Psychographics can be best described as a science that studies how
react to the world around them according to their values and lifestyles.
As a form of social
group analysis it can be used
to help anticipate the impact of designs as they are being created,
thereby creating more effective communication strategies, tools,
environments, etc. As a tool in Communication Psychology,
us better understand and have optimized impact on whomever we are
communicating to -- understanding what they might respond to
positively or negatively; where their psychological, emotional and even
spiritual switches might be found and how best to speak directly to
those 'switches' if desired. Of all the tools
to use in refining communication efforts, psychographics, which
we are discussing here, and psychodynamics, which we discuss elsewhere, are reasonably regarded as among the most powerful.
The science as we know it today was developed in the 1960s
by Arnold Mitchell at Stanford Research Institute in California. Originating from his
work in social statistics as a mathematician at Princeton University,
it emerged as original breakthroughs in his unique doctoral work in Psychology.
'Psychographic profiling' categorizes people into unique
(profiles) based primarily upon their apparent values and lifestyles.
more standard age/gender/income demographic definitions, although
and included in the research, collectively play a significantly lesser role in the
formula. As the world changes, all typologies will experience changes
in their nature, and the way we communicate to them will also have to
But Mitchell was uniquely insightful as to the fundamentals of what
typologies distinct from each other. If we dig deeper into these
and compare it with what we have learned about individual and group
in other animals, we are offered new insights into how similar or
we are from some of the other creatures and societies we share the
Mitchell's primary typologies break the largest cross-section of North
American adults into eight primary profiles:
PRIMARY TYPOLOGIES -- and parts of their
|Survivors -- mostly older, poor, removed from
|Sustainers -- mostly young, struggling, angry,
|Belongers -- traditional, home is domain, rather
fit in than stand
|Emulators -- ambitious, competitive, upwardly
mobile, material pursuit|
|Experientials -- want direct experience, inner
growth, art and home|
|I-Am-Mes -- young, exhibitionist, impulsive,
|Achievers -- leaders, status focus,
|Societally Conscious -- responsibility,
conservation, desire to heal|
The key is to understand that each of these groups or
typologies -- according to values and lifestyle influences -- develops
its own unique 'language'; of shapes, symbols, semiotics, images,
colors and even words. A color which turns one group on (positive
may turn another group off (negative impact), be uninteresting (neutral
negative) to some and be almost invisible (without impact -- neutral or
negative) to other groups. The same goes for words, shapes,
textures and more.
Note: sometimes you may want to
certain groups but repel (or even become invisible) to other groups. You can
this all with the same graphical components. For example: you might want to design the
to a building to attract certain groups and repel others.
The work is more than a social science. It help define and understand
what each group might be attracted to or repelled by and, most importantly: why.
In putting together an advertisement which must have impact
on a large
combination of typologies, you might find certain colors are positive
some groups but negative to others and neutral to others. So as you
your components as tools -- words, colors, shapes, symbols, textures,
, etc. -- you ensure you have at least one or more 'positive'
for each group. You add focus to the components which will have the
overall positive impact. Then you eliminate (as much as possible) any
the negatives or, at least, offer neutral elements in their place.
this is achievable more often than not. Detail and hard work pay off.
even less than perfect circumstances, the outcome of this approach will
usually still leave you well ahead of whatever finished product would
in second place.
As fast as things change, whether you go back 5 years, 20
years, 200 years or more, the constancies of Mitchell's first
have proven themselves as relative constants. Logistically they are reasonably easy to
The proportion of the population in any of the typologies will vary
from generation to generation and century to century. But the
and formulas are reasonably constant.
Take any era:
1) chose the typology (priorities and needs), and
2) just add circumstance: technology (what), economy (how much),
(how distributed) and ... presto ...
3) psychology (response)!
In fact, it is the humanity factor of Mitchell's
which offer us the deepest insights into all groups. We must
that there is always the fear that certain trends will influence some
to go beyond adjusting outward aspects of these typologies and steer
too far away from the core aspects of the typology and lose sight of
'primal' characteristics and nature. It is these fundamental
that we should be most concerned with keeping pure, because all other
are sure to be in flux.
The creation of new typologies -- because of the constant
change -- means that each new typology is (like a computer) one step
of being defunct as soon as it is created. The maintenance is
for most. Those who perceive and utilize Mitchell's categorization as
rather than typologies may be correct in needing to change them every
or half decade or year, or half year, etc. The results of their
can sometimes be very useful and exacting for the moment in time they
examining and the immediate market they assess. It can sometimes work
well, most especially for the impulse markets and short-run
I admit I am defending his primal work as it has repeatedly proven
itself to be most effective in practical application than any of its
'children' -- Harold)
But changing stereotypes cannot fully account for (nor
deeper components of continuity which are organic and natural to most
and groups and even species. Mitchell saw beyond the changing
People hold some things sacred for many reasons that they themselves
not explain if asked. So we must acknowledge the danger: Short
change can work to the sacrifice of long term continuity. The larger
and cycles are the hardest to master, but worth the time because they
the greatest rewards (think dimensionally here).
SRI, where Mitchell evolved his work on
extended it own research into successfully creating generations of
newer typologies, and continue to lead the field in that work. SRI has
often been the exception to the rules, as was Mitchell himself.
We believe that two major contributing factors to Mitchell's
(beyond his own obvious genius with social statistics and psychology)
his honest respect and love for the people he studied -- the dignity to
look directly into their hearts and minds with empathy in the search
understanding -- and an intuitive sense of social dynamics which was
by a unique understanding (or belief or interpretation) of how
With modern tools such as psychodynamics, psychodrama and
in hand we discover the following:
Marketing -- or any other purposeful
communication effort -- becomes a
practical, rather than vague art.
Design becomes a science -- a very creative science.
Production, with its subtle opportunities, becomes a
Communication becomes the study of humanity.
Harold Finkleman, Calgary, Canada