San Diego Business Journal

Understanding What Makes the Consumer 'Click'

Psychographics Helps Position Your Media Message

Special to the Business Journal

The quest to learn more of what motivates consumers to make purchase decisions has prompted many companies to embrace a tactic called psychographics. While demographics may tell you what the customer looks like, psychographics can tell you why the customer buys.

This information is critical and can save a company from wasting marketing and advertising dollars on incorrect audiences and messaging.

While sometimes misused and not universally accepted, companies from the health care industry through financial institutions to consumer product businesses are using psychographics to better define their niche in the marketplace.

Psychographic targeting has been around for more than thirty years, and ad agencies and companies with a large stake in a product's image have been the biggest users. For example, if the image of a cosmetics manufacturer's ad or product package design is not in sync with its customers' self-image, the company will not form the crucial marketing bond that becomes a company's franchise.

Media entities such as television and radio stations, magazines and newspapers, have been purchasing psychographics from companies for years. They use psychographic profiles to help sell advertising to clients looking for stations, programs or print media that have a strong appeal to a target profile that readily matches their clients' products.

The media entities are able to demonstrate the value of their medium not just by how many viewers, listeners or readers they have , but also by the quality of the audience match to their advertisers' needs.

- Identifying

The Consumer

A great example of a locally based company using psychographics is Polaris Pool Systems, a manufacturer of swimming pool vacuum-sweep equipment. Through psychographic profiling, it knows its customers are more apt than most pool owners to entertain guests at their home, drive luxury German automobiles and/or will pay more to get the quality products they feel they deserve.

Why does the company care about such things as how often their customers entertain? It enables them to talk in a language and style that is readily understood by their target audience.

The firm's messages and language resonates effectively enabling them to be more successful motivating their target customers to take actions that result in positive sales volume. The manufacturer used a market profiling tool to obtain this detailed information.

Market research uses psychographic clustering techniques, with segmented customers as well as potential customers, identifying precise groups that can be defined by their attitudes and lifestyles. It creates a localized mirror reflection of the marketplace.

Creating advertising campaigns and designing product packaging that appeals to the psychographics of target consumers are just two applications of this new resource. Profiling tools also survey markets, readers of publications, viewers and listeners of local stations and asks them about their purchasing habits and demographics , and then administers a series of attitudinal questions designed to polarize responses aiding the psychographic clustering process.

With the scrutiny of dollars being spent on product packaging, marketing and advertising today, it's more critical than ever to capture correctly and effectively a target audience in a way that will deliver results and impact a company's bottom line. By taking an additional step beyond the world of demographics into psychographics, companies can achieve a higher return on investment for their efforts.

Anderson is president of Jeff Anderson Consulting, Inc., a San Diego-based market research firm.