Psychographics are crucial for building your brand – here’s why

Written by Staff Writer


By Marelise Jacobs, Designer and Illustrator at Perkolate Design Studio

“Don’t sell the steak, sell the sizzle.” Legendary wordsmith and marketing guru Elmar Wheeler invented this phrase back in 1938. He understood the power of using the right words to influence customers and consumers. But all the magic words in the world will not help if we are trying to sell the sizzle to a vegetarian. Building a successful brand depends on many things, none of which matters if we do not understand our customers and connect with them on an emotional level.

What are Psychographics?
Psychographics help us to get a better understanding of our customer’s lifestyle and personality. A thirtysomething vegetarian’s habits and values are likely to be quite different from that of a retired pensioner who loves his red meat. Understanding our customers, however, is only half the battle. Connecting with them, and spurring them into action, is the end goal of every marketing campaign.
Let’s look at the main categories of psychographics. We have attitude, personality, values, and lifestyle. We are not looking at things such as age, gender, or occupation. Those categories fall under demographics, which focuses on what we do and where we live. Psychographics aim to understand why we do the things we do. It analyses our opinions, our fears, goals, behaviours, and habits.

Preferences and Behaviours
In looking for a guinea pig to help understand how this works, try starting with yourself. Why do you always choose that specific shampoo or deodorant? Have you ever rushed out to buy a product because of well-timed advertising? Do you prefer Mercedes Benz or BMW? Woolies or Checkers? Did you buy an iPhone or Samsung?

You have an opinion about these brands, everyone does. Do you know why? Perhaps you were influenced by your parents as you were growing up. Perhaps you have something to prove to your high school friends and feel you need to aspire to something bigger. Our brand preferences and shopping habits say a lot about us. Over time, these habits and behaviours paint a picture of who we are.

If we want to find out the behaviour of other people, specifically our customers, there are several ways to get answers. Organising focus groups and questionnaires are good ways of gathering data, but they do have a few drawbacks. They are time-consuming to put together and there is no guarantee that the feedback is genuine and reliable. That is why data analytics is so popular and in-demand. These detailed analytics track online behaviour, keywords, and physical movement. Few of us can hide our online search history or GPS location.

But our interests change over time, so too our behaviour and values. Sometimes we stop buying a product we have used for years. Sometimes a new brand is trying to launch themselves on the market. To succeed, they need to understand their customer. They need to map out and predict the consumer personality long before the big launch to successfully guide customers through the sales funnel. The end goal of any marketing campaign is conversion – whether monetary or otherwise.

It’s all in the data!
Google and Facebook, among other companies, provide powerful tools to research online behaviour and track the changing interests of customers. There has been a steady rise in data analytics and data science, with the Harvard Business Review even calling data science the sexiest job of the century back in 2012. But what does all this data mean? What can it really tell us?

Psychographics gives analysts the ability to predict and influence future behaviour, not read minds. It also gives advertising agencies a good place to start when building their marketing strategies. When building customer personas, it is important to steer clear from stereotypes, even though there are certain behavioural patterns that, for the most part, are consistent across various demographics. For example, a teenager will be scrolling through Tik-Tok or Instagram while her grandfather will be reading a newspaper that was delivered to his door or checking what his friends have been up to on Facebook. That does not mean either the teenager or the grandfather will buy a product just because they saw it on screen or on paper. What it does mean is we know where to advertise. How well the teenager and grandfather react to our branding depends on how well we understand them.

Building your brand 
This is where psychographics become so crucial. When used wisely, psychographic profiles help to determine which words to use in copywriting, the SEO on a website, the stock photography in an ad campaign, even the background music of a YouTube video. Good marketing is not a guessing game, it is not about being biased to our own tastes and preferences. It is about understanding our brand and how to present it to our target market. It is also about using the fundamentals of design and knowing how the human mind works. Psychographics may just be another tool in the marketing box, but it is a powerful one.

Our behaviour has changed during the past year – we buy closer to home, order more online and eat out less. According to a 2009 study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it can take between two to eight months to form a new habit (not 21 days, as legend has it). It is safe to say then, that many of us have formed new habits. These habits are likely here to stay, some of them at least. We as consumers may have new motivators behind our choices, but we still function on basic human emotion. Finding the magic words that will make us purchase this product or support that cause is what psychographics is all about.

Combined with demographics, psychographics is crucial to building a brand because it helps us to know exactly who and where to target our marketing, saving us time and money. More importantly, it helps us to understand how to target our customers, giving us that all important emotional connection. Psychographics are the sizzle to our steak, as Mr. Wheeler told us back in 1938.

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