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Psychographics versus Demographics

Written By: Dr. Adnan Ahmed Qureshi

Being a branding guy is enough to drive you nuts. One reason why it can make you crazy is that people will ask for your advice – and pay decent dollars for it. I , might add – only to ignore you and the advice they paid for.

It’s not that these are disagreeable people, mind you. These are simply people who refuse to accept how profoundly the web has changed marketing and banding strategies. Sure, everyone has their own theories about how to promote their business on the web, but by far, the most whacked out are the Number Nuts.

At the risk of generating a few hundred thousand nasty e-mails, allow me to explain. Adnan’s Second Law of Corporate Motivation clearly states that, “90 percent of the world is driven by fear, while the remaining 10 percent puts fear into the first 90 percent”. Number Nuts fall into the first 90 percent, who figure if they bolster their delusional strategies with enough numbers, they won’t lose their jobs because they can always blame bad data.

Ah I can tell by the twinkle in your eye that you can already identify at least six of them in your office, right? For that reason, most Number Nuts (typically escaped inmates from large ad or media agencies) cling to outmoded techniques such as demographics for marketing on the web.

Demographics is the practice of dumping people’s characteristics into quantifiable categories and then basing your strategy on those numbers. It could be “white, male mental patients between the ages of 26 and 34″ or “female psychiatrists in the Detroit area over the age of 40″. You get the idea.

The problem with demographics is that it worked for the TV shows like Bewitched. After all, there were, what, eight channels for 150 million people in those days? You either watched Bozo, returns of Fireball 500, or – in drastic cases – turned off the tube. Back then, you could pretty well rely on the fact that more guys than girls would be watching Gunsmoke, and that viewers of the Lawrance Welk Show could qualify as certified antiques.

But the web has at least 40 bazillion channels, each uploading its own show every five nanosecond – each viewable at any time of the day. Which means that even members of a well-defined demographic group pursue their own individual interests, whenever and wherever they choose. What it means is that real strategy for marketing on the web is psychographics.

Psychographics are way cooler than demos, because psychos toss out all that fake number stuff that’s really only meant to justify people’s jobs. When you go psycho, you don’t worry about how many girls in Wisconsin are between the ages of 18 and 24. You get much, much more closer to your audience’s brains, by murmuring to yourself, for example, “Hmmm, if I want to reach people who enjoy eating chocolate in bed, where would I find them?”

Then you start sponsoring and crosspromoting on chocolate sites. Bed sites. Maybe even toffee and pillow sites. The point is that because the web is so niched, its users flock to their own interests, making them much easier to target and sell.

Don’t forget, too, that being interactive, psychographically matched people are far more likely to exchange referrals and interact with each other. That’s the reason why I almost always recommend choosing psychographics over demographics on the web. Oh, the Number Nuts will still try to dazzle you with all sorts of data. But believe me, only one number that really counts: your ad-to-sales ratio. My advice is to go psycho. It’s the one sure way to preserve your sanity.

About the Author

Dr. Adnan Ahmed Qureshi holds a Ph.D. in IT with specialization in the induction of information technology in developing countries. He is the former Editor of Datalog, Computech, ISAsia and columnist for The News International. At present he is working as Senior Industry Analyst and IT Consultant.

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