Radio: Focus on audience research: Psychographics help paint clearer picture

Effective radio advertising combines the best possible understanding of the consumer with the best possible creative and the best possible media buy.This ensures the right message is delivered in the right way to the right people.DemographicsHowever, in the absence of other...

Effective radio advertising combines the best possible understanding of the consumer with the best possible creative and the best possible media buy.

This ensures the right message is delivered in the right way to the right people.


However, in the absence of other research tools, advertisers are often forced to reduce a target group and a radio audience to demographics (for example, women 18-49, or men 25-54.)

But what of all the non-demographic differences?

Not all 25-year-olds behave alike.

For example, two people with similar demographic characteristics will often have different brand loyalties.

There’s more

Clearly, something beyond demographics has great influence over brand preferences.

When demographics are not the most relevant consumer descriptor, psychographics – the understanding of values and attitudes – may be a more useful tool in predicting and influencing behavior.

Social values

For this article, Environics’ 3SC Monitor of social values was used to evaluate the values of users of different cosmetic brands, and the listeners of different radio formats.

Using social values in addition to demographics, we were able to match the target groups of cosmetics brands to listeners of different radio formats more closely than by using demographics alone.

Sample chart

The chart below shows the average position of the sociocultural values of a sample of radio listeners (by format) and of the users of different brands of cosmetics.

The formats of some radio stations clearly attract listeners with similar values to those of users of several brands of cosmetics, as shown by their similar positions on the sociocultural map.

For example, Clinique brand users hold similar values to listeners of soft rock and rock ‘n’ roll.

Not surprising

This is not surprising, given the demographic similarity between listeners of these radio formats and Clinique users.

What is surprising, however, are the many values shared by Clinique users and those who listen to classical music on the radio.

A more detailed description of the values of cosmetics users and radio listeners will demonstrate how similarities in values manifest themselves.

Women who listen to classical music feel in control of their lives and their health. They are averse to risk, but otherwise feel they have the skills they need to deal with an everchanging world.


They feel a strong sense of responsibility to their community and career, and view themselves as ‘citizens of the world.’

They are also environment-conscious and concerned.

Clinique users share with listeners of classical music on the radio a strong sense of personal control in their lives.

Further, they feel closely tied to their community and to the global village. Finally, they are concerned about the environment, on a local and global level.


This similarity in the values between Clinique users and listeners of classical music exists despite the demographic differences between these two groups.

This implies that, first, Clinque’s message will face a receptive audience if it is placed on radio stations that play classical music.

Younger listeners

Second, these findings imply that a relatively high proportion of Clinique users are likely to be among the younger listeners of classical music, despite that generation’s dominance of rock ‘n’ roll stations.

Clinique’s messages may be all the more appealing for reaching its target audience in the environment they like best, and which expresses their values.

Women who listen to country and western stations feel much less in control of their lives and personal health than do listeners of stations playing classical music. They are much more anxious and fatalistic.

They do, however, love to shop, and like their purchases to be somewhat ostentatious.

They want to look good, and they want their fine appearance to be noticed and admired by their peers.

While Avon brand cosmetics appeal to women of a wide age range (35+) who listen to several radio formats, the values of Avon users are a close fit for country and western listeners.

Avon users share with listeners of country and western music their joy of shopping and their desire to impress their peers with their purchases.

Both groups feel a strong sense of fatalism about the future, and feel they are always racing against the clock in an effort to accomplish everything they need to do each day.

Women who listen to soft rock radio stations tend to be more youthful in their values, despite their wide demographic range (age 15-44.)

The youthfulness of their values is shown in their desire to experience the most in life.

They want to learn and explore all they can, and will seize every opportunity to do so.

They are confident they have the ability to cope with whatever their quest for novelty brings them because they are ‘adaptive navigators.’

While they value physical beauty and believe in advertising, they do not place great importance on physical possessions or the need to impress others.

They like to look good, but do not need to be envied by their peers. Other values of soft rock radio listeners include environmental concerns.


Lancome cosmetics users hold values that place them closer to listeners of soft rock radio stations than other cosmetics brands.

These two groups share the desire to get the most out of life by learning and exploring new ideas, emotions and activities at every opportunity.

Further, they share a sense of confidence that they can take care of themselves no matter what situations they get themselves into.

Finally, they both feel a strong desire to look good, without the need to impress others with their possessions.

Psychographics is a window to the attitudes and beliefs of listeners of different radio formats, and users of different brands of cosmetics.

Linking the values of members of these two groups enables marketers to develop communications strategies that provide a bridge between the medium and the message.

Stephanie Cooper and Stephen Popiel are senior associates with Environics Research Group in Toronto.