“Do you know that THEY segment us by our psychologies and behaviours and figure out through algorithms which promotions should appear on our feeds? Big Brother is watching!” said a particularly paranoid colleague to me one day. Though I joined in on a heartfelt debate into privacy concerns on social media at the time, what struck me was the separate topic of psychographic segmentation.
Having been a qualitative market researcher for most of my working life, I have been part of many psychographic segmentation exercises for various clients. The objective of all of these exercises were to create a manifest of the different types of consumers for a particular product – separated by different values, behaviours, drivers behind the same, what they would like and how they would react. This detailed information helped companies adjust their offerings and marketing messages so that they could achieve maximum connect with the consumer.
In fact, most us keep doing psychographic segmentation subconsciously through our lives. It determines our friends groups, our careers, the places we travel to and even who we marry! It is what determines most decisions in our lives since we filter people to check on compatibility – potential friends / spouse to check for a match. We constantly make decisions based on whether it is in sync with our values and beliefs , whether the interests match. These are all examples of psychographic segmentation – the process of grouping people according to their behaviors and personalities. The biggest brands are masters of psychographic segmentation and manage to create consumer worlds through the connect they manage to build.
Fifteen years back, we had to do ethnographic immersions with respondents for days in order to fully create broad psychographic profiles. Today, a lot of the data is available on social media and the millennials are happy to group themselves into tribes as well, feeding the information into capsules that create targeted profiles.
Traditionally, appealing to the consumer through their personal information is how marketers increase chances of a sale. What is happening now through algorithms in social media, is a more refined method of the same thing. However, the danger now is that it is a ‘target of one’ now rather than a broad segment that is being targeted , making the consumer feel vulnerable. Broad segments are perhaps a thing of the past, tailored and narrow segments that target individuals is the order of the day- consumer indignance be d****d!