Demographics are not the default: Try looking at psychographics instead

Demographics are common population categories often used by marketers to talk about their target...

March 20, 2024

Demographics are common population categories often used by marketers to talk about their target markets or plan campaigns. These categories include factors like age, generation, gender, ethnicity, income and education. The term itself has Greek origins and dates back to the late 16th century when census collectors and hospitals used it to track mortality rates.

Demographics can have their uses, including in public health messaging, where age is a relevant factor. However, that does not mean they should be the first step in choosing your target market for every marketing campaign. If you think about it, why are demographics so popular for marketing in the first place? Demographics information for many years was all that was readily available to marketers. However, since digital marketing has grown, we now have more access to other types of information.

The latest update on millennials is that the oldest ones are now 40. Will a 40-year-old and a 27-year-old buy the same products and services? Psychographics take a different approach, looking at interest groups like health and wellness, outdoor sports or parenting. It can also refer to people’s values, or how they think and feel about a topic.

This Nike ad created controversy in Japan in 2020, with critics saying it exaggerates racism in Japan. Other people saw it as a great ad with a strong message of having the courage to prove others wrong. As a marketer, my first impression was that this ad was created for anyone who has ever been bullied or been a teenage girl. They targeted a psychographic group and a demographic group at the same time. By using multiple targeting strategies, this ad provoked a strong response and gained a lot of earned media because of that.

Another area where psychographic marketing can help is in the area of purpose marketing. Consumers who strongly care about the environment or want to increase diversity and inclusion in their communities are also examples of psychographic groups. If you believe that these individuals only come from a certain age or geographic group, you might be missing out on valuable connections and conversion.

Psychographics also give you greater insight into your customers’ thoughts and preferences. Methods like customer surveys or customization can be used to collect data. Netflix is a great example of using customization to collect psychographic data, which they then use to create more specific recommendations. You can start with the customer insights you already have and create campaigns tailored to specific interests, or use insights to find new untapped markets as well.

Written by Leah Bowman