Psychographic Marketing: How to Target Ideal Consumers and Maximize Marketing Dollars

If you clicked on this article, there’s a fair chance you don’t know what psychographics are.

You may assume it’s a screen grab from Alfred Hitchcock’s much-acclaimed movie, Pyscho. Or maybe some really cerebral art, created by someone in an altered state of mind.

While these can be pretty interesting, they’re not the psychographics we’re talking about.

What are Psychographics?

Psychographic marketing is a not a new concept, but it has been empowered by the internet use of our consumer base.

The simplest way to explain what psychographics are (which is usually the best place to start) would be to compare them to demographics:


Demographics break consumers into groups based on what they ARE – gender, age, ethnicity, etc.

Psychographics break consumers into groups based on what they FEEL.


A (Brief) History of Psychographics

While the word “psychographics” was coined all the way back in World War I, to describe a method of classifying people, it was still based on physical appearance. It was used a few more time in the following decades, but never quite in the way that we understand it.

It wasn’t until Emanuel H. Demby combined psychology with demographics, in a spontaneous attempt to name the work he was trying to do, that the name psychographics came to be

Psychographics, as described by Demby is:

“The use of psychological, sociological, and anthropological factors, such as benefits desired (from the behavior being studied), self-concept, and lifestyle (or serving style) to determine how the market is segmented by the propensity of groups within the market – and their reasons – to make a particular decision about a product, person, ideology, or otherwise hold an attitude or use a medium. Demographics and socioeconomics also are used as a constant check to see if psychographic market segmentation improves on other forms of segmentation, including user/nonuser groupings.”

That can be a hard pill to swallow. When used in reference to marketing, psychographics are just another way to break the consumer base into groups, so you can reach those most likely to purchase your product or service, based on their activities, interests, and opinions.

Psychographics 101: AIO

In order to classify people, psychographically, we need pertinent information from them. Unlike demographics, the people we seek to classify must actively participate in this process. We can’t simply look at them and put them in a bucket.

In the early 1970s, when William Wells and Doug Tigert sought to research a more in-depth form of market segmentation (psychographics!), they looked at three additional “lifestyle definitions” in addition to the standard demographics: activities, interests, and opinions, or AIO.

Using psychographics can help avoid having your ads lost in the congestion


By understanding the activities a person participates in, we can form an understanding of their habits and what they are likely to purchase in the future. If they’re highly involved in sports and hiking, they may be interested in seeing ads for particular vacation spots or outdoor gear. If they’re into gaming and shun sunlight, those same ads would likely be wasted on them.


Even if a prospective consumer’s interests haven’t graduated into an activity, that doesn’t mean they may not be interested in your product or service. Someone who shows an interest in cooking may just need to see your targeted ad to decide it’s time to get off the couch and into the kitchen.


The power of public opinion is very real. Understanding the opinions of your potential customer base will give you a greater understanding of what makes them “click” and helps us build our psychographic profile.

VALS: Values, Attitudes, and Lifestyles

The purpose of understanding the AIO of our consumer base is to categorize them. Again, much like demographics, understanding which psychographic “bucket” a prospective consumer exists in allows us to truly market to him or her, specifically, not just to the majority of the people in their demographic bucket.

The VALS (values, attitudes, and lifestyles) framework defines 8 different categories a person could fall into, based on their AIO information.

  • Innovators – People who fall into this category are on the cutting edge of change. They appreciate the finer things and have the abundant resources required to enjoy them. They have the highest incomes and, purely unrelated, I’m sure, the highest self-esteem.
  • Thinkers – These people are motivated by ideals and have high resources. They tend to be mature, motivated, practical, and well-informed.
  • Believers – These people are also motivated by ideals but have a low level of resources. They are also practical and prefer using established brands. They have a strong connection to family and church.
  • Achievers – People found in this category are motivated by achievement and have a high level of resources. They are successful and work oriented, and they get satisfaction from their jobs. They are politically conservative and respect authority. They like established products and will purchase things in order to show them off to their peers.
  • Strivers – These people are similar to achievers but they have fewer financial and psychological resources.
  • Experiencers – People in this category have high resources and are motivated by self-expression. They tend to be younger, around 25, and have high energy. They are also heavy consumers and like to try new products.
  • Makers – Similar to experiencers, makers are motivated by self-expression but tend to have fewer resources. They value self-sufficiency and have little interest in the broader world. They value practical and functional products more than the fine and flashy fare.
  • Survivors – These people have too few resources to be strongly categorized in any other group. They tend to be older – around 61 on average – and display a strong brand loyalty.

Understanding which bucket your most likely consumers fall into will allow you to not only design your marketing campaign with them in mind but also to target them more efficiently.

How to Implement Psychographic Marketing

1. Gather Psychographic Data

Ok, great. Now we understand what psychographics are. But how do we use this new-found knowledge to find our psychographic target market? Well, first we have to gather the psychographic data from our relevant customer base. There are a few ways to do this.



2. Put the Data to Use

Now it’s time to learn how to use psychographics in your marketing. There are a few ways to do this:

Refine Social Media Campaigns

If you’ve ever created a Facebook campaign, you are familiar with the incredible depth with which you can refine your audience. Using your psychographic data, you can refine the audience of your ads, based on their interests and opinions they’ve expressed on the platform.

This will maximize your marketing dollar by ensuring you’re not wasting time on those who are less likely to use your products or services.

Determine Relevant Psychographic Keywords

It can be rather simple to determine which keywords could bring potential customers to your site. With psychographic keywords, however, you can do one better.


Based on the different psychographic target markets we’ve identified with the VALS framework, we can refine our expected search patterns, based on what each category will be likely to search for.


For example, if you’re selling cards, you can assume that most people will search for “best cars.” But, if your consumer is an achiever who wants to show off to their peers, you may add “curb appeal” to the string. If your consumer is a thinker who is mature and practical, you may add “reliable” and “eco-friendly” to the string.

You can even take this one step further, by generating different landing pages for each psychographic target market. If each landing page is designed with the specific user in mind, when the consumer clicks the link returned by their specific search string, it will take them to a splash page just for them. Example: Jolly clients leverage location-based landing pages to earn their best sales months!

Remove Search from the Equation

We can even go one step farther than refining our search results – we can use psychographics to target those likely to search before they even have the chance.

Marty Weintraub, the founder of AimClear, recently did an interview with EvolvingSeo, where he described a scenario involving rideshare apps. Before rideshare apps became popular, no one would search for them in Google. So how did they inform their consumer base about their products?

Using social psychographics, apps like Uber were able to identify likely consumers and target these people with their ads. As Weintraub puts it, “the difference between search keywords and psychographics in search is what we’re asking for, and psychographics is who they are.” Using psychographics, you can offer your services to consumers, before they even know to search for them.

Psychographic marketing, while conceptually over 50 years old, has only recently begun to reach its full potential. Because of the amount of information you have access to, thanks to social media, we can start to ignore outdated demographics focusing on what people are, and instead, focus on who they are.

By understanding your psychographic target markets and targeting them with well thought out ads, utilizing psychographic keywords, and finding target clients before they find you, you can truly reach more prospective consumers, while talking to fewer people.

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