The importance of psychographic marketing and targeting

TLDR? Here is a video explaining the importance of psychographics in marketing:

The black hole of failed marketing campaigns

You might know the feeling when facing a failed marketing campaign, trying to determine what went wrong. Your team spent hours and hours nailing down the targeting and creating well-structured, good-looking ad copies, and the campaign still bombed.

The reason is simple and highly complex at the same time: humans are different, and you need to create tailored messages for these differences. There are numerous publications on how psychographics and the subconscious influence decision-making. For instance, Harvard Professor Gerald Zaltman says that 95% of all purchasing decisions are subconscious.

This statement won’t help if you need to defend yourself in front of your supervisor, right? But it will encourage you to understand your customer base beyond demographics.

Go beyond the standard approach – and it is easier than expected!

To take customer engagement and commitment to the next level, you must understand their psychographics, ultimately affecting subconscious decision-making. Demographics will tell you who buys your product, but psychographics will reflect why.

And before I lose you because you are thinking: “How the heck shall I look inside the brains of thousands of prospective customers?” don’t worry, Artificial Intelligence makes it possible. You will understand their personalities, emotions, attitudes, motivations, aspirations, values, and honestly expressed interests.

Let us look at the psychographics and how they can be uncovered and used for your marketing endeavors.

Targeting the right people based on demographics and interests is the starting point, but only the beginning toward deep customer understanding.

Personality Traits – The Big 5 Personality Trait Model

The most powerful asset to understanding your customers’ psychographics is the identification of their personality traits by applying the Big 5 Personality trait model (OCEAN) at scale.

For decades psychologists, market researchers, and others had to conduct complex questionnaires to define someone’s personality individually. Proper consumer behavior research was a very costly and time consuming matter only accessible to large corporations with big budgets. Luckily, a trained AI can identify personality traits based on 128 characters – not more than a short comment, Tweet, or email. With sufficient data, you can add these personality trait clusters to your personas or target audiences when setting up the campaign and build your ads and communication around these traits. In short, Psychometric testing and analysis have become accessible to everyone.

Identifying the reason for failure by understanding the psychographics

Comparing the following personas, “Anne” and “Faye” will explain where and how the communication should differ. Please notice that these are not complete persona profiles. Check out this article to learn more about what a perfect persona should look like.

Comparison of two personas

Setting up the target audiences based on differences in age, income, family background, location, and interests is pretty straightforward.

We use the same visuals and communication for both target audiences and create information-dense text ads and image ads that display a group of people happily using the product.

We let the campaign run for a week and afterward realized the campaign for persona Anne bombed while the Faye campaign was a success. We turned off the Anne campaign and expanded the Faye campaign, but we will never understand why the Anne campaign failed.

What if I tell you that the Anne campaign could succeed with only a few tweaks? For that, we need to take the personality traits of the two personas into consideration:

comparison psycographics

You realize they have two completely different personalities and therefore varying behavioral patterns. And this ultimately means that they respond differently to the same message.

Based on the displayed personality traits, here are examples of what works best for them:

communication preferences

Do you remember what the ads looked like initially?

Information-dense text ads and image ads display a group of people happily using the product.

Avoiding failure by personalizing the ad campaigns

The campaign performed much better for Faye than Anne since it matched Faye’s psychographics. Faye wants to hear about data and how the product is placed in social surroundings.

Anne has a strong expression of Neuroticism. She reacts better to video ads than information-dense text ads and needs a different communication approach. The information must be presented simply where “numbers-dropping” has no space. The ad should be imaginative and focused on solving a problem.

In summary, Anne prefers transformational ads over informational ads, whereas Faye prefers the opposite.

You now understand how important it is not just to create different target audiences and bombard them with the same message but to adjust the ad copies and visualization to their personalities and needs.

Personality is the foundation, but there is more to understand

As you can see above, personality traits define what ad types work best and how to present the information. To nail down the personalization, you should consider additional factors.

Differences in Lifestyles

You can conclude their lifestyles based on demographics and personality traits. Whether the target audience is married or single, employed or self-employed, etc., influences and defines their lifestyles.

Remember, Faye’s psychographic traits ask for ads displaying the product in a social surrounding – however, she is married with kids, and a wild clubbing party crowd is probably not the best fit, but certainly some backyard grill-gettogether

Additionally, personality traits influence the approach to life in general. For instance, someone who ranks high on Openness to Experience tends to be risk-taking, whereas someone who ranks high on Neuroticism tends to be risk-averse. Someone whose dominant trait is Openness strives for excitement, and your messaging should encourage this. In contrast, someone with Neuroticism as a dominant trait seeks safety and needs a different approach.

Differences in beliefs and values

Considering different beliefs and values is also an essential but often overlooked factor. There is a correlation between personality traits and values to a certain extent. For instance, someone who ranks high on conscientiousness tends to have environmental concerns, whereas someone who ranks high on neuroticism is less so. Therefore no matter how good your messaging and ad look, if you sell hairspray tested on animals, a very environmentally conscious target audience will never buy from you.


We mean true interests, not those based on randomly liked Facebook pages when writing about interests. We see many persona projects based on “liked” Facebook pages. They probably “liked” the page back in the day when CMO’s screamed: “we need more Likes on our page! Come up with a contest!

What matters are the interests your audience writes about or shares related stories about. You will create better targeting and use these interests to position your products in a context.


Also, emotions play an essential role in the decision-making process. It is critical to understand the emotional drivers that encourage the different target segments to choose a product, e.g. are their needs problem-driven or are their different motivations?

Impact of visuals on ad effectiveness

Let us focus a bit more on the visual aspect and how it impacts the ad performance. As explained before, our personality traits define us and what we like. For instance, let us take Lululemon as an example, an athletic clothing brand. They are planning to target female yoga customers. Let us assume that they identify one large customer group whose main personality trait is Extraversion which the following keywords and description:

Keywords: Social, Dominant, Energetic, Action-oriented

These prospects have a strong engagement with the outside world. They relish interacting with people and place great significance on social interaction. They are perceived as energetic, enthusiastic, positive, and action-oriented, have high group visibility like to talk and assert themselves. They appear to be dominant in social settings. They prefer a brand experience with a bustling environment, chitchats, collaborations, and hashtags.

The other customer group’s main trait is conscientiousness, described as:

Keywords: Disciplined, Reliable, Emphatic, Goal-oriented

These prospects are self-disciplined, pro-active, thoughtful, reliable, dutiful, and strive for achievement against external expectations or measures. They appear to be stubborn, compulsive, perfectionistic and focused. They are fierce planners when following a goal where spontaneous behavior is unappreciated. They are sometimes perceived as tedious and inflexible while being good at impulse control and self-regulation. They tend to be aware of their own behavior’s impact on others, therefore, are seen as empathetic. Though being workaholics, self-care through proper sleep, a healthy diet, and exercise are essential. They are less likely to engage in risky behaviors and take a while to make purchasing decisions.

Accordingly, the Lululemon team could pick the two following visuals and headlines:

Ad for Extraversion audience:

Get the outfit everyone was waiting for!

extraversion ad visual

The visual shows a social setting and emphasizes the social aspect in the written part, matching the extraversion characteristics.

Ad for conscientiousness audience:

An outfit made just for you- reliable and resilient!

conscientiousness ad vidual

The focal point is the individual and reflects discipline and focus visually and in written form.

Consumer Identity/Personality vs. Brand Identity/Personality

We will touch on the correlation between customer personalities because this will be a new chapter. After reading the article, it might be obvious that how your brand presents itself via visuals and communications highly affects what kind of personality it attracts. Therefore, one of the first things a brand should do is to understand who they are trying to sell to and build a personality that aligns with the customers. Feel free to read more about this correlation in this article: Brand Personality and your customer.

Final remarks
It appears to be less complicated now than you thought it would be initially. Once you nail down your personas, you will never sit in front of your computer questioning what to write. By understanding their needs, pain points, emotions, and personalities, creating tailored ad copies will be a walk in the park, I promise!