Psychographics is the name of the Cambridge Analytica game defined as the study of consumers based on their activities, interests, and opinions (marketers call these AIOs).
It goes beyond classifying people based on general demographic data, such as age, gender, or race.
Psychographics focuses on understanding cognitive attributes, such as customer emotions, values, and attitudes, among other psychological factors.
Marketers, advertisers, and researchers leverage this approach to create “psychographic profiles” of consumers. These profiles help researchers understand consumer motivations and opinions that can then drive messaging tactics.
In doing so, marketers move beyond blanket advertising like direct mailers, television ads, and billboards. (These approaches tend to target entire demographic groups, such as “males 18 to 34,” “females 50+,” or “upper-middle-class suburbanites”.)
Since there is a great deal of variation in personality traits within demographic groups, this kind of blanket advertising is a very blunt tool.
In contrast, a psychographic profile contains information around a person’s interests, hobbies, emotional triggers, and lifestyle choices, among other data. This could provide insight into why someone might buy a specific product, support a given cause, vote a certain way, and much more.
For example, political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica created a psychographic profile that placed people in a particular market segment according to the presence or absence of five personality traits: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism (popularly known as the OCEAN model of personality).
Using this information and more, brands can customize messages and tones accordingly.
Often, marketers will combine both demographic and psychographic data for a more holistic view of a consumer. In doing so, they can provide more tailored messaging and increase their chances of impact.
For example, imagine trying to market a vegan protein bar. You could run a Facebook ad targeted at athletes and fitness enthusiasts, and maybe find some success. But by getting more granular, you could market to a segment of vegans who feel strongly about the mistreatment of animals, or to health-conscious people who feel guilty when they eat sugary energy bars.
In an economy based almost exclusively on clicks, whether on products in online marketplaces or on published content, the time lag between ad and “purchase” or “conversion” drops to a matter of seconds — and makes every lever count.
Psychographic marketing, which plays on subconscious personality characteristics, is perfectly suited to help advertisers capitalize on impulsive decision-making. According to a 2009 experiment, psychographically-informed behavioral targeting increases click rates by 670%.
A later study, one of the first to test the effectiveness of targeting advertising, showed that because of the “propensity effect” of psychographic marketing to generate clicks, such advertising strategies outperform traditional advertising by a factor of 2 to 1.