Psychographic profiling and brand contextualisation

brain, smartWhen Red Bull sent Felix Baumgartner on a space diving mission, it did so to reiterate its brand values of pushing the boundary, chasing the dream, and ‘giving you wings’, targeting millennials for whom texting is a dialect, the stunt broke records in live streaming and branded social media engagement.

Felix’s jump is not a marketing anomaly in Red Bull’s efforts to engage with its core audience. From paper planes designing, cliff diving and beat boxing competitions to shows combining break dance and Bach’s music; the brand understands its consumers and shoppers on an intrinsic level that goes beyond number crunching and data analytics. It gets their pulse. This, more than anything else, makes Red Bull unbeatable by competition.

At a recent MashUp workshop on psychographic profiling the focus was getting deep into heads of shoppers to understand their lifestyle, motivations, daily habits, and what makes them function as they do. We encouraged clients to put faces to names and build personalities around their shoppers – create their psychographic profiles.

The concept of psychographic profiling is not new; marketers have been exploring it since the 70s. Its importance in customer profiling in an internet era has seen the function evolve by:

  • Shifting from brand to customer focus as companies look outward and ask more questions
  • Contextualising psychographic profiling around the customer/shopper to build relevance and value for the product within their lives
  • Involving different internal departments in the process to get a more holistic view of consumers and shoppers

Brands are keener than ever to gauge how the product or category fits in the shopper’s lifestyle and focusing less on trying to just link their attributes to customers. Profiling a mother, how she spends her time, makes lists on mobiles, juggles school trips and work, her interests, nationality and opinions helps brands understand her motivation for shopping in their category.

Validating this information against shopper research and building the visual profile helps them pre-empt her movements instore and/0r online.

Understanding the shopper at this innate level is crucial as the relevance of the product changes right through the shopper journey (pre, during, and post) – more rapidly than before.

Psychographic profiling helps contextualise products and the experience, not just instore and online, but through the entire brand relationship. Amazon’s dash, Iconic’s delivery within hours of order placement, and Red Bull’s storytelling around customer interests are testament to psychographic profiling done well. To do so in a hyper-connected world, different teams have to work together to realise the potential.

During the workshop, cross-functional teams generated the psychographic profiling output across the company. The activity extended beyond marketing and sales, as everyone needed to understand the shopper. Teams were taken through tools that, in an age of content marketing, helps them ‘get’ customers on deeper levels (attitudes, feelings, opinions, patterns, beliefs) and, subsequently engage better and secure valuable dialogue.

Leveraging collective knowledge by asking questions and breaking down silos is the key to identifying the rightful place of the brand within the shopper’s journey and relationship. Effective psychographic profiling is the first step to getting a bigger share of wallet and staying relevant through technological, lifestyle and market changes.

Karen Spear is GM of MashUp. She can be contacted at


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