Demographics vs psychographics: what’s the difference?

By Peri Lyon & Surraya Sumner, 25 May 2022 | 9 mins read

Demographics: they’re an essential part of any marketer’s playbook. Knowing your target audience’s ages, genders, social classes and other information enables you to build campaigns that appeal to the right people. But what about data that goes deeper, such as customers’ beliefs and attitudes? This information comes under the label of ‘psychographics’ – and it adds a whole other dimension. Demographics tell who is buying, but psychographics tell you why. Interested? Get ready to take a trip around your ideal customer’s head… with our introduction of demographics vs psychographics.

What are psychographics?

Psychographics (noun). The study and classification of people according to their attitudes, aspirations, and other psychological criteria, especially in market research.

In other words, psychographics explore people’s internal worlds, for example, their opinions, lifestyles, values and behaviours. These are sometimes abbreviated to ‘AIO variables’: Activities, Interests and Opinions. They are not easily measurable and can include everything from where people like to go on holiday, to their views on political issues. But how does this data actually help you? Basically, it gives you an invaluable window into their thinking and buying decisions. You can then create psychographics marketing campaigns that not only reach and appeal to the right people, but motivate them to buy on a deeper, psychological level.

How do psychographics differ from demographics?

Psychographics and demographics are often confused, but they’re very different animals. The standard way of segmenting a market for many years, demographics are characteristics such as age, annual income, educational attainment and occupation. In the general, demographics are external, measurable facts – and that’s the main difference between them and psychographics. The latter is next level data: the internal values and desires that define a person.

For instance, demographic data can tell us that a customer is 35, female, a nurse and currently living in Birmingham. But psychographics can tell you that she likes holidays in Greece, R’N’B music and playing the indulgent aunty to her five-year-old niece in Solihull. Demographics provide the skeleton of your target customer; psychographics flesh it out. In marketing terms, this is a ‘buyer persona’. And this can be a game-changer for your advertising campaigns.

Why you should be using both demographics and psychographics

When you marry demographics with psychographics, a new world of insights opens up. You can add psychographic segmentation to demographics to create detailed buyer personas and tailor the customer experience.

When you understand the people you’re targeting, you can speak directly to them and create a customer journey that matches their preferences. Ads, content, websites – you can personalise everything to reflect a particular psychological profile. Demographics are helpful but they can’t supply the level of detail that’s required. We’d like to say a personalised experience will give you the edge, but these days, it’s a case of make it personal – or miss out.

  • 79% of consumers say they are only likely to engage with an offer if it has been personalized to reflect previous interactions the consumer has had with the brand.

Another reason to make psychographics part of your marketing strategy is to boost engagement. It all comes to down to a basic human truth: we all want to be understood. If your campaign makes people feel as if your business is in tune with them, they’ll be far more likely to watch, listen and engage with what you say. This emotional connection is the first step to conversions and hugely valuable for a brand.

A third argument for psychographics is their power to promote brand loyalty. Because when people feel affinity with a brand – a sense of shared values or outlooks – they’re most likely to trust it and stay with it long-term. So, psychographics not only engages customers, it encourages fidelity. And that’s a huge advantage in today’s ultra-competitive markets.

In summary, psychographics can help you create campaigns that really resonate. Blend the things that matter to your audience into the customer experience and you’re on your way to gaining a competitive edge.

Before we go any further, let’s stop and take stock of demographic and psychographic factors and how they differ. Here’s our quick guide to the two sets of characteristics.

Five ways to gather psychographic data

So, we know what psychographics are and why they’re useful. Now, let’s find out how to get them. Remember that the more data you can collect, the better, so you’ll need a reasonable sample size – 1,000 people should be enough. Although gathering this kind of psychographic information might seem challenging, there are some tried-and-tested ways to access the data you need.

1. Loyalty cards

Loyalty cards are a veritable data treasure trove, lifting the lid on customers’ buying habits. With the incentives and deals they offer, customers also get benefits. This means loyalty cards are minimally invasive and regularly used. Analysis can give a detailed picture of people’s lives and preferences.

2. Surveys

Want to know more about your customers? Ask them. Surveys with open-ended questions can winkle out what inspires, excites or worries them and identify their hopes, fears and goals. You can automate online surveys so they’re sent out after a purchase. Take time to think about what answers you really need – if your survey’s too long, people might not bother to finish it.

3. Social media

Social media platforms are a fantastic place to gather data, with people sharing every aspect of their lives (and thoughts) online. The internet is heaving with tools and software designed to monitor every platform, every which way. Social listening can help you collect information such as the questions customers are asking about your brand; how they perceive it; and what they like/don’t like about it. Gather, crunch and translate your data into valuable psychographic insight.

4. Website analytics

Nothing’s more revealing of people’s motivations than the actions they take. A customer may not consider themselves budget-orientated, but then… they always use a discount code. Use your website’s analytics dashboard to find out what makes people click or buy. Look for the pages and content that attract (and don’t attract) clicks to get an insight into customers’ interests and preferences.

5. Focus groups

Focus groups should be made up of people who are aligned to your target market. If you sell gardening gear, they should be gardeners (not any old Joe Bloggs). They must able be unconnected to your organisation so they’re impartial and happy to talk about your brand or products. To get the most valuable insights it’s best to think carefully about how you’ll facilitate the focus group and the questions you’ll ask.

Of course, if you already have a clear idea of your target audience, you could let a market research company take the strain. NielsenIQ and Qualtrics are both well-known names in the field.

Psychographics in action – how to use them in your marketing

You’ve done the focus groups. Analysed your surveys. Pored over your website analytics. Now, you’ve got well defined psychological personas for your target audience and you’re ready to deploy them.

Make your copy pop

When a consumer visits your site, you have a golden opportunity to connect. And now that you know their preferences, you can edit your website copy with them in mind. Appealing to consumers’ emotions will get you a lot further than pure, hard logic alone, so bring your psychographic profile to life and write to get under your target audience’s skin.

Refresh your emails

Open and Click Through Rates are notoriously low for emails, which has led some brands to dump them from their marketing strategies. However, personalising your messaging and wording can be surprisingly effective. Even just changing the headline to something more relevant to your target audience can improve open rates. So, don’t give up on email – see what impact psychographics can make.

Refine your social media advertising targeting

Using demographics alone to target your social media ads can be hit and miss. With psychographic segmentation, you can drill down into the exact kind of person you want to target. Use social media platforms’ in-built tools to target ads accurately and precisely. That way, they’ll hit home every time – and you’re more likely to get conversions.

Hone your content strategy

You’re here because you want to know about psychographics. But what else are you interested in? If the Maverick team knew that, they could create more content that would appeal to you. Because we’d know that you were interested in what we’d written before it was even published, we’d be making the most of our time. In short, you can use psychographics to direct your content strategy, boosting engagement and making best use of resources.

Demographics provide a frame for your marketing but it’s psychographics that paint the picture. Knowing what your target audience is really like means you can tailor everything to their tastes – and that drives conversions. In a world where personalisation is fast becoming the norm, psychographics are increasingly a necessity and not just a nice-to-have. Need some help to get into your customer’s head? Give Maverick a call.     

Appendix: Demographic and Psychographic factors

What are demographic factors?

These are concrete, measurable qualities. They’re usually fairly straightforward:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • Occupation
  • Criminal record
  • Level of education
  • Employment status
  • Income
  • Home location
  • Nationality
  • Marital status
  • Disability status
  • Religion
  • Sexual orientation
  • Social class
  • Work location
  • Residency status (e.g. valid visa)

What are psychographic factors?

Psychographic factors are more complex. These are mutable qualities that are nuanced and subjective.

  • Beliefs/opinions – what people think about everything, from politics to religion.
  • Behaviours – by watching customers’ buying patterns and journey, you can establish their behaviour. This could be how often they buy a product or use a service.
  • Habits – the things that people do on a regular basis can provide particularly valuable data.
  • Interests – what do your customers like to do? What fascinates them? Although everyone is different, there’s a good chance that your target audience may have common hobbies or past-times that can take into consideration when designing your marketing campaigns.
  • Lifestyle – the choices that people make in the way they live their lives. This tells you a lot about how they see themselves.
  • Personality – what someone’s like and how they interact with the world around them.
  • Values – the principles that your customers subscribe to.