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How to Use the Magazine Rack Test to Get a Psychographic Profile of Your Customer

The other day, I was standing at a magazine rack when I figured out a neat little trick you can do to gain insights into your target market.

As you know, most marketers use demographic data to define their target market. So, for example, they’ll break target market information down into categories like age, sex, income, education and geographic location.

Sometimes, companies will define a primary target market and a secondary target market. If you were selling a VW Bug, for example, your primary target market might look like this:

  • Sex: Female
  • Age: Between 25 and 34
  • Household Income: $50K to $125K annually
  • Education: College graduate
  • Geographic location: Metropolitan areas

Your secondary target market might look like this:

  • Sex: Male
  • Age: Between 18 and 34
  • Household Income: $35K to $125K annually
  • Education: College graduate
  • Geographic location: Metropolitan areas

But as you dive deeper into your target market, you’ll want to start using psychographic data. Psychographic data includes information on personality, values, attitudes, interests or lifestyles.

As you can see, demographic data doesn’t provide insights into the emotional being who is buying your product. The problem is that in order to take a deep dive into the psychographic information, you’ll often (but not always) have to hire a research firm to get inside the mind of your prospect.

But the other day, I came up with an inexpensive way to get inside the mind of your prospective customer. I call it the Magazine Rack Test and, while there’s no science around it, it can provide a fun, easy way to gain insights into the psychographics of your prospects and/or customers.

What’s the magazine rack test?

I was standing in an AMTRAK train station and noticed that the magazine rack was set up to appeal to certain interests going from left to right. So, for example, Modern Bride was on the far left. Moving to the right, I found things like Cosmopolitan and Allure, both targeting young, sophisticated women. Then I found magazines like Women’s Health and Shape, again targeting women. Those were followed by Yoga, Fitness and Natural Health, targeting both men and women interested in working on their inner and outer being.

As I moved to the right, other publications focused on things like healthy cooking, outdoor living and home decorating. Then I found magazines that focused on science, business, travel and music. The further to the right I went, the more I found things like sports magazines, computer magazines and stereo buying guides.

On the far right, I found magazines like Wrestling Today and Paintball Weekly which I’m pretty sure are read only by cavemen. (No offense to any of the cavemen reading this blog post.)

Before you assume that all men would be on the right side of the magazine rack and all women would be on the left side of the magazine rack, let me confess and say that I found myself standing in front of the magazines that were left of center – smack dab in front of the Yoga, Natural Health and Whole Living.

Which brings me to a key point – just because your primary target market is female or male doesn’t mean you can assume they fall into stereotypical categories from a psychographic point-of-view. I’m sure there are plenty of women who love sports magazines, computer magazines and stereo buying guides. In fact, there may even be a woman or two who reads Wrestling Today, which will please the cavemen to no end.

Putting the Mazaine Rack Test to Use

So, what does all this mean? And how can you use it for your benefit? The next time you’re trying to gain insights into your target market, imagine where they’d be standing in front of a magazine rack.

Is your primary target market 35- to 44-year old women who spend more time in front of Fortune and Business Week than they do in front of Women’s Health or O Magazine? If so, that gives you insight into who they are from a psychographic point-of-view.

Or, is your primary target market 45- to 54-year old men who spend more time in front of Yoga, Natural Health or Whole Living magazine? That will tell you something about their psychographic information, too.

What’s more, you can imagine that your target market might spend some time moving around a little bit, gaining insight into the complexity of the human psyche. Or, depending on a person’s mood, might spend read Martha Stewart Living on one day and Wrestling Today (God forbid) on another.

In our early example for the VW Bug, you can see how the Magazine Rack Test might help VW understand their customer’s mindset. Most of the women who buy VW Bugs would be in front of a certain set of magazines. And most of the men who buy VW Bugs would be in front of Wrestling Today.

(I’m kidding when I say that the men who buy VW Bugs would read Wresting Today. If you fell for that, then you’ve missed my point completely. But if you think men who buy VW Bugs might spend some time in front of Traditional Home, Health and Fitness and Bon Appetite, you’re getting the picture.)

The Bottom Line:

  1. Your prospects and customers are complex, multi-faceted, emotional beings.
  2. Not everyone can afford expensive psychographic research into their prospects and customers
  3. For those of us with limited budgets, there’s the 60 Second Marketer Magazine Rack Test, which can help you gain insights into the psychographics of your target market.

Posted by Jamie Turner, Chief Content Officer of the 60 Second Marketer. Jamie, who is a male, confesses that he spends more time in front of Martha Stewart Living than he does in front of Wresting Today.

  • Roseydow

    Great article, Jamie. Knowing the inner motivations of people based on their personality styles takes us a whole lot further than statistics about age, education, and marital status. Where’s the heart in that?

  • Glad you liked the post, Rosey. I had a lot of fun writing it and I’m glad you found it helpful!