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14 Feb 2014

Valentine Love

In case you missed the blatant pink and red displays in all of the grocery stores, where you practically have to trip over heart-shaped balloons in order to get to the cereal aisle, tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. For some, it is the best day of the year. A chance to pig out on boxes of chocolate and eat Lofthouse sugar cookies till I’m sick? Count me in.

For others, the day is simply one to get through with minimal attention at all costs. Put your head down, avoid the happy couples toting red roses, and enjoy some peace and quiet in your own home, by yourself.

Years ago, perhaps in high school or more likely middle school, passing out Valentine’s was the thing to do. Painstakingly writing out every name of each person in your class and attaching a small box of candy hearts to the back just seemed like tradition. But let’s be honest – there was always one person in your class who you were really handing out the Valentine’s for. That one person who you stared at everyday in math, followed around during recess, and tried to sit next to at lunch. You had such a crush on them that it seemed like you knew them inside and out, and when it came time to choose Valentine’s to hand out to your class, they were the person you were making that all-important decision for.

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Surprisingly, this same tactic appears in marketing today and is what makes some brands so effective. If you’re not quite following, let me explain. Your crush in middle school was a person to be studied. You watched what they ate for lunch and learned that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were on the “do not touch” list, but that they loved turkey and cheese. Reading was their favorite subject, but math was something they could do without. In short, you knew exactly what your crush liked and what they didn’t, thus determining your choice of Valentines on that fateful day in February.

When it comes to marketing, many brands think that it all comes down to ads that will blow their competition out of the water. Design, wording, carefully planned sales and promotions will all win over their potential customers. They are right, but they are also very wrong. What worked several years ago no longer translates to conversions in today’s day and age.

But what are these companies doing wrong? This is where your middle school crush on Valentine’s Day enters the equation. A simple concept called psychographic marketing is making waves and causes me to wonder why it has taken so long for brands to implement this strategy.

Psychographic marketing is the difference between knowing the name of the kid who sat behind you in study hall and knowing what book your crush always pulled off the shelf at the library. It means truly understanding your customers – what makes them tick, how they spend their money, and where they find their fulfillment. After so many years of relying on a general age range and average household income to shape advertising, it is finally time to go deeper in order to make the sale.

The technical definition of psychographic, as defined by Webster’s Dictionary, is “market research or statistics classifying population groups according to psychological variables (as attitudes, values, or fears).” When looked at against demographic information, the differences are much easier to spot.

A typical demographic profile would look something like this:

Age 50-55
Household Income of $50K

A psychographic profile, on the other hand, resembles something closer to this:

Lonely, without many close friends
Concerned about getting money’s worth with any purchase
No plans in place for retirement
Enjoys being outside
Uses career as a way to stay busy

See the difference? Whereas demographics make it easy to blast general advertisements to a very large, faceless group of people, psychographics make it impossible to ignore the nitty gritty of who you are marketing to. Just like in middle school, when you could pick out Valentines cards with ease because you knew exactly what your crush liked, psychographic research takes much of the guesswork out of the game of marketing.

valentine loveImage via

Sure, demographic research is fine, if all you care about is who is buying, but in the rapid world that we live in today, understanding the who just isn’t enough anymore. To be successful, you need the why and that is exactly what you get from nailing down your psychographics.

There are several ways to go about securing these coveted statistics. Many companies choose the survey route, others find themselves using fancy web tools or hiring a marketing firm. Still others like the face-to-face engagement and employ interview tactics. Each method has its benefits and downfalls, but all work towards building a more prosperous marketing campaign.

After gaining psychographic information, marketers must harness its power. A common approach is by creating personas, or customer profiles, from the information received. These profiles must be made as real as possible (essentially they are what you perceive your intended audience to be like) so that you know how to best shape your marketing and sales techniques.

Valentine’s Day only shows itself, in all of it’s heart-shaped pride, but once a year. But the lessons we can learn from this holiday manifest themselves every single time a well-placed, perfectly tailored ad makes its way in front of our faces. Just when you thought you’d forgotten all about those schoolhood crushes, the reality is – they are a lot more important than they seem.


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Search engine marketing expert with 15 years of experience in the industry, working with small mom and pop shops as well as large corporate websites. I have experience with all aspects of inbound marketing, including SEO, Link Building, Social Shares, Usability, Conversions, PPC, Email Marketing, and more.