Actionable tips, community conversations, and marketing inspiration.

The Sorting Hat of Marketing: Psychographic Segmentation

Angie Tran

Content Marketing Manager @ AdRoll

Topics Covered:

Let’s talk about the Sorting Hat in Harry Potter. When you place the sentient hat on a student’s head, it can magically filter through their values and attitudes to determine which of the Houses they belong to. The brave and courageous go to Gryffindor; the cunning and resourceful sort into Slytherin; the kind and hardworking filter into Hufflepuff; and the intelligent and creative belong in Ravenclaw. Hogwarts put the Houses in place for a reason — to attract a diverse group of students. In the marketing (and muggle) world, psychographic segmentation is similar to the Sorting Hat, except the goal is to attract a diverse group of customers.

Image: Mashable

Psychographic segmentation is a method of dividing target audiences based on consumer psychology. This type of segmentation focuses on the intrinsic traits of a consumer (which can range from values and personalities to interests and attitudes) to match them with their specific needs. 

While knowing customer details such as age, location, and gender are undoubtedly important, just understanding those surface facts aren’t enough — you have to dive in deeper and know why a customer buys.

Let’s further explore what psychographic segmentation is and how it could benefit your company. 

Types of Segmentation

There are four types of market segmentation: geographic, demographic, behavioral, and psychographic. Marketers break their target market into these smaller segments to optimize marketing and sales efforts.

In a way, they all drive one another — for example, where someone lives (geographic) could determine their attitudes (behavioral), which are driven by values (psychographic). 

Psychographic Segmentation in a Nutshell 

Psychographic segmentation is when you segment consumer groups down according to their beliefs, values, and reasons for being. 

This type of segmentation is valuable because it prevents you from falling into the one-size-fits-all marketing trap. It enables you to position the same product differently for different types of people, meaning you can attract a diverse group of customers without changing the service or product. 

Psychographic Segmentation Factors

There are three common psychographic segmentation factors: social standing, lifestyle, and personality. 

Use these factors to inform your segmentation decisions: 

Social Standing: The social status of your potential customers has a direct correlation to how they make purchasing decisions. 

For instance, let’s say you’re trying to sell a Cleansweep Seven to a wizard with high social standing — it probably wouldn’t fly (pun intended). Or, magical comparisons aside, a wealthy John Doe who’s used to living a life of high luxury probably wouldn’t be caught dead purchasing a certain car, even if it’s perfect for him. (However, you could improve your chances of selling this car to John Doe if it’s marketed right, like with sleek commercials or celebrity endorsements).

Lifestyle: The lifestyle of your target customer is a critical factor in whether your products or service will appeal to them. 

To get a real understanding of your customers, analyze the most crucial dimensions of their lifestyle, including:

  • Interests: Find out what interests your customers. This could be anything, including home, recreation, fashion, food, or family. 
  • Opinions: Opinions manipulate how people look at new products or services before they’ve even tried them. What are your consumers’ opinions on themselves? On social and political issues? What are their views on other products and services?
  • Activities: How often do they engage in certain activities? Are the activities required, or a hobby? How much do these activities cost? 

For example, a homebody might enjoy a Netflix subscription or nice kitchen equipment. On the wizarding flipside, a quidditch player probably buys a lot of quidditch gear: quaffles, snitches, etc.

Personality: Your personality is comprised of everything from your beliefs and motivations to your values and morals. By digging into consumers’ personalities, you can find their purchasing motivations.

While there aren’t set personality types to work off of, here are five common subcategories that your business can use: 

  • Openness: These people are open to experiencing things. They’re intellectually curious and embrace change. 
  • Conscientiousness: This type is responsible and self-disciplined. They always strive to do their best and are excellent at sticking to schedules. (Hey, Ravenclaws!) 
  • Extraversion: This group doesn’t shy away from attention or social situations — they thrive in them. (Ahem, Gryffindors.)
  • Agreeableness: These are the socially conscious people — they get along with everyone and are known for their compassion and caring. (Looking at you, Hufflepuffs.)
  • Neuroticism: This group is all about emotional sensitivity. They’re easily stressed and frazzled. 

Note that as you conduct psychographic segmentation, you may find that there are more personality traits relevant to your goals.

How to Collect Psychographic Segmentation Data 

While it’s not a wise idea to directly ask a consumer whether they’re neurotic or not, you’ll get the answers you need by asking the right questions and reading between the lines. There are multiple ways to collect psychographic data, but here are a few ideas to get you started:

Surveys: Use open-ended questions such as, “how do you feel about X?” or close-ended, where they’re able to select an answer from a list. Create questions that focus on customers’ motivations instead of directly about the product. When asking a close-ended question, consider formatting the answers as such: 

1 = Strongly Disagree
2 = Disagree
3 = Neither Agree nor Disagree
4 = Agree
5 = Strongly Agree

Customer interviews: This is one of the most effective ways to gather psychographic data. Conduct interviews with your customers — the satisfied and dissatisfied ones. Consider doing them over the phone, video call, or even in person to gauge their reactions. 

Quizzes: Quizzes are one of the most underrated ways to glean valuable customer insight. They generally attract high engagement and can be easily spread across all social media channels. With quizzes, you can ask both open and close-ended questions without it feeling like a generic survey. 

Accio, Data! 

If only it's as easy as waving a wand to collect the data needed to segment your customers. The hard work is worth it, though — once you determine consumers’ lifestyle choices, social statuses, and personalities, you can apply them to your marketing strategies to start seeing results. When you understand what’s important to your customers, you’ll know how to attract and motivate them to purchase. 

You’ll know precisely how to give consumers what they want — and that’s the real magic of psychographic segmentation. 

Did you know there's a way to get inside the mind of your customers — to think like they think? For the D2C marketers among us looking to advance to next-level personalization, check out this webinar on psychometrics.

Explore Next

Topics Covered: