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Psychometrics in Marketing (And How to Use It)

Data is king—but are you collecting the right kind of data? While most companies focus on standard demographic information, bounce rates, and conversions, a deeper understanding of your customer’s psychological motivations can help you build compelling content and make more sales. That’s where psychometrics comes in.

2017 Holiday Planning Guide for Social Marketers

If psychometrics sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie, you’re not far off. The term refers to ways of measuring an individual’s motivations, preferences, and interests without directly asking, adding a level of authenticity to your data as we observe our audience’s natural behaviors. For this reason, psychometrics is often more accurate than direct questioning.

Psychometrics Quizzes

Tactics such as creating goofy Buzzfeed-style quizzes or analyzing Facebook Likes are subtle yet pervasive ways to better understand your audiences. Big data already drives your marketing, but without tapping into your audience’s subconscious, you can’t really understand the meaning of all that data. Psychometrics gives you that missing element.

Psychometrics 101

Psychometrics is an old method of gathering data, but it’s experiencing a renaissance. It’s been around for about 50 years, the brainchild of collaborations between psychology and business.

Since its development, psychometrics has consistently been used for marketing segmentation. That includes basic concepts like demographic breakdowns and the idea that groups have shared market interests. Assistance from psychology, though, allowed marketers to understand those interests at a more refined level, drawing out distinct behavioral patterns.

Psychographic Segmentation

Without the support of passive digital data collection tools, psychometric data wasn’t always very accurate or easy to use—it was something of a wide-toothed comb for breaking down populations. This is why most businesses have historically preferred to use geographic or traditional demographic data instead, as these called for minimal data and even less processing power. We are now at a transitional moment where psychometrics is back on the rise, as customer behaviors drive marketing activities.

Certainly, marketers acquire some of the content otherwise associated with psychometric data through new technology – think eye-tracking tests that determine the appeal of different aspects of a website or even analytic data such as bounce rate.

What makes psychometrics different is that it’s as much about data gathering as branding and active marketing – it’s methodology driven, and quizzes are the method in question. Quizzes keep customers interested and engaged with your brand longer, simultaneously allowing you to learn more about them and boosting the chances of a sale . And even if you don’t make a sale, your brand is more likely to make a subconscious mark, drawing customers back at a later date.

The Power of a Quiz

No one can resist a quiz. It’s not narcissism or playfulness that drives quiz-takers, though. According to a number of studies, we take these predictive quizzes out of fear. We love seeing ourselves reflected back, feeling as though we better understand ourselves by finding out what TV character we are or where we should live, and we worry that we’re fundamentally wrong about ourselves. It’s the psychological equivalent of FOMO – Fear of Missing Out.


The basic principle behind FOMO is that we’re all concerned that other people are part of something, know something, or are experiencing something that we failed to access. According to psychologist Sherry Turkle, it’s a way of seeking comfort, even if it’s empty of actual content.  And because this knowledge-seeking behavior is already ingrained in users, businesses can take advantage of the online quiz for their own data.

How do you turn a Buzzfeed-style quiz into a marketing tool? It all starts with looking at your sales goals. For example, you might craft a quiz that allows customers to determine which of your products they are, like this Paul Mitchell quiz, “Which Hair Product Are You?”

Which Hair Product Are You?

Going through the questions, you’ll notice several things about this quiz. First, while some of the questions are obviously about product preferences and customer needs, such as those about hair tools or styling time, others serve a more subtle purpose. When the quiz asks about the individual’s favorite color or best personal trait, it’s tapping into what makes these quizzes so powerful – the need to know the self.

From a sales perspective, one of the advantages of psychometric quizzes is that not only do they collect marketing data, but the results will then link participants to that product. Quizzes tie a supposed self-understanding to a sales pitch. It’s hard for customers to resist buying a product when a quiz says it’s perfect for them.

Even if customers don’t bite, part of what makes a quiz so powerful is that you know a large number of people will take it, even those outside of your core audience. Returning to the Paul Mitchell quiz as an example, the person taking the quiz may have no interest in purchasing a hair product. They might be taking the quiz because a friend posted it on Facebook and they were curious. But now they’ve been looped into a contact cycle and may share it themselves, reaching someone who might be interested in the product. Parties outside your base are participating in your marketing.

Quizzes have serious appeal, generating social media shares, and they never go out of style. You’ll be inundated with a wealth of data covering customer insights you couldn’t acquire otherwise. Simply post the link to your quiz on all of your owned social accounts, and the results and shares will start rolling in, beginning with your pre-existing fan base and spreading outward. In this way, modern psychometrics is a low-cost, high-reward form of market research.

Girl Scouts of Orange County created a quiz to find out which Girl Scout cookie aligns most with our personalities. They use compelling visuals to attract the audience, create unique cookie personality descriptions, and enable their users to share their results easily with social share buttons at the bottom of the results page.

Girl Scouts Quiz

Inside AI

Once you have it in your hands, what are you going to do with all this data? The processing power of AI technology could hold the answers, as evidenced by recent studies. Let’s take Facebook as an example of a massive personal data source.

As predicted, Facebook hit 2 billion users during the second quarter of 2017 – a quarter of the globe. That’s huge, and it means that Facebook is an even more valuable data source than we already knew based on personal interactions and professional practices. Though it may not be “your” personal data, brands have many ways of accessing this content through various Facebook-linked options, and one of those ways is through Facebook-based quizzes.

Facebook-based quizzes are very popular with users of all ages, and they’re easy to build, since the software is integrated with the platform. But what can they really tell you about your customers? One project merged users’ Facebook likes and connections to accurately predict everything from sexual orientation to drug and alcohol use, happiness, and intelligence. Businesses can do this without customers even knowing it, allowing you to micro-target your marketing strategies based on deep knowledge.

Brands commonly build their own Facebook-specific quizzes separate from those that link back to the company website, and Facebook encourages this. Under the header “Engaging your fans has never been this simple,” Facebook encourages marketers to use quizzes to “create a buzz about your brand.” Above this, you’ll find information on affordability and analytics – no need for an in-house analyst. Even without accessing the deep network of data enmeshed in the Facebook world, the site offers unprecedented access to casual user input, letting you in on your customers’ inner lives.

Facebook Quiz Homepage

A Pervasive Tool

Psychometrics is slipping into numerous corners of the marketing world, being used to predict lending risks, create interest in a brand or new product, and better target your ideal audience. The highly-targeted nature of psychometric data enables you to reduce the number of adds that land outside your core audience, saving you valuable marketing dollars.

Your business is likely already using psychometrics in small ways, such as creating your customer personas, but why not take things to the next level? Design a quiz, embrace data-gathering AI, and learn more about your customer base. You might be surprised by what you learn.

If you are interested in gathering even more vital information about your target audience, read about how Social Listening can provide insight into which social channels your audience is most engaged with and what type of content they’re most excited about.

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Larry Alton

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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