creating Too Many Personas

One frequent error in persona creation is generating too many personas. Regardless of the field — literature, marketing, or UX design — an overabundance of personas can dilute focus and complicate strategies.

It’s essential to strike a balance: create enough personas to accurately represent your audience’s diversity but not so many that they become unwieldy or counterproductive.

Remember, effective personas are about quality and relevance, not quantity.

Making Them Too Vague or Too Specific

Another common mistake in creating personas is making them either too vague or too specific.

A vague persona lacks the detail necessary to guide decision-making and can apply to almost anyone, diluting its usefulness. Conversely, a persona that’s too specific may not represent a larger group, limiting its application.

The key is to strike a balance, crafting personas that are specific enough to capture essential characteristics and behaviors, yet broad enough to represent a meaningful segment, whether it’s in literature, marketing, or UX design.

Not Using the Personas

A frequent error in creating personas across various disciplines is not actually using them post-creation. Personas are not just a box to check off; they’re valuable tools designed to inform strategies, decisions, and creative processes.

Whether you’re an author shaping characters, a marketer targeting customers, or a UX designer optimizing user experience, neglecting to apply your personas renders the effort spent creating them moot.

Always integrate your personas into your workflow to truly reap their benefits.

Ignoring Negative Personas

Negative personas, representing who your product, story, or service is not designed for, help sharpen your focus, saving resources by preventing misdirected efforts. They help clarify the characteristics of your target personas, enhancing overall understanding and effectiveness.

Therefore, while crafting personas, always consider both who you’re catering to and who you’re not, to ensure a comprehensive strategy.

Focusing Only on Demographics

While age, gender, location, and occupation are important, they don’t paint a complete picture.

Personas should also capture behaviors, needs, motivations, and challenges. Whether it’s a character in a novel, a target customer in marketing, or a user in UX design, this broader perspective allows for a deeper understanding and more effective engagement.

So, always strive for a comprehensive view when crafting your personas.

Treating Personas as a One-Time Activity

Personas should be dynamic, evolving with changes in your audience’s behavior, needs, or context, whether it’s a character in literature, a target customer, or a user in UX design. Sticking with outdated personas can lead to misaligned strategies and missed opportunities.

Regularly revisiting and refining your personas ensures they remain relevant, effective, and reflective of the realities you aim to capture, enhancing the overall effectiveness of your endeavor.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can persona be used in non-fiction writing?

Yes, personas can be used in non-fiction writing. They can serve as effective tools for structuring the narrative, making complex information more accessible, and engaging the readers.

For instance, in a historical account, the author may create personas of real historical figures, making their actions and motivations more understandable and relatable to the readers.

What is the difference between persona and archetype?

While both persona and archetype are tools used to understand and represent characters or identities, they differ in their scope and usage.

A persona is typically a detailed, specific characterization used to represent a particular individual or group. It can change and evolve based on circumstances or context.

An archetype, on the other hand, is a universal symbol or character that represents a fundamental human experience or trait. Archetypes are often used in literature and arts to evoke deep emotional responses from audiences.

Can personas change over time?

Yes, personas can and often do change over time.

In literature and arts, a persona might evolve as the character goes through different experiences or as the narrative progresses.

In marketing and UX design, personas should be regularly reviewed and updated based on new data or market research, changes in the target audience, or shifts in the product or business strategy.

In psychology, an individual’s persona can change due to personal growth, life experiences, or changes in social context.


As we’ve traversed the captivating domain of personas across literature, arts, psychology, and marketing, it’s clear that these crafted identities wield immense influence over our perceptions and behaviors. They not only define characters in novels or brands’ essences but also provide profound insights into our psychological fabric.

Understanding and harnessing the power of personas allows us to create compelling narratives, forge robust brand identities, and even unravel the complexities of our individual selves.

Persona, thus, remains an invaluable tool that illuminates the subtle interplay of identity, storytelling, and influence in our everyday lives.

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Kyna is a writer and aspiring doctor. Besides writing, she likes discovering new music, immersing herself in interactive books, and engaging in multiplayer shooter games. She is passionate about chemistry, human biology, and pharmacology, and is always eager to learn more about these subjects.