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Understanding psychographics and how it can be used as a marketing tool

            The term psychographics has been in the news after a British data company is accused of illegally accessing the data of millions of Facebook users to help candidates, even those “fundamentally flawed” ones, win the national elections.


            Advanced technologies made it possible to collect massive data and use it strategically to influence the decision of people who are using familiar social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Psychographics is different from demographics

            Strategic Communications Laboratories (SCL Group), the parent company of Cambridge Analytica accused by Facebook of illegally accessing the private data of roughly 87 million users, boasted to have helped a client in the Philippines win the 2016 national elections. Cambridge Analytica, who had helped Donald Trump win the U.S. presidency, generated information based on psychographic data. Unlike demographics data, psychographics could be a person’s lifestyle, interests, values and/or opinion. As a marketing tool, understanding psychographics data is important as it could give an idea of “why” a particular group of people patronizes a particular product. Before the advent of the internet, marketers used mainly survey companies when making direct mailings.

            Cambridge Analytica, however, is accused of illegally using the private data of Facebook users generated by the personal app “thisisyourdigitallife” created by Dr. Aleksandr Kogan. Those who had downloaded the app allowed to share their private information with its developers like addresses and interests. The app also accessed the data in the contact lists (including friends of friends) of roughly 270,000 Facebook users who had downloaded it. The social media giant is currently in hot water for allegedly failing to protect the data of its users.

The effectiveness of psychographics data to influence public opinion

            A recent article explained how SCL helped its “male client” in the Philippines win the national elections. It turns out that SCL also helped former Mayor in Davao City and now president Rodrigo Duterte during the 2016 Philippine national elections. SCL claimed to have highlighted Duterte’s personality after their research revealed that a significant percentage of voters may prefer a tough and decisive person which is way different from the qualities of then president Benigno Aquino III. The data company then used their findings for Duterte to appeal to the majority of voters leading to his victory. According to a marketing company, once a brand or product understands what’s important to its customers, it will know what and how to appeal to its customers. In Duterte’s case, SCL swayed the opinions of Filipino voters by rebranding him as a “strong, no-nonsense man of action.” SCL projected Duterte on social media platforms as a “tough crime fighter.”

            Using psychographics data effectively could help marketers choose what topics to write, or what kind of photos to use in advertisements, for them to greatly appeal to their target market. Psychographics could help marketers gain a clearer picture of why people continue to patronize a brand. Lastly, psychographics could be of great help for mediocre brands or products to be considered by their target market.  

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