How Not to Give Away a Jet: Demographic and Psychographic Marketing

Admittedly, we mostly wrote this piece because we watched a great Netflix series recently. Thankfully, it also demonstrates how understanding demographic and psychographic characteristics can be life or death for running effective ads in your marketing campaigns.

Understanding the difference between demographic and psychographic marketing is hugely important when creating ads for your fitness business.

First, though, a little bit of marketing history...

The year is 1996.

“Pepsi,” asks a young man named John, “where’s my jet?” 

Pepsi, desperately fighting for market dominance and locked in the so-called Cola wars with Coca Cola, launched an ad claiming that, for 7,000,000 Pepsi points, you could win a Harrier jump jet. You could get Pepsi points by buying Pepsi; for slightly fewer than 7,000,000 points you could win some cool shades and a leather jacket, among other desirables. 

The idea was that nobody was going to ever reach 7,000,000. No way in hell. You’d need to drink an ocean of the stuff – and nobody’s teeth or digestive tract can withstand such a full-on assault. 

Of course, Pepsi had also overlooked a few small details – including, not least, the fact that the jet didn’t really exist and the fact that John Leonard really did

You see, John was a young man, a college student, finding his way in the world just like everyone else. He’d met and befriended a millionaire whilst hiking in the mountains, and it was with this millionaire friend that he plotted to exploit the fine details of the advertisement to secure himself the incontrovertible right to the Harrier jump jet.

If you want to find out what happens, go and watch the Netflix series “Pepsi, Where’s My Jet?”. No more spoilers here, I’m afraid. Let’s get back to some serious business. 

Serious marketing: 'Mad Men' or 'Math Men'? 

Gone are those days of mass marketing. 

Gone are the days when a single, samey ad will be slapped on the sides of buses, plastered to the screen of the cinema, flashed up at the start of YouTube videos and peppered down the walls of your timeline. 

Gone is what controversial marketer Alexander Nix calls the ‘Mad Men’ style of marketing – where creative geniuses, like those at Pepsi, come up with outlandish campaigns to enthral all of society. 

Because not everybody is quite such easy game as everybody else. 

Case in point: John Leonard. 

When Pepsi had the grand idea to market their Harrier jump jet to all the young people in America, they let themselves in for a big surprise – that surprise taking the form of a years-long, multi-million-dollar court case. 

We are now in Nix’s ‘Math Men’ era – where clever, targeted, highly-specific ads can exert the maximum influence over different subsections of the target audience. 

Demographics vs. psychographics... Huh?

Marketers and business owners need to understand that there are two ways this target audience can be divided: demographics and psychographics.

Demographic targeting divides up your audience by their external characteristics; that is, the physical, biological and social attributes that are perceived by those around them, namely:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Ethnicity
  • Job / Industry 

These are great and a lot of good marketing can be done on nothing but demographic data. But, as Pepsi and the other ‘Mad Men’ marketers of the 20th century found out, it has its drawbacks. 

For instance, what sense does it make to divvy up society into groups like ‘young male’ or ‘middle-aged female’ and assume that every member of each group will interpret and be influenced by an ad in the same sort of way? Certainly most young men in 1996 weren’t quite like John Leonard in their interpretation of Pepsi’s jump jet ad. 

This is why intelligent modern marketers have increasingly moved towards including psychographic data on top of simple demographics. Psychographics sounds scary, but it isn’t: it’s simply the classification of people according to internal, mental factors, like: 

  • Beliefs
  • Values
  • Personality traits
  • Motivations
  • Goals
  • Political leanings
  • Priorities

These are not the sorts of traits that people typically wear on their sleeves for all to see; however, they are ascertainable through surveys and polls, and can be guessed at by how a person behaves online. 

The moral of the story

While two people in the same demographic group – say, young men in America in 1996 – may see an ad and interpret it in entirely different ways, two people in the same psychographic group – say, outside-the-box thinkers who are likely to befriend savvy millionaires on mountains – are far more likely to think and behave similarly to each other when faced with the same ad. 

Demographics does have a place in modern marketing, and any marketer would be a fool to ignore its power. But relying solely on such coarse-grained data forgets that two young men of the same age and in the same area can be (and often are) totally and utterly different from each other in every important way. 

If only Pepsi had known this back in the day. 

This is why FitMedia takes a data-driven, intelligent approach to marketing. We help you think through the different sorts of people you are reaching, what they need, what they want, what they value, what motivates them and what their priorities are… all in order to optimise your business. 

If you’re interested in learning more, consider scheduling a call with us in the next few days. We’re always happy to chat, 1-on-1, to see how we can help you.

Are you a FitPro in a bind? Need industry-leading marketing tips but nothing springs to mind? 

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