Psychographics Definition

In our guide to demographics and the classification of the audience, we explored the different ways governments and other institutions try to understand population trends by collecting data on, for example, their age, social class and ethnicity. Those statistics offer a broad appreciation of audience numbers, but they fail to clarify why the groups consume different media texts.

By contrast, psychographics tries to explore the behaviour of consumers according to their personalities and lifestyles. Instead of appealing to everyone in a certain age group, the use of psychographics enables companies to target the people who are most likely to engage with their message because the profiles focus on their values and aspirations.

Values, Attitudes and Lifestyles

Created in the 1970s and now run by Strategic Business Insights (SBI), the VALS survey attempts to define consumers according to their psychological traits and motivations. By mapping behaviour and attitudes, they can help businesses gain a greater insight into their customers, so they are able to develop strategies to increase demand for their products and improve their market share.

The survey is designed to identify different types of people. Questions focus on, for example, product ownership, media preferences, and hobbies. If you want to discover what type you are most like, you can take the survey.

The UK’s Consumer Groups

The UK version, which has six core consumer groups, describes the motivations of the respondents in terms of tradition, achievement, and self-expression. It also considers their access to resources.

UK VALS diagram


Activators are at the forefront of innovation, consumer activity, and change and are the most open to new ideas, products, and services. They have wide-ranging interests and a strong sense of personal identity. Activators divide by motivation: Tradition Activators, Achievement Activators, and Self-Expression Activators.


Traditionalists focus on preservation. They regulate social change, forcing reassessment of new ideas in the light of proven and established standards and ethical codes.


Achievers relate achievements to the fruits of hard work and professional endeavor. They focus on success, status, and family. They value knowledge, influence, and qualifications.


Seekers want individuality, self-discovery, display, and action. They actively seek self-gratification, excitement, experimentation, and sociability.


Pragmatics like to play safe. They dislike standing out from their peer group and have a relatively low attachment to any particular lifestyle. Similar to Activators, Pragmatic consumers differentiate by motivation: Pragmatic Involvers have a tradition motivation, Pragmatic Rationals have an achievement motivation, and Pragmatic Aspirationals have a self-expression motivation.


The constrained groups prefer to try to hold on to the familiar and the past. Their world consists of immediate family and a few friends, who reinforce rather than challenge or renew their opinions and ideas.

The 4Cs

Perhaps the most influential approach to psychographics was Young and Rubicam’s cross-cultural consumer categorisation, better known as the 4Cs. Inspired by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the marketing agency wanted to learn what motivated people to buy certain brands so they could develop a deeper appreciation of how brands actually appealed to their target audience. Their conclusions identified seven different personality types based on “core motivation”.

If you want to know more about the 4Cs personality types, swipe through the following definitions which come from the 2010 version.

Youth Facts Study

There are lots of investigations and research into consumers and their motivations to engage with certain brands because advertisers need to understand their target audience if they want their message to reach the right people. In the Youth Facts study, a group of young people were asked whether or not they agreed with 48 different attitude statements. The analysis of their responses identified six distinct personal types of young people.

people discussing their thoughts in a group
Youth Facts Psychographics

Free Spirits

These guys are laid back. They are almost new-age hippies, into the rock and role lifestyle. Just over the most half are male, and they are the oldest of the clusters; with an average age of 16 and 3 months, they spend the most money.

Free spirits reject marriage, children, shopping, cosmetics and capitalism. They are interested in social matters and care about the environment. They buy environmentally friendly products and would never use anything tested on animals. One in eight is vegetarian.


Far removed from Free spirits. They want to get married as soon as possible and to have children, in that order. Very little sex before marriage, these nesters believe in family values. They disagree with abortion and don’t think marriage is outdated. They are against legalising soft drugs and would never try any drugs themselves. They are tidy, virtuous, hard-working, concerned and worry a lot. Six out of 10 are girls.


These kids work hard, play hard and spend hard. They were born to shop. Fewer are in higher education than the other groups. Physical appearance is very important and being trendy equally so. They display labels and believe most strongly that brands say a lot about you.

Funseekers consume more media than the other groups. Over three-quarters read a daily newspaper, they refer magazines to books and love sports and soap on the telly.


These kids look the stuff of today’s gang leader or school captain. They are independent, concerned, responsible, hard-working, competitive and gregarious. Career success is very important as is earning money id enjoying work. Although they save well, they enjoy spending money. They like shopping for clothes and are sufficiently aware of their appearance to be heavy users of cosmetics. The boys use after-shave, and other men’s products.

They are not overly influenced by their friends, yet they spend a lot of time in their company and frequently go out to a pub, cinema or live music.


In just about everything they think and do they want to be “normal”. They want to be like their friends. Wanting more responsibility and standing out from the crowd is not for them.

Friends are their great comfort. Having friends round, visiting their homes or just hanging out is central. When friends visit the TV is always on in one room and chart music in the others. After Funseekers they consume the most media, reading lots of magazines, the boys computer magazines and the girls TV and gossip magazines. Soaps are unmissable.

Armchair Rebels

These kids have attitude. They are the youngest of the clusters with an average age of 15, which may well excuse their negative, apathetic natures.

Armchair rebels are more likely to try drugs than other kids, and they think soft drugs ought to be legalised. Crime, they believe, would not increase if sentences were lighter.

They don’t think keeping fit or eating sensibly is important They believe less than anyone else that smoking harms others or that drinking can be bad for people. They don’t worry about anything.

Other Psychometrics

There are lots of companies providing detailed audience analysis to private and public institutions who want to advertise their goods and services to the right type of customers. For example, Acorn explores population behaviour in the UK and uses those insights to enable businesses to target their customers through print and online advertising. If you want to deliver an effective advertising campaign on television, Thinkbox offers advice to institutions to reach their primary audience. It is really worth looking at both of their websites.

Further Reading

Thanks for reading!