Psychographic sampling – a new approach for online research?

Pete Cape

Psychographic segmentation is not new: it has been in and out of vogue for at least the past 40 years. In many instances the driving force behind the use of psychographics has been the advertising industry, as it struggled to get beyond simple demographic classifications when pitching lifestyle-targeted advertising. Ruth Ziff (of Benton and Bowles, Inc. as it was then), writing in the Journal of Advertising Research in 1971, put it succinctly: 'important demographic distinctions simply do not exist in many product categories and even when they do one cannot intelligently decide how to attract any particular market segment unless one knows why the distinctions exist'.

In other words, if a product appeals to consumers across all demographic groups in similar proportions how can you target likely consumers? You would miss as many as you hit by relying on demographics. Psychographics, then, is useful in terms of advertising efficiency. In general usage nowadays, the term psycho-graphics has also been extended to include life-stage or life-cycle measures and even geodemographics. In each instance the aim has been to provide greater granularity and greater explanatory power.