How to Move Beyond Demographics with Psychographic Questions

While demographic segments are a simple way to distinguish consumer groups, people tend to be defined by more than the sum of their parts; they’re not defined by a series of facts. For richer insights and deeper understanding of your consumers, psychographic segmentation is key.

This isn’t the first time we’ve written about the importance of segmenting your consumer base. Demarcating based on key factors like age, gender and location can mean the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful marketing campaign, product launch or customer service experience.

And while demographic segments are a simple way to distinguish consumer groups, people tend to be more than the sum of their parts; they’re not defined by a series of facts.

Say, for instance, you sell toilet roll made from 100% recycled materials. Your potential market is every single person with need for toilet roll; every single person. In reality, it’s likely only people with an eye on protecting the environment who will jump ship to a new brand of cushioned sheets.

But environmentally-conscious people don’t fit neatly into any handful of demographic segments. Irrespective of age, gender, location, wealth or homeownership, eco-friendly consumers exist in every pocket of society. For this toilet roll brand, understanding the personality traits of your consumer group would be vitally important, far more important than shoehorning them into relatively useless demographic segments.

This is why, for richer insights and deeper understanding of your consumers, psychographic segmentation is key. Read on to discover why you should understand your customers on an attitudinal and aspirational level, and how to achieve this with Attest.

The difference between demographic and psychographic data

A person’s demographics form just one part of their makeup, and are just one set of data by which marketers can segment consumers. While important, they’re not the be-all-and-end-all of understanding the way consumers behave, and targeting based on demographics won’t bullet-proof your marketing strategy.

Knowing the demographics of your consumers – where they live, how they get to work and so on – can put your brand in the right place at the right time to reach your core market. But these details won’t necessarily mean that your product satisfies the consumers’ wants and desires, because their wants and desires aren’t solely dictated by their demographics.

So, what’s the difference?

While demographics are objective, true or false facts about your consumers relating to who they are, psychographics are subjective, fluid attitudes and interests that tell you more about why they buy.

What are these elusive psychographics?

Don’t be misled by the somewhat Freudian name: psychographic information is becoming more and more widely used in marketing teams and throughout companies to optimise strategies.

Psychographics are defined as:

“The study and classification of people according to their attitudes, aspirations, and other psychological criteria, especially in market research.”

As such, psychographics are often also referred to as IAO variables; cataloging consumers’ Interests, Activities and Opinions.

The variety of details that can be encompassed by the term psychographics is much richer than just these 3 qualities, though. It also includes:

  • Personality traits
  • Values
  • Attitudes
  • Lifestyle choices
  • Goals
  • Motivations
  • Cognitive biases

Establishing the demarcation points between different attitudes is important, but it’s also vital to understand how they interact with each other. Psychographics aren’t as binary as demographics; if you’re 25, you can’t also be 35, and if you live in Manchester, you can’t also live in Newcastle. Whereas, you can be a patient person at work – on the phone to clients or suppliers – and yet also impatient outside of work – when standing in line at the Post Office, for instance. The traits identified by psychographic analysis are fluid and can be felt more or less strongly at different times or in different situations.

To put this into context, let’s go back to the example of our eco-friendly toilet roll brand. Recycled toilet paper appeals to consumers who have concerns for the environment, but how strongly do they feel these concerns, and are they more noticeably led by other considerations like price or availability? If your product is only available online, will time-constraints mean they’d rather buy toilet paper when they’re dashing through the supermarket aisles in the spare hour they have each week?

By segmenting consumers according to their most strongly-held views, you’ll enjoy a much more accurate and powerful understanding of them. Separate out their ‘aspirational’ traits from their fundamental ones, because when it comes to crunch time, the former are often overshadowed by the latter.

Moving from understanding psychographics to using them for consumer profiling

How do psychographics relate to the segmentation of your key markets?

This means establishing trends in the psychographic makeup of your current customers, so that you can more efficiently bring in additional leads who think and feel the same way.

While Facebook advert clicks and Twitter impressions give you a steer on what works best to convert consumers, you’d need to understand why they work in order to get the same results in future campaigns. Without psychographic segmentation you’re stabbing in the dark with your advertising, hoping that what you create resonates rather than bringing consumer understanding into the campaign development process.

But by understanding the buckets your consumers fall in to, and what they prioritise when purchasing new products, you’re able to focus your campaigns on individual needs and wants, thereby appealing to a smaller section of your market more effectively.

Car manufacturers use psychographics in their adverts and product design. With high ticket prices, they have to prove the claim that purchasing a car from them will assist the consumer in achieving their personal goals.

This means that car adverts usually focus on the lifestyle of the target consumers, whether that’s rooted in adventure, family logistics, self-image and so on.

We can look to almost any car advert as evidence of this point. Here, Toyota uses the knowledge that their target audience are smartphone owners (a demographic) and that they prioritise socialising over work or family (a psychographic). It’s the representation of a particular lifestyle that captures the attention of consumers in the advert; those who find themselves feeling the same way as the character, and nudges them towards purchasing from the brand.

How to do psychographic profiling with Attest

Psychographic profiling is often referred to as the ‘Dark Arts’ of marketing. Partly because it seems like a magic way to optimise your campaigns, and partly because the process of accessing psychographic details has been murky until now.

Sourcing psychographic segmentation from questionable analysis of your consumers’ online behaviours is an unnecessarily imprecise way to conduct fundamental research. The sheer volume of data search engines and cookies gather about each and every online use presents a hefty data set, but not a particularly focused or useful one.

Requesting self-reported segmentation data is far more considered and less random than behavioural analysis can offer. As such, conducting the research through Attest can gift you access to the priorities and details consumers wouldn’t share anywhere else.

When building a psychographic segmentation survey with Attest, we recommend using some of the following question types to get to know your consumers:

Grid questions:

Using a granular scale will allow you to establish the overwhelming priorities that drive decisions and those which are felt, but don’t factor into the decision to purchase.


Ranked questions:

Once again, asking consumers to rank factors will indicate which ones they feel more strongly about than others.


Multiple choice questions:

To understand which factors matter and which don’t matter at all, you could ask consumers to select all the factors they care about, to give binary answers as to whether the option is important or not. You can even give a limit to the number of answers to establish, for instance, the top three considerations.


Free text questions:

Qualitative questions offer rich insights into the psyche of your consumers, in their own unprompted words. Using free text questions is the easiest way to access unexpected insights from your target audience, as they’re not directed by your pre-scripted answers.

Using Attest, you can screen in consumers who currently use your product (with qualifying questions), or filter by demographics to establish overlaps between your demographic segments and psychographic ones. This means that you can speak to only the consumers who matter most to your brand, eliminating consumers who won’t purchase from you.


The next steps…

Once you’ve conducted a psychographic profiling survey with Attest, the intuitive results dashboard will allow you to easily visualise the priorities of your target consumers. You’ll also be able to cross-tab to find out whether certain traits clump together, to yield even richer insights into the profiles of your consumers.

These insights can be used to optimise your marketing campaigns, by resonating with  consumers on a deeper level. They can even be used to power marketing efforts for different  psychographic profiles, making each of your adverts more niche and relevant.

To get started with psychographic profiling, get in touch with Attest today.


Content Team 

Our in-house marketing team is always scouring the market for the next big thing. This piece has been lovingly crafted by one of our team members. Attest's platform makes gathering consumer data as simple and actionable as possible.

See all articles by Attest