Sociodemography is only able to reflect today’s reality to a limited extent

Even if we consider people of identical age, place of residence, education and income, they “tick” completely differently. Prince Charles and Ozzy Osbourne are one classic example; another, more recent one would be Matthias Schweighöfer versus Sido. We are dealing here with completely different personalities, with individual attitudes, values and motives and the behavioural patterns resulting therefrom. Socio-demographic characteristics alone say little about their living conditions, consumer behaviour or product preferences.

Values or motivators offer much better insights into buying behaviour

Purchase decisions no longer depend on age and gender, i.e. socio-demographic factors – they are far more significantly influenced by the values that are important to a person and their motivations for acting. Psychography, which studies the motives behind human behaviour, is a tried and tested approach from the field of personality psychology that has been researched for decades. Buying behaviour is also influenced by such behavioural motives, and can be predicted to a certain extent if these motives are known. If a person is more performance-oriented, they react more strongly to advertising motifs that emphasise the performance of a product or the results that can be achieved with it.

Like people, brands also have values that represent them to the outside world and make them appear unique. Consumers associate brands with these values, either consciously or unconsciously. Brand values can be controlled and strengthened with communication measures.

Health and joie de vivre determine our buying behaviour, as do performance and luxury as well as many other values. The scientific concept behind this behavior is called self-congruity. Self-congruity is reflected in the fact that consumers prefer brands that reflect their own set of values. For example, Miele stands for quality and appeals to a specific clientele with its performance claim, while Dyson stands for innovation and creativity and thus addresses a different clientele.

New approaches to media planning make it possible to address these values and motives in a targeted manner – and thus avoid excluding potential buyers only because, for example, they do not belong to a specific age group or gender. In this sense, media environments and creations are also associated with values. A high value fit between people, brand, message and media maximizes the effect of communication and strengthens brand values.

ValueSphere: what is important to me

With our in-house ValueSphere model, these brand values and the target audience are identified. In order to differentiate itself as much as possible from the competition, an individual value profile is created from the customer’s point of view. To this end, the value profile of the brand and the strengths and weaknesses in comparison to the competition must be assessed. At the same time, advertising environments such as websites, magazines and TV stations and programmes are divided into the same value system in order to identify the media environments that perfectly match the brand or product. In this way, coherent results can be achieved, in which advertising not only fits in better with the environment, but also achieves a higher impact. Psychographic targeting defines appropriate personas for each brand or product that work independently of age, gender, or other socio-demographic characteristics, and that are defined by their values and motives. This motivational and situational approach necessitates the creation of different advertising motifs, each appealing to a specific behavioural motivation. As sociodemography loses relevance, media must change drastically in terms of not only planning but creation, shifting its focus to the development of spots and motifs tailored to individual personas.


It’s high time for media planning to change its views. The stereotypes of the past (men are interested in cars, women in cosmetics; young people are modern and open-minded, older people traditional and old-fashioned) are no longer useful. Today’s world is much more complex; people are more and more individual, and social groups are increasingly connected through common values and goals. If advertising is to reach the right people in the future, the entire advertising industry must abandon the concept of sociodemography as the most important criterion.