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Are you Integrating Psychographics into Your Marketing? Part II

Arnold Mitchell of Stanford University originated psychographics in the 1960s


There are three ways to understand your current and potential future customers–

  • The first, as described in Part I of this Insights article, is using demographic and socioeconomic identifiers (e.g., age, race, sex, income, education).
  • The second is behavioral segmentation, e.g., tracking shopper behavior via retailer loyalty card usage.
  • The third set of differentiators, and the focus of this Insights article is psychographics, e.g., tracking individuals who share values, emotions, personality type, and lifestyle.

The Most Widely Used Psychographic Typology

Psychologist Arnold Mitchell of Stanford University originated psychographics in the 1960s. His typology has evolved over the years but is remains the most popular psychographic differentiator.

His Original Categories–

  • Survivors–Often older, lower income people who are out of the consumer mainstream.
  • Sustainers–Younger, often struggling, distrustful and angry (adjectives especially descriptive of 21st-century Millennials).
  • Belongers–Traditional folks whose lives are focused on home, family and community; generally conform to mainstream culture and patterns of consumption.
  • Emulators–Upwardly mobile, often wannabees, who are focused on material advancement and gaining prestige. Disposable income frequently limited; may overspend.
  • Experientials–Seeking direct experience, inner growth and artistic expression/appreciation.
  • Achievers–Higher socioeconomic, strongly individualistic professionals who are status conscious and materialistic.
  • Socially Conscious–Actively seek a sustainable, low carbon footprint. Support social improvements.

The Current Version Of Mitchell’s Typology Adds The Following–

  • Needs-Driven–Impulse buyers–those, for example, who may watch late night shopping channels.
  • Balanced–A small percentage of the population exhibiting a combination of achiever and socially conscious values and behaviors.

Using Psychographics

It takes time and resources to develop valid and reliable psychographics tailored to your market. However, doing so will give you much more precise data; more focused messaging and improve your sales.

Psychographic Findings Are Based On Survey Analysis, Web Tools, Analytics And Similar Options.

  • Survey Analysis. After identifying your criteria, you can use surveys (usually accessible online via embedded links) to get quick results. The problem with surveys is that response rates are usually low for valid and reliable statistical analysis. The central problem–research demonstrates that those who respond give different kinds of answers than those who don’t, resulting in skewed results.
  • Analytics. Web analytics is indispensable, alerting you to specific information that your readers/subscribers respond to. This includes messaging/information styles they like best.
  • Web Tools. Nielsen’s PRIZM is one of many helpful segmentation tools. However, they require careful consideration of likely categories to avoid missing the mark.
  • Outsourcing. There are many marketing companies and individual freelancers (the latter, found on sites like Upworthy) happy to do the work for you. They conduct psychographic and demographic research using surveys, focus groups and online research tailored to your needs. This is an easy choice, one too costly for many organizations.

Research may confirm that your consumers fall into one psychographic category, helping you focus clearly on that specific audience. However, most businesses offer more than one product or service. Each one will have its own audience/psychographic qualities. Having this information allows you to send tailored messaging to each of your consumer groups.


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