What are Psychographics
Customer research

What are Psychographics?

Get the pulse right from your potential and current customers.

Define their demographics & psychographics and act on their feedback and profile.


By now, we know that every successful marketing effort is based on effective segmentation. But what kind of segmentation? And what kind of data do you need in order to build the profiles of people you want to target? Apart from demographic criteria (like gender, age, education, average income, primary location and so on), there’s a gold mine out there that every marketer will want to explore- and that’s the fascinating world of psychographics. 

But what are psychographics and how can psychographic segmentation help you achieve more in your marketing efforts? How can you gather this kind of data and how can you leverage it? How can you effectively use psychographics in your marketing strategy? Keep reading and by the end of the article, you’ll have all these questions answered.

Psychographics definition

Psychographics is a kind of market research that builds on the psychological variables of the individuals or groups of individuals, offering a more comprehensive overview of consumer behavior. Values, opinions, attitudes, fears, interests, and lifestyles are some key variables that can help you win on the emotional front. 

The study of psychographic elements is an essentially qualitative one. Along with the demographic and behavioral criteria, this psychological dimension completes the puzzle, offering you an actionable buyer persona.

The most valuable customer insights rarely come from demographics. Likewise, the behaviors that you have discovered and tracked through analytics don’t mean a lot as long as you fail to identify the reasons underlying them. Demographics merely show you who the person is, while their behavior indicates what they do. To glue these pieces together, you’ll need to answer the “how?”. 

Psychographic marketing is about focusing on your consumers’ feelings and emotions and about creating better alignment between their values and your brand’s values.

Demographics vs. Psychographics

Here’s what demographics will tell you about your customers:

  • Female
  • Age: 28 years
  • In a relationship
  • Has a master’s degree
  • Location: London, UK
  • Annual income: £46.000

While it is indeed essential to start from these considerations, could you ever build a strategy aimed at increasing engagement among your users based on them? Could you tell what kind of advertising approach works best solely on demographic criteria? 

Now let’s add the psychographics:

  • Interests: nutrition, personal development, environmental issues, Instagram and Pinterest
  • Activities: reading, indie music, documentaries and psychological movies, spending time outside
  • Values: health, psychological well-being, responsibility, equality
  • Personality: outgoing, intuitive, adventurous, imaginative, creative
  • Lifestyle: gym-goer, enjoys premium but environmentally friendly products, drives an electric car, goes in city breaks or holidays at least twice a year, buys from thrift stores and flea markets every once in a while
  • Opinions, attitudes & beliefs: supports the Green Party, non-religious, believes in the principles of equality and equity, prioritizes well-being over success, health over wealth

It’s like having two views of the same person. Suddenly, the persona you are trying to create no longer feels like a distant stranger but like someone you know. You get a sense of how this person likes to be approached, you know what’s off-limits and what kind of communication works best. Psychographic data paints a much richer picture of your target customer. More often than not, it’s the psychographic factors that make all the difference between a successful strategy and a failed one.

Now let’s go to the question that’s on everyone’s lips: how do you get a hold of such information?

Obtaining Psychographics

Demographic data is easily obtained through Google Analytics and the insights/analytics section on most of the social platforms. Google Analytics can also determine the areas of interest on your website and place users in affinity categories (acquisition, behavior, conversions). But is it enough to rely on readily available data or do you need to dig deeper? 

There is only so much that our smart platforms can do. If you want a comprehensive overview of your customers, their behaviors and the reasons underlying them, you’ll need to carry out some qualitative research yourself. It may sound complex and time-consuming but don’t worry: psychographic research will quickly pay off, as you’ll see in the next section.

Interviews with existing clients

The best way to get the information you are interested in is a straightforward approach. Look among your audience and see who’s available for a talk, prepare a list of questions and start the series of one-on-one conversations. Make sure to let them know the purpose of your research: if you expect honesty from them, prepare to give honesty in return. If your business doesn’t benefit from this strong conversational component and if you haven’t established such a relationship with your audience, you can interview friends of yours that fit in the demographic profile you have created.

Workshops or focus groups

You can do these either with experts in psychology and consumer behavior or with your best buyers. This is a dynamic approach with a strong social component that will spark and keep the conversation going, in spite of the roadblocks that might appear. What’s more, this strategy can help you obtain additional, more dense information than you were initially seeking.

Sit down with your sales team

They are the ones interacting with your customers on a daily basis, so they are the most advised to make speculations regarding consumer behavior. You can offer them a list of possible topics that they can follow during their calls with the clients and encourage them to take some notes along the way. 

Organize brainstorming sessions with your sales and marketing departments

Brainstorming sessions can help you generate lots of possible answers to critical questions. As long as you choose the right partners for discussion, there’s no topic you can’t explore. Your sales and marketing departments are well-versed in people’s problems, so they should be your closest partners when it comes to defining the psychographic dimension of your customer base.

Distribute quizzes or questionnaires among your audience

If you want to mix qualitative with quantitative, you can design a questionnaire and distribute it among your audience, either via e-mail or via social media. You should know nonetheless that people won’t come rushing in to complete it- they’ll need an incentive. You can offer them a discount or a voucher upon completion or you can propose a more consistent bonus and draw a winner out of all the respondents at the end of the campaign.

Using Psychographics in your marketing

Ever since the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke out, people are more concerned than ever about the risks of psychographic profiling and about the way big companies are using their data. Some call it the “dark arts” of marketing, raising the question of a potentially dystopian future, where psychological profiling and emotional triggers will be largely used against audiences, not to their advantage.

Yet advertisers have always relied on this kind of profiling, in one way or another. Sure, they lacked today’s technology and Big Data approach but psychology never lacked from their strategic arsenal. One of the most famous frameworks for psychographic targeting is the VALS (values and lifestyles) framework, developed in 1978 by Arnold Mitchell, who interpreted psychology and sociology in a novel light to benefit marketing and advertising agencies. 

Today, with such an abundance of data at our disposal, it would be foolish of us not to try leveraging it. Psychographics and psychographic segmentation can help businesses in more ways than we can imagine. From refining your advertising strategy to improving your persuasive techniques, there’s little that cannot be achieved with the aid of psychographic profiles:

Personalization

According to Google, 90% of leading marketers say personalization significantly contributes to business profitability. Accordingly, 61% of people expect brands to tailor experiences based on their preferences. While personalization can be approached from many different angles, one thing remains constant: the need for psychographic data to back and fuel these efforts.

Product development

Understanding the hidden motivations behind consumer behavior can also help you improve your products and services, by tackling the specific issues your clients encounter. By knowing the problems they deal with on a daily basis, the typical obstacles, the pains they need you to eliminate and the gains they seek out of using your product, you can offer improved alternatives and constantly update and upscale their overall experience.

Improved customer support

Deeper consumer insights can also be used in training your customer support team. Since every touchpoint, every contact with your brand must be part of a carefully engineered experience, improving customer support with the help of psychographics is something you can and must do right away.

Better advertising

Knowing how your people tick is a powerful tool. Psychographics can tell you a great deal about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to both copy and visuals. After all, advertising is appealing to our feelings, thoughts, and beliefs. Everything happens “under the hood” and as long as we don’t understand these mechanisms, it doesn’t matter how creative we are: the whole endeavor will be a hit-and-miss affair.

Better targeting

In social media marketing, the trickiest issue is the targeting one. We may have a compelling offer supported by great copy and outstanding visuals. However, we can still fail if we don’t know how to deliver it. Social networks offer advanced options for targeting, based on the consumers’ preferences, behaviors, and interests. This way, you can only choose to show your offer to the ones that are the most susceptible to appreciate it and claim it for themselves. Gathering this kind of data will result in improved targeting and increased ROI for your social media advertising.

Positioning and pricing

Knowing the preferences of your customer base can also help you win some share of mind among your audience, by choosing the correct positioning strategy and the right price. If you want to reach wealthy consumers, for example, then you’ll know that you must craft a story for your product that can fit into their lifestyle, make use of their value, and appeal to their emotions. The pricing strategy is just as important: you may have hit the jackpot with the story and the identity of your brand but as long as the price is perceived as too high or too low, you may be met with skepticism from the part of your ideal customer base.

Examples of Psychographics

Psychographics allows you to uncover lots of hidden elements about your customers and explore different dimensions that define engagement and buying patterns. Here some psychographics examples worth considering:

The Big Five Personality Traits / The OCEAN Model

The five-factor model of personality developed by Lewis Goldberg is perhaps the most prevalent framework of analysis. The big five personality traits are, according to him:

  1. Extroversion (where an individual draws their energy from and how they interact with others)
  2. Agreeableness (how well people get along with others)
  3. Conscientiousness (tendency to control impulses and act in socially acceptable ways)
  4. Neuroticism (emotional stability and general temper)
  5. Openness to experience (people’s willingness to try to new things, their ability to be vulnerable, and their capability to think outside the box)

Each factor has its own common characteristics and together they can paint a complex picture of how people think, live their experiences and shape their expectations.

The VALS Framework (values, attitudes, and lifestyles)

This vision proposed by Arnold Mitchell takes into account motivation and resources as primary factors determining how people will express themselves in the marketplace. He identified 8 consumer groups, each with its specificities and preferences:

  1. Innovators (take-charge, sophisticated, curious)
  2. Thinkers (reflective, informed, content)
  3. Achievers (goal-oriented, brand-conscious, conventional)
  4. Experiencers (trendsetting, impulsive, variety seekers)
  5. Survivors (nostalgic, constrained, cautious)
  6. Believers (literal, loyal, moralistic)
  7. Strivers (contemporary, imitative, style-conscious)
  8. Makers (responsible, practical, self-sufficient)

The 16 Personality Types

According to this framework, there are 4 primary archetypes (much like the ones we were accustomed to- the sanguine, choleric, melancholic and phlegmatic personalities), with 4 subsequent, more specific classes:

  1. Analysts (Architect, Logician, Commander, Debater)
  2. Diplomats (Advocate, Mediator, Protagonist, Campaigner)
  3. Sentinels (Logistician, Defender, Executive, Consul)
  4. Explorers (Virtuoso, Adventurer, Entrepreneur, Entertainer)

Diffusion of Innovation Theory

Developed by E.M. Rogers in 1962, this theory postulates that there are 5 types of adopters of new technology, each of them having important, distinctive traits that explain their behavior and the moment they decide to jump on the bandwagon:

  1. Innovators (the first to adopt an innovation, willing to take risks, good income, high social status, great financial lucidity)
  2. Early adopters (opinion leaders, relatively young, advanced education, higher income and status than the average, comfortable with adopting the latest technologies, seeking to maintain their status with every choice they make)
  3. Early majority (slower in the adoption process, need some time to be convinced by the viability of the option, above-average social status, look up to opinion leaders but are more cautious when it comes to adopting the innovation)
  4. Late majority (rather skeptical, adopt the innovation when it becomes mainstream and commonplace, need a lot more convincing, average education, very little financial lucidity)
  5. Laggards (traditionalist, conservative, very hard to convince, older than any of the other groups, lowest social status and financial fluidity)

Accordingly, the users of each social media platform have their specificities. You’ll see that Instagram and Pinterest users differ from Facebook users, who, in their turn, differ from Reddit or Twitter users. Snapchat and Tik Tok users are the youngest ones and the rules of “traditional”, established social media platforms don’t apply to their playground. 

Conclusion

In our attempt to define psychographics, we have seen that they are key elements, helping us leverage and expand the emotional connection with our consumers. They have numerous uses in marketing and advertising, helping us streamline our efforts in order to yield the most profitable results. By knowing how your customers tick, you can deliver better products, conceive more profitable marketing strategies and develop more compelling brand messages. 

The more you know about your audience, the better you can tailor the experience to their wants and needs. In today’s highly competitive markets, success will be on the side of those knowing how to obtain and use consumer intelligence. Relying solely on demographics and a few underdeveloped behavior patterns is no longer enough. You have to know who your people really are in order to determine them to make the right move. 

Effective marketing segmentation also involves a focus on the psychological dimension of the customer profile. Market research without psychographic information paints an incomplete picture of your audience. So what are you waiting for? Go meet your audience!

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