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GuidesMarket researchHow to use psychographics to understand your audience

How to use psychographics to understand your audience

Last updated

1 April 2024

Reviewed by

Cathy Heath

Establishing new, better ways to connect with your audience is equal parts science and art. It requires rigorous, critical analysis of what deeply motivates your market base, going beyond basic objective information.

Psychographics studies how thoughts, emotions, and beliefs affect consumer behavior. Companies can use these insights to form lasting bonds with their customers. 

We'll explore the most well-established psychographic definition and methodologies and how you can use them to refine branding strategies and new product development

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What is psychographics?

The original definition of psychographics relates to an invention called the "psychograph." This device was the brainchild of German inventor Adolphus Theodore Wagner. He created the device in the 1850s to measure thoughts via nervous impulses. 

Today, psychography encompasses anything related to recording people's internal psychological motivations. It is the study and analysis of people and their: 

  • Personality traits

  • Values

  • Attitudes

  • Interests

  • Lifestyles

Psychographics goes beyond basic demographic information, seeking key psychological and psychosocial insights that drive consumer behavior. 

These insights guide product development and marketing strategies to ensure they’re relevant to a target market's desires and other internal motivators. 

Psychographics vs. demographics

While demographics define a group according to mostly unchanging factors, psychographic data can change over time and often.

Demographic data describes objective measures of a group, which are generally set in stone. It uses quantifiable data to describe groups according to their primary attributes, such as:

  • Age

  • Sex

  • Income

  • Marital status

  • Cultural background

  • Country of origin

  • Ethnicity

Psychographics explores a group's subjective attributes. It uses much more qualified data to learn about a group’s:

  • Goals

  • Attitudes

  • Beliefs

  • Emotions

  • Opinions

  • Values

  • Interests

  • Hobbies

  • Hopes

The two often overlap. It can be helpful to learn whether psychographic descriptions relate to demographic categories—the distribution of key interests or beliefs across particular age groups, for example.

People in the same demographic group can fall into different psychographic groups, creating a rich tapestry of unique market insights.

Why psychographics are important

Without psychographics, companies would rely on hunches about what their customers want or need. The most deep-seated mental and emotional drives truly dictate buying decisions. 

Considering this is key when designing products, services, and brand messages.

Psychographic segmentation helps companies clarify who their customers are and why they are as they are. Learning this is the only way to craft brand strategies around the fundamental motivations of the end user and elevate the customer experience in an authentic, lasting way.

Psychographic profiling

A thorough psychographic profile will tell you which groups will be most receptive to your company's products and services. This will help product designers, marketers, and customer experience managers become more strategic. They’ll also deeply understand consumers' decision-making processes.

Creating a usable profile requires careful psychographic segmentation to differentiate your research from other groups. Make some initial demographic considerations to establish an initial object of study to pull data from. 

Then, you'll want to identify several obvious psychological traits shared by the starting demographic. You can create more detailed profiles as you discover new psychographic subjects to study.

In the most generic terms, the process will look something like this:

Demographic profile

Determining where to begin requires an objective starting point. At the very least, you should consider your current customer base and identify some of the more significant group segments you’ve oriented your products toward.

Psychographic profile

To bolster your demographic profile, you need insights into the more subjective factors that make an audience unique. 

You could do this for a psychographic segment or an individual buyer. If the latter, you may want to infer which psychographic qualities translate to your overall market base and which are unique to those you’re studying.

Develop the psychographic profile around that subject's hopes, challenges, desires, likes, and interests—and don't hesitate to make it highly specific as you learn more.

Psychographics examples

It’s crucial to allow psychographic traits and qualities to arise naturally, as though you're letting the group or person tell you about themselves in their own words. 

The most important aspects of your target market could include qualities such as:

Personality traits

Think of the Big Five or the Myers-Briggs personality tests. You can also place target audiences onto one side of simple character binaries (such as spontaneous vs. analytical.)

Lifecycle stages

This is the buyer's journey lifecycle, such as brand awareness, lead conversion, or repeat business. Lifecycle relating to the customer's age is a demographic measurement.

Attitudes and beliefs

Generally, this covers your audience members' overall perspective on life, including their views on social matters, your market, and what your brand stands for.

Interests

Catering to your audience's aesthetics, media preferences, and other favorite things can ensure you meet your customers’ needs.

Activities

Consider highlighting the activities an audience regularly engages in—actions speak louder than words, after all.

How to find psychographic data

Getting market data for psychographics depends on how you collect the information and the questions you ask. 

Some of the most common methods for obtaining psychographic data include:

Interview existing clients

An interview is especially useful when open-ended responses are appropriate. It's a good place to start, as it lets customers tell you what they most strongly identify with. 

Interviews also reveal the motivations that led them to choose your product over any other.

Send out surveys

If direct interviews aren't feasible, the next best thing is surveys. This includes more people than just previous customers, as your survey campaign can encompass anyone on your email list. 

You can also include surveys in your post-purchase communications to receive data fresh after purchase.

Review website analytics

The most telling psychographic factors are often beyond spoken motivations. The past actions of your audience reveal their most genuine motivating factors. 

Consider your analytics data from the perspective of psychographics and look into what exactly motivated market activity.

Did the allure of a discount, an exciting new product launch, or an affiliate link attract them? It's all right there in your analytics.

Hold focus groups

If you need to reach groups that don’t generally associate with your brand, focus groups are for you. Find the most unbiased group possible that represents a wide swath of demographics. 

Give them a carefully planned questionnaire to reveal their needs, desires, and beliefs. This will provide your company with insight into the wider market. 

Use professional market research data

Some companies may have already conducted extensive market research in your product niche that they're willing to sell. The price can be high, so consider using it when you're familiar with psychographics and know how to use it for maximum value.

How to use psychographics in your marketing

The hard work of psychographic research pays off when you discover powerful new ways to direct your brand's messaging and outreach efforts. 

Consider these examples of applying psychographics to your marketing strategy:

Refine social media audiences

Promote your product’s unique qualities or applications that align with an audience's main goals, ideals, attitudes, and beliefs.

Write more emotionally compelling ads

Use the audience's core beliefs for inspiration. A skillful advert will make your customers feel like they’re looking into a mirror that encapsulates their deepest drives and desires.

Enhance A/B tests

Use A/B tests to compare how various psychographic segments respond to the same ad campaign. It may compel you to split your marketing budget, allowing you to run dual campaigns through separate channels.

Identify new content topic areas

Discover key identity traits your audience resonates with that the competition has neglected.

Improve your conversion pathways

Give customers more of what they're looking for, such as deals and a feeling of exclusivity, at decisive moments in their buying journey.

Reinforce your brand values

Emphasize those that genuinely overlap with the values held by your audience.

Create more targeted and relevant email marketing blasts

Reveal aspects of your brand that make it authentically different from competitors.

Use aspirational imagery and messaging

Align your content with your marketing base's most deep-seated goals and world views.

Revisit and update customer personas

Flesh out your customer personas with greater nuance to reflect your real-life discoveries about consumers' thoughts, feelings, and ambitions.

FAQs

What is an example of an audience psychographic?

An audience psychographic is essentially a psychographic variable that broadly includes shared motives, lifestyles, attitudes, and personalities. Audience psychographics are distinct from individual psychographics, which can use the same categories for individuals.

What are five examples of psychographics?

Of the many examples of psychographics, five of the most common include:

  1. Behaviors lead to making purchasing decisions.

  2. Daily routines are activities that could lead to the discovery of your company's products.

  3. Life goals tell companies about the intended use of their products and services, along with related products and services the same psychographic segment may require next.

  4. Social status is a major factor in deciding price points, brand exclusivity, level of service, and brand messaging.

  5. Values are ethical beliefs that hold significant sway over their purchasing decisions.

What is the psychographic 5-factor model?

Also known as the Big Five personality traits, the five-factor model is one of the most widely accepted personality models.  

It synthesizes 16 personality factors down into a handful of core traits, represented by the acronym OCEAN:

  • Openness to experiences (imagination or curiosity)

  • Conscientiousness (responsibility and carefulness)

  • Extroversion (outgoing nature)

  • Agreeableness (trust, tact, politeness, loyalty, patience, and sensitivity toward others)

  • Neuroticism (emotional stability and general temperament)

What are two examples of psychographic segmentation?

Psychographic segmentation can be straightforward yet powerful. Correctly applying a single psychographic quality could majorly shift a company’s approach. 

For example:

  • Celebrating introversion Learning that the most frequent users of a delivery service are introverts, a company chooses to craft ad copy to show appreciation for those enjoying contemplative, less socially busy lifestyles.

  • Fitness newbies A health and fitness company discovers many customers are new to fitness routines. Their product development team creates new services to soften learning curves, while the marketing team emphasizes how fun the product is.

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