Psychographic variables - Marketing Strategy

The techniques that have been discussed so far have used either consumer characteristics or behavioral variables as the basis for identifying consumer groupings. Psychographics is amore recent approach that attempts to identify segments based on lifestyle characteristics, attitudes and personality.

Activities Interests Opinions Demographics

Rather than concentrating on single factors such as age, sex and marital status, it attempts to build a broader picture of consumers’ lifestyles based on their activities, interests and opinions. Asking a series of questions about consumers’ activities, interests and opinions as well as questions about product and service usage identifies these lifestyles(see Figure below). Several models have been developed using this approach, all having broad similarities, and two will be discussed in more detail.

The Pareto Effect,also known as the 80/20 rule

The Pareto Effect,also known as the 80/20 rule

The VALs framework

This model was developed in the USA by asking 2713individuals 800 questions. The VALs framework identified nine lifestyle group sin the American population. The model also identified three developmental stages that individuals may pass through. Normally individuals would move from one of the need-driven stages to either an outer-directed or an inner-directed stage.This is a hierarchical model and relatively few would reach the integrated stage (see Figure below).

The framework is divided into a series of segments:

  • The needs-driven segment identified by this model has relatively little purchasing power and is therefore of marginal interest originating organizations. This is a declining group in Western societies.
  • The outer-directed groups are more affluent and are interested in status products that other individuals will notice. They are therefore interested in brand names such as Rolex and Car tier.
  • Inner-directed individuals in contrast are more concerned with their individual needs rather than external values. This is an important sector as they tend to be trendsetter's. This group is also the fastest growing group in Western societies.
  • Very few individuals reach the integrated group.

Questions posed in lifestyle studies

Questions posed in lifestyle studies

The Monitor framework

This framework was developed by the Taylor Nelsonresearch agency. The model similarly divides consumers into three main groups each with its own sub-groups (see Figure below). The advantages of this lifestyle approach are:

  • It takes into account factors other than status and class.
  • Purchasing patterns are encompassed in the lifestyle profile.
  • Well-defined communication channels may emerge as part of the lifestyle.
  • Brand personalities can be built to appeal to specific lifestyles.

The VALs framework developed by Arnold Mitchell at the Stanford Research Institute

The VALs framework developed by Arnold Mitchell at the Stanford Research Institute

These models allow a more rounded view of consumer groups to emerge. Identifying the lifestyle of potential consumer segments allows the marketer to develop sophisticated marketing mixes that tie in with a particular lifestyle group. The lifestyle profile may highlight the type of retail outlets that the consumer group is attracted to, or the publications they are more likely to read. This allows managerial decisions to be made about the distribution and promotional aspects of the mix.

Weaknesses with psychographical models are that they currently tend to reflect a Western social hierarchy and culture. As result these frameworks are not always easily transferred to different social settings. Cultural values may mean that aspirations are different from those represented by Western values of individualism, self-development and status. These models also do not easily represent the flatter social class structures that occur in certain cultures such as Scandinavia.

The Monitor Framework developed by the Taylor Nelson research agency

The Monitor Framework developed by the Taylor Nelson research agency

Some critics of the approach would also argue that these broad lifestyle profiles are not accurate predictors of consumers’ purchasing behavior in any particular market sector. An outer-directed individual who may in general buy status products may not buy branded goods in a market area where there is very little risk of damage to their self-image. The soap powder theybuy is unlikely to be of major significance to the way they feel aboutthemselves or about the way other people see them. However, the car they driveor the clothes they wear are likely to be much more significant indicators oftheir status to both themselves and others. Lifestyle segmentation has led to the proliferation of acronyms to describe consumer groupings.

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