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Psychographics: (Psycho) Paths to Success



Despite the Hitchcock-sounding name, Psychographics is neither a thriller film nor a video game developer. It's the marketing methodology that focuses more on grouping people into personality and psychological profiles rather than the more traditional demographics of race, creed, sex, left-handed, etc.


Market segmentation is nothing new, and is always a good way to test a market, determine what can be done differently for different segments, and then target them accordingly. But where traditional marketing attempts to peg entire groups into categories based on more obvious measures, psychographics really shines when it comes to looking at the inner workings of a customer.


After all, if you sold cup-holders for private jets, would you be interested in men or women? Boomers or Zoomers? To be sure, there are statistically more boomer males would be interested in private jets than women or Gen-Z, but wouldn’t it make more sense to go after people who own private jets or who frequent plane-related classes, seminars, or subscribe to aviation magazines? In these cases, the interests and hobbies and lifestyle choices matter a great deal more than what restroom the potential customer uses.


Before the advent of the internet, targeting segments based on their personalities and lifestyles was something that could only be done one-on-one, by salespeople in very specific settings. Selling cosplay items to a tabletop RPG player was something a comic book store or a local artist could do by frequenting events held by such people.

That’s all a thing of the past now. Digital marketing now allows a business to focus just as much on the psychographic profile of their target audience as they would on those aforementioned traditional factors.


Even better, it allows for selective targeting. What would get me into a Chik-Fil-A on a rainy Saturday afternoon? My race? My religion? My gender? My generation? Those things may factor, but if I’m browsing the internet and opening the exact same video as someone else in the exact same traditional demographics, psychographics may show us two different, highly targeted things. A gym member for example may see the chicken wraps advertised because they are high in protein, while a more sedentary birdwatcher may be shown the mac and cheese.


For specialty items, this matters even more. When I open the browser of my father or my nephew I see vastly different ads than for myself. Obviously, age plays a role here, but not nearly as much as our diverging activity. The twelve-year old is more likely to get that jet cup holder ad, as he is passionate about aviation. My father, who deals in cattle, sees auction sites regularly listed. And I, an avid tea-drinker, get loose leaf tea producers on my feed a great deal more than them.


We are being judged by psychographics not by the categories in which we are born, but by the actions we take and the passions that drive us. And this kind of selective targeting has been shaping not only the fate of businesses, but the fate of nations:

The 2016 election differed from every other election in world history due to its use of psychographics rather than demographics. This wasn’t a case of bumper stickers being handed out in different racial communities or at stores selling specialty items for men or for women. This was a case of candidates focusing on the what different segments of the country believed in, and reaching out to them based on their core beliefs rather than the coloration or number of wrinkles on their skin.


This strategy will only grow more sophisticated and more elaborate from here.

For this reason above all others, this brave new world of psychographics is a method that must be studied by every business, as everyone interested in growth should have a vested interest in how this changing landscape of marketing can help, or even harm, the effectiveness of their message and what makes them and their product or service stand apart.


Going unnoticed because you are still relying on older forms of segmentation is absolutely unnecessary. By all means, traditional demographics have a place in marketing, and for some businesses, it can far outshine psychographics, but a failure to notice and use such a valuable new tool when it is so simple to take advantage of would be, in the best of cases, careless, and in the worst of them, self-destructive.

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