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article imageOp-Ed: Is your media who you are? Psychographics at work

By Paul Wallis     May 25, 2013 in Business
Sydney - Psychographics, as the name suggests, is classification of audience demographics by content preferences. But it’s also a worthwhile comparison of what you watch and who you are.
Demography is a real science. Check out Wikipedia’s general page for types of demography and you’ll get a few wry laughs out of what’s being studied. You may also throw up. Demography is mass categorization, and the feed lot vibe is never far away.
Psychographics is cuter, kinder, fresher… and includes a reason for psychologists to intrude on demography. Given what psych has done to everything else, it’s a bit of an excursion into gimmes. The demographers aren’t psychologists, and the psychologists aren’t demographers. The result is pleasantly fuzzy and probably has conversation software, too.
Easy has a useful page on the subject of psychodemography. It’s useful not only because it defines some very basic things clearly, but because Google’s damn searches instantly equate “media” with “social media”. Thanks, guys, you’re really making binary look smart.
Sayeth Easy
Psychographics is a generic term for consumers’ personality traits (serious, funny, conservative), beliefs and attitudes about social issues (opinions about abortion, environment, globalization), personal interests (music, sports, movie going), and shopping orientations (recreational shoppers, price-sensitive shoppers, convenience shoppers). Mazda, for example, doesn’t define its target audience by age, income or gender, but by psychographic principles. Mazda targets people who have a need for self-expression, are young at heart, and love to drive.
A warm, humanistic definition of a subject which is no doubt studied by warm, human definers. Banal as this version of humanity may be, it does raise the issue of people’s ability to watch what they actually want to watch and use the media they want. The consumer only has the choices provided, not necessarily their own preferences.
Consider the “Mazda definition”. A need for self-expression, young at heart, and love to drive. Really pins it down, doesn’t it. Could be an artist who likes doing drive-by graffiti, too.
There’s a problem with this approach:
Say you’re a creative person, spiritual, anti-materialistic to the extent you can be, and interested in exploring new ideas. How do hard-working hypocrites sell toothpaste to a freak like you? Why can’t you be more like the demographic?
Say you’re a heil-everything conformist, no interests, no life, and a mind like a used McHappy Meal container. How are highly paid, highly motivated people supposed to sell to you if they define you as having any personal preferences? You thoughtless bastard, you.
Worse, perhaps: What if you’re actually in need of self-expression, young at heart (try a few other places as well) and love to drive. Will a car really express anything but Model XXXXA 1234? How young at heart or anywhere else can you be in a veg-mobile? You do get to drive, but in your self-expressive youth, you may drive to somewhere where you can get another car, too.
It gets better. You can, if you’re prepared to show some real humanity, get classified to death. In fact, you can get unclassified clear out of the human race. Take it further and try to describe your psychodemographic using the methods expounded by the remarkably useful for the UK market segmentation of “people”:
 Wealthy achievers
 Affluent greys
 Flourishing families
 Prosperous professionals
 Educated urbanites
 Aspiring singles
 Secure families
 Settled suburbia
 Prudent pensioners
 Asian communities
 Post industrial families
 Blue collar roots
 Struggling families
 High rise hardship
 Inner city adversity
 Unclassified
See any characteristics except material considerations? Doesn’t quite fit the psychodemographic cabbage patch, does it? The problem here is that these measures are equally valid, if you want to discuss the likelihood of anyone buying whatever you’re flogging and paying attention on media outlets.
Obviously, the problem is people. As you add qualifiers and categories, you add limits. What if someone doesn’t want to need self-expression while enjoying the thrills of inner city adversity? Self-expression in that environment using a car can be a bit different from the Disney version of buying a new car. You may steal it instead, and cut out the middleman, use it to rob a bank and become one of the wealthy achievers, driving around in a Ferrari.
OK, market research and anthropology don’t always get along. Nor do people and definitions. Odd coincidence. This is how you get the media you’re given. Some bit of software will use these categories to decide that you need a pornographic toaster or a dating agency for psychotic gerbils, and this will be attached to your media. You’ve been tagged, and you know it.
The other side to this ridiculous exercise is that you may start questioning your choice of media. One of the reasons YouTube is so popular is no more or less than the fact you can get off the leash. YouTube will recommend things all in one place and send you emails, secure in the knowledge that you can happily ignore them and keep right on using their site.
The net isn’t so much a revelation as an escape route for humanity back to things it actually wants to know about. You declassify yourself.
When someone finally gets around to creating the Church of Digital Journal, I, resident incredibly expensive spiritual guide and sage, will be happy to guide you to a range of methods of doing nothing but finding things which don’t include living with a demographic. I’m a second generation advertising person, and believe me, my disbelief is never suspended. I even question the taste of Luminosity ads on YouTube, how’s that for avant-garde?
Meanwhile- Think about it, because it’s an interesting question: Is your media who you are? It’s probably not, except in a few favourite cases. Remember, too- There’s always music and real art. They’re unkillable, and your right to identity should be, too.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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