Why Psychographics Matter More Than Demographics
Demographics will always have an important place in any marketing strategy, but the reliance on the categorical “what” of a potential customer base may be limiting. This is where a psychographic approach can fill in the blanks for growth in consumer reach. Psychographics address the “why” of customer choices and intent.
So what exactly is psychographics? While demographics can narrow down the basic facts about a customer such as age, race, education, and income, two middle-aged white males with the same income and education level can have markedly different personalities, beliefs, and interests. If demographics are the objective facts, then psychographics are the subjective motivations for the same individual. In applying psychographic research, the three major areas are the IAO variables (interests, activities, and opinions).
Interests can seem broad but are the essence of what drives consumer intent. The important data here are around trends of your target audience. No single interest will characterize a particular group, but chances are some interests will be more prevalent than others.
Activities are more specific and are obviously what people do. This is where a person’s interests and decisions about time and spending choices intersect. Two good ways to get valuable information are to ask about specific hobbies or a more general question about how a person spends most of their time outside of work and sleep.
Opinions are related to attitudes about a specific topic. This can be the most narrowly focused question specific to your product or service. Understanding opinion is crucial to revealing personal values. And values, unlike interests, are unlikely to change over time. This can be a powerful tool in marketing research.
The power of psychometrics can be most easily shown through the controversy of Cambridge Analytica and the use of personality data through the sale of Facebook personality profiles. Putting aside the question of ethics and privacy for a moment, let’s think about what they were able to achieve: Cambridge Analytica was able to reverse engineer personality profiles for the Facebook friends of an original set of 270,000 users to gain around 50 million profiles for political micro-targeting of advertisement. They did this by tracking activity such as likes and post keywords. In essence, they used a big data approach to do an unauthorized psychographic marketing campaign to millions of unsuspecting people. Despite the ethical questions and possibly legal consequences, this campaign was extremely effective.
When done in a responsible manner, taken together, demographics and psychographics in research can unleash previously hidden motivations or dispel some common marketing stereotypes that persist. Think about this: according to Google search data, 56% of all sporting goods searchers are female; 68% of skin and body care influencers were male in the past six months; 40% of all baby product purchasers live in households without children.
Going beyond a basic age and gender profile better positions you to go after a potentially ignored customer population. Admittedly, it takes more time and research, but it is essential to gain an advantage when customers are targeted more and more through the use of click-through data from e-commerce and social media platforms. In today’s digital age of marketing, it is important to build a deeper understanding of your customer or risk irrelevance.
Jason Fly contributed to this article.