In short: attitudes and behavior responsible for purchase and use of a product, and choice of brand.
Consumers and target markets have typically been described and differentiated by demographic characteristics. The notion of lifestyle research, also known as “psychographics,” was introduced as long ago as 1959. Since then, lifestyle variables have been used to segment markets for practically every product category.
Lifestyle research is the practical application of the social sciences in business to help understand consumer behavior. Lifestyle analysis is more of a technique than a theory. It is a quantitative research procedure that is used when demographic, socioeconomic or product usage data are insufficient in understanding the preferences of consumers.
The objective of lifestyle measurement is to identify groups of consumers who are similar in their activities, interests and opinions (AIO). Some typical activities measured include work, hobbies, social events, vacations, entertainment, club membership, shopping and sports.
Interests range from family, home, job, fashion, food, media and achievement. Opinion dimensions measure how consumers feel about themselves, social issues, politics, business, education, culture and the future.
One lifestyle technique that is growing in its application is VALS (values and lifestyles), developed by the Stanford Research Institute.
There are four major categories in the VALS typologies with a total of nine characterizations of consumers.
- The first category is labeled “Need Driven.” This category is comprised of ‘Survivors’ described as old, poor, removed from cultural mainstream; and ‘Sustainers’ described as angry, resentful, minorities living on the edge of poverty.
- Outer-Directed is the second category, and represents 66% of the population. ‘Belongers,’ ‘Emulators,’ and ‘Achievers’ comprise this group. ‘Belongers’ are aging, conventional, content, and patriotic middle Americans; ‘Emulators’ are young, ambitious, and status conscious; ‘Achievers’ are middle-aged, prosperous and leaders in business and government.
- The third category is Inner-Directed. In this group, ‘I-am-me,’ are very young, impulsive, individualistic and in a transitional state. ‘Experientials’ are youthful, artistic, and oriented toward inner growth. The ‘Socially Conscious’ are mission oriented, mature, successful and out to change the world.
- The last category is labeled ‘Integrated.’ These consumers are psychologically mature, tolerant, understanding, flexible and self-actualizers.
Many products are designed, marketed and advertised with the aid of lifestyle analysis. Identifying a new and growing lifestyle segment such as physical fitness has provided a plethora of products. Nike has added a variety of sports and recreational apparel to its traditional line of running shoes.
Caffeine-free sodas, “light” packaged foods with less salt and sugar, and prepared frozen entres have all been brought to market for those consumer concerned about their health and fitness. Time saving appliances such as microwaves and food processors help meal preparation. Video on demand services allow consumers to watch programs when they want to, rather then when the TV network schedules them.
Lifestyle attributes can be predictors of product preferences and purchasing patterns. The overall lifestyle pattern of consumers helps marketing managers to decide on how to reach specific segments, either by new product design or different advertising campaigns.
The lifestyle profiles provide a more detailed picture of consumer characteristics. Lifestyle information is particularly valuable in product planning. Marketing managers have more specific and useful guidelines in developing products and services that appeal to existing and emerging lifestyles.
Health clubs, “light” product formulations, more natural foods, diet and caffeine-free beverages were all designed to fill the needs of consumers who believe in fitness and good nutrition as part of their lifestyle.
Lifestyle information plays an important role in creating advertising, since AIO measures relate closely to the needs, motives and preferences of consumers. Demographics and lifestyles also guide media selection.
For example, weight watchers are younger, single, outdoor types that tend to be adventurous and influential as opinion leaders. Sports, outdoor and fashion related magazines would most likely reach this group. They are more likely to watch news-oriented programming on TV.
Lifestyle data can be used either in designing new products or targeting promotion for existing products. Because lifestyle data necessarily categorize people into types, these profiles must be carefully coupled with demographics before a product can be designed or promoted in order to account for regional differences among the same types.
There is some controversy on the value of lifestyle analysis. Some believe that the items used to assess lifestyles do not provide enough distinction among consumers, and that there is still considerable overlap among the groups of consumers that have been segmented on the basis of lifestyle.
Also, because the assessment process requires many questions per respondent, it is a difficult analysis to perform. Conversely, lifestyle analysis can provide insights into the behavior of consumers that cannot be predicted by any other variables. The results provide a powerful tool in new product development and in designing advertising that is relevant to the target consumers.
Lifestyle attributes can be predictors of consumer behavior. More specifically, they can enhance a marketer’s knowledge of a target market by understanding how consumers spend their leisure time, their money, and what their interests and opinions are on selected topics.
Lifestyle patterns can help a marketer design products and marketing programs to reach divergent lifestyle segments and aid in designing products and services that help consumers achieve their lifestyle goals.
Although lifestyle research has been criticized for finding only obvious relationships, it is considered a valuable tool in understanding consumer behavior.
Applications to Small Business
Although the VALS and similar techniques may be too broad and expensive for smaller manufacturers and retailers, it is possible to determine some lifestyle characteristics for purchasers of specific products or consumers in trading areas.
Manufacturers may use samples of consumers to receive more extensive lifestyle questionnaires, using the AIO technique. The survey should provide some notion of the interests, activities, media used, values, etc. that can assist producers in decisions for advertising copy and content, media to use, and product features.
Retailers in local areas may rely initially on zip code demographic data for their customer trading area, and then estimate lifestyles by using secondary data such as social media activity and TV viewer profiles by area, license plate surveys of patrons of upscale, medium and downscale shopping areas, attendance data from commercial and municipal health and recreational facilities, the number of specialty stores in the area (e.g., gourmet food, hobby, fashion) and many other sources.
By keeping abreast of the major lifestyles, retailers can advertise to the most profitable segments, in the best media, tailor advertising to those segments, expand stocks of certain product types or augment the variety offered.
Synonyms: lifestyle research, lifestyle analysis