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JWPM Consulting

Pyschographic profiling

09 April 2020

Cover Image Credit: This image was originally posted to Flickr by jeremyg3030


Psycho-graphic profiling and the "Yellow Renault Set"


Back in the eighties (last century) I was a young executive in an advertising agency, and attended an internal training session on psycho-graphic profiling.

The Account Director on the automotive account was presenting about psycho-graphic profiling of car buyers.

A key tenet of psycho-graphic profiling is characterising people by observing the products and brands they buy.

For example the type of person who buys Miele, and Gaggenau household appliances is likely to be different from a person who buys Whirlpool and Electrolux. The football team they support, the car they drive, the clothes they wear - are all good indicators of the type of person they are.

The automotive group in our agency had developed some fairly sophisticated profiles of car buyers, which was used to develop the campaign strategies for each model in our client's range.

Of the different car buyer personas described, I was particularly intrigued by a group of people dubbed "The Yellow Renault Set"

Renault is a French car that has been imported into Australia for around 50 years (although Renault briefly manufactured some models in Heidelberg in Melbourne during the 1960's to early 70's). One of these cars was the Renault 16. Which was often painted yellow.

The account director explained that the typical profile of the Renault 16 driver was school teachers and academics. Typically male, had spectacles and beards, and leather patches on their elbows.

Why Yellow Renaults? What was in their psychological make-up that predisposed them to buy that car?

The Account Director explained there were two key characteristics...

  • Self image: Academics and Teachers see themselves as different from the mainstream and therefore mainstream cars such as Ford, Holden, Mitsubishi, Toyota etc. didn't appeal to them.
  • Income level: Secondly, they're incomes weren't high enough to justify buying an expensive European car. The Renault was an affordable compromise.

A couple of weekends later I attended a family gathering. My girlfriend's mother had recently re-partnered, and he was being introduced to the broader family group.

We were told that her new partner was a University Lecturer in his late fifties.

Blow me down if he didn't arrive driving a Yellow Renault.


Pyscho-graphic profiling as an improvement over demographic profiling

Prior to the introduction of psycho-graphic profiling, marketers of course understood that not everyone would buy their product or service and therefore buying advertising space would be more cost efficient through consumer targeting. Methods to discriminate between target audiences would be sex, age, racial or ethnic profile, religion, and geographic location. This is called demographics.

However, it was noticed that some products appealed to consumers crossing over many demographic boundaries. You will always have overlap but sometimes buying crossed many demographic boundaries but was still confined to a smaller group.

What did these people have in common?

Personality profiles and emotional triggers

After investigation, it was realised that a more powerful method to profile potential buyers would need to take in to account understanding their personalities and their emotional triggers. This would provide several advantages...

  • Psycho-graphic profiling can be applied to selecting advertising media - the type of media a person consumed was just as much a personal choice as their product purchasing behavior
  • The personality profile can be used to craft the advertising messages and creative strategy
  • Product development can guide improving the product appeal to an identified profile. For extant products, a psycho-graphic profile can guide the sales targeting.
  • Pricing can be reduced to appeal to price sensitive types or increased for others for whom price is a low priority.
  • Distribution can be planned based on knowing where these types are likely to live.

Demographic data was used to guide these decisions before, however pyscho-graphics provides the opportunity to base these decisions on more tightly calibrated criteria and at an emotional appeal level.


In marketing and selling, emotion always wins out over logic.


A Ferrari is not a very useful car, but as a means of satisfying some deep inner need, for the few that can afford it, it's perfect.


Psycho-graphic profile models

There are literally hundreds of psycho-graphic profiling models, here is one that I have drawn-up from memory that should be used to illustrate the concept rather than be relied upon. The model (or one very similar to it and more fleshed out) was utilised by the advertising agency I worked for in the eighties and was adopted globally. Its purpose was more to be a starting point for developing a more refined model suited to the product/market application, but where clients didn't wish to invest in a customised model - it acted as a fall back to provide a basic profiling tool.