What is Psychographic Data?

Last updated by Abi Tyas Tunggal on December 2, 2019

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Psychographic data is information about a person's values, attitudes, interests and personality traits that is used to build a profile of how an individual views the world, the things that interest them and what triggers motivate them to action. 

Table of contents

  1. What is psychographics used for?
  2. Who uses psychographic information?
  3. What is the difference between demographic data and psychographic data?
  4. What is an example of psychographic profiling?
  5. Does psychographic targeting work?
  6. What are the different types of psychographic data?
  7. How is psychographic information collected?
  8. Why does psychographic data need to be protected?
  9. How UpGuard can protect your customers' psychographic data

1. What is psychographics used for?

Alongside demographic data, psychographics attempts to capture the psychological state or some particular combination of activities, interests and opinions (AIOs), that imply a proclivity to an advertisement, opinion or product.

The goal of psychographic research is to create a more complete psychographic profile of the target audience to improve conversion rates, personalize messaging, ask the right questions, swing elections or change opinions.  

2. Who uses psychographic information?

Almost every industry is using some form of behavioral data collection and psychographic targeting to move beyond demographic groups (e.g. males born after 1990, females 50+ or middle class New Yorkers) with the hope of improved advertising spend, personalized landing pages and psychographic segmentation of email marketing. 

The rationale behind this marketing strategy is that demographic is a blunt instrument that can be sharpened by understanding different personality traits. 

For example, brands may run marketing campaigns that are enriched with psychographic information to drive sales of a specific product, support a cause or change votes. They may also use the information to decide which influencers have the most cross-over with their ideal customer to peddle a new ecommerce product. 

3. What is the difference between demographic data and psychographic data?

Demographic data is statistically socio-economic in nature, such as population, race, income, education and employment. It usually factors in specific geographic location and time. 

When referring to population demographic data, characteristics include area, population growth, birth rate, ethnicity, density and distribution. 

Contrast this with psychographic data which is concerned with a person's activities, interests and opinions (AIOs). The key thing to takeaway is that identical demographic groups can have different psychographic data.  

Demographics VS Psychographics Infographic

Let's walkthrough an example, imagine two women with identical demographic information:

  • Married
  • Two children aged three and five
  • Income of $100,000 a year
  • Live in Mission District, San Francisco

Based on demographic data, the two women look identical and have the same buyer persona.

However, psychographic research shows that one woman is interested in extreme sports, let's call her Sally, while the other, Sam, prefers staying indoors and enjoys knitting.

This would suggest that despite having identical demographic data, they aren't in the same target market. 

For example, a Facebook ad focused on a new knitting app would be wasted if it targets Sally but well targeted for Sam.

The idea behind psychographic marketing is that organizations can target their ideal customer and better understand what digital marketing efforts appeal to their target customer.  

The key takeaway is that despite having identical demographic data, these two women probably have different consumer behavior. 

This is why psychographic information has become a key part of offline and online marketing. 

4. What is an example of psychographic profiling?

The most famous example of psychographic profiling was Donald Trump's use of the political consulting firms Aggregate IQ and Cambridge Analytica

The firms used a Facebook app, myPersonality, that allowed users to take a psychometric tests and see how they ranked against the 'Big Five' personality traits of openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism (OCEAN). 

OCEAN Psychographic Model

This data was then grouped with other data (e.g. Facebook Likes) to build psychographic targeting pools that use personalized ads designed to convert or secure their vote for Trump. 

It was later revealed that the firms were also connected to Brexit and Canadian politics

5. Does psychographic targeting work?

There are many conflicting opinions on the effectiveness of psychographic targeting, Antonio Garcia Martinez, ex-Facebook product manager, said "Cambridge Analytica’s data theft and targeting efforts probably didn’t even work, but Facebook should be embarrassed anyhow".

Contrast this to the UK Parliament's DCMS (Digital, Culture, Media and Sports) Committee chairman saying "Democracy is at risk from the malicious and relentless targeting of citizens with disinformation and personalized dark adverts from unidentifiable sources, delivered through the major social media platforms we use everyday".

The truth is likely somewhere in the middle, which is why psychographic information is often the target of corporate espionage and cyber criminals. 

Studies show that psychographic advertising makes ads more engaging, measured by the number of clicks, but it's less clear whether or not ads become more persuasive. 

For example, Trump's success may have been driven by the use of direct-response advertising (e.g. Facebook ads) which can be measured and improve far easier and faster than traditional advertising techniques rather than psychographic targeting. 

6. What are the different types of psychographic data?

There are three main types of psychographic data:

  1. Activities: Activities are what people do, e.g. skiing, reading, fishing, weightlifting etc. For example, if you know the potential customer has no interest in cybersecurity, then targeting them for your cybersecurity tool would be useless beyond reducing unnecessary ad spend. Generally, this type of psychographic data is used to better target potential customers via ads, write better content and approach selling in a more targeted way.
  2. Interests: Interests are inclinations and affinities, e.g. Are they interested in risk assessment methodologies?
  3. Opinions: Understanding your target markets opinions can help you introduce your brand in a way that meets their expectations and makes them feel as though you have shared values. 

7. How is psychographic information collected?

There are several ways to gather and analyze psychographic data:

  • Market research
  • Focus groups
  • Customer interviews
  • Customer surveys
  • Questionnaires
  • Quizzes
  • Psycholinguistic dictionaries
  • Website analytics (e.g. Google Analytics)
  • Browsing data
  • Social media
  • Third-party analytics
  • Data breaches and data leaks (e.g. third-party Facebook data leaks)

With each additional data source, researchers gain more data points and in theory, insight into consumer preferences. 

8. Why does psychographic data need to be protected?

Just as marketers use psychographic information to improve advertisements, cyber criminals may take advantage of OPSEC failures, email spoofing and psychographic targeting to improve the effectiveness of cyber attacks and social engineering, such as phishing and spear phishing.

Using the Cambridge Analytica example, the biggest concern is not whether Trump used the data to win the election but the fact that Facebook leaked the data in the first place.

If you are creating or processing psychographic data, invest in a cybersecurity tool designed to prevent data breaches and data leaks

Chances are if your organization is exposing psychographic data, you are also exposing other types of sensitive data like personally identifiable information (PII) or protected health information (PHI)

Once this data is exposed, the number of cyber threats  and attack vectors you are exposed to increases. For example, a cyber criminal may use psychographic targeting to improve spear phishing campaigns designed to install ransomware or another type of malware.

The other risk is increased media scrutiny, reputational and regulatory damages. Look at what happened to Facebook during the Cambridge Analytica and Aggregate IQ scandal. 

Beyond your organization, you need to be thinking about third-party risk and fourth-party risk, the cybersecurity risk that your third-party vendors and their vendors introduce. 

Whether or not your organization believes in the power of psychographic targeting, you should be securing against data breaches and data leaks by monitoring for leaked credentials and publicly exposed cloud storage.

Vendor risk management is foundational to mitigating vendor risk, invest in a tool to automate vendor risk management by monitoring third-party vendors' security ratings and sending vendor security questionnaires

If you're not sure where to start, find a vendor risk assessment questionnaire template, ask to see your vendors' information security policy and SOC 2 report, and develop a robust third-party risk management framework.

With the average cost of a data breach reaching $3.92 million, it pays to invest in data breach and data leak protection.

9. How UpGuard can protect your customers' psychographic data

Companies like Intercontinental Exchange, Taylor Fry, The New York Stock Exchange, IAG, First State Super, Akamai, Morningstar and NASA use UpGuard to protect their data, prevent data breaches, monitor for vulnerabilities and avoid malware.

We're experts in data breaches, our data breach research has been featured in the New York Times, Bloomberg, Washington Post, Forbes, Reuters and Techcrunch.

UpGuard Vendor Risk can minimize the amount of time your organization spends managing third-party relationships by automating vendor questionnaires and continuously monitoring your vendors' security posture over time while benchmarking them against their industry. 

Each vendor is rated against 50+ criteria such as presence of SSL and DNSSEC, as well as risk of domain hijacking, man-in-the-middle attacks and email spoofing for phishing.

Each day, our platform scores your vendors with a Cyber Security Rating out of 950. We'll alert you if their score drops.

UpGuard BreachSight can help monitor for DMARC, combat typosquatting, prevent data breaches and data leaks, avoiding regulatory fines and protecting your customer's trust through cyber security ratings and continuous exposure detection. 

If you'd like to see how your organization stacks up, get your free Cyber Security Rating

Book a demo today.


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