Brian Wing
AE Articles 24-25

Psychographic segmentation is the process whereby consumer markets are divided up into segments based upon similarities in lifestyles, attitudes, personality type, social class, and buying behavior.  In what specific ways do you envision psychographic research and findings helping marketing planning and strategy in the next decade?

Psychographic research methods appear to hold the future for marketing research.  As times change new methodologies have been developed in segmenting markets and the trend is maturing from the standard demographics normally associated with market research.  Companies are adjusting strategies based on better understanding customer needs and trying to figure out why consumers buy the way the buy.  This migration will shape the marketing strategies of the next decade and perhaps beyond.

Market research has evolved over the past few decades, from focus groups, to market segmentation.  All in an attempt to better understand consumer purchasing behavior so that a company might be able to better deliver to that potential customer.[1] The latest trend in the progression of market research is psychographics.  This is understanding what emotional drivers exist that lead customers to behave the way they do, and to help understand the complex factors that lead up to consumption.  In “Sowing the Seeds” the author discusses that consumers do not necessarily behave in a linear fashion as much of marketing studies have documented for years.  Rather, consumers exist in many stages of the “customer lifecycle” at once.  It is not always so clinical: “becoming aware, trial, consideration, purchase, repeat.[2]”   With the increased availability of information at the consumer’s fingertips, a person fresh off the street may be ready to purchase, and not need to be made aware of a product’s existence by salespeople.

Future research strategies should be focusing on how customers feel about brands and how that leads to consumer behavior.  An article by Bob Kaden, a marketing  blogger[3] discusses that it is essential for the field of psychographic and ethnographic research to progress.  He reinforces the idea that it is consumer emotion that really drives behavior.  It is that attachment to a brand that makes it successful.

With advances in psychographic market research methods companies should be better able to anticipate and provide the products that their customers demand.  As with the article “You Choose, You Lose,” the author Leon talks about how the heavy-duty truck industry is changing the way it offers its products[4].  Previously, these heavy-duty truck companies offered completely custom built trucks, allowing their customers to pick and choose every last aspect of the truck that was being built for them.  The shift toward a standard or limited option, although not new to the average consumer, is new to this industry.  By conducting market research on what trucking companies really need from a heavy-duty truck, Mack or Volvo should be able to fully understand what their customers need and eliminate the overhead on themselves of providing completely custom rigs.

In conclusion, finding the emotional needs of consumers is the primary focus of conducting psychographic research.  Segmenting consumers into ever narrowing groups allows a company to put a fine point focus on their customer.  New services are available to companies to help find that focus.  For example one research group Market Segmentation Services[5] will help conduct surveys, collect data, host focus groups then analyze that data and give statistical analyses to better help find your segment.  As these methods become more commonplace I would envision companies having psychographic/ethnographic departments, for larger corporations.  While smaller companies will most likely benefit from consultancies such as Market Segmentation Services, or similar agencies.  As newer methods for research become commonplace they will continue to be integrated into the standard marketing strategy.  Soon psychography will be just another word overheard in the cubicles of the marketing department.


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Market_segmentation

[2] AE 24, P91 paragraph 3

[3] http://www.customerthink.com/blog/the_final_challenge_for_research

[4] AE 25

[5] http://www.marketsegmentation.com/psychographic_segmentation.html

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