Imagine a war fought in cyberspace. A digital conflict designed to replicate a computer virus, which attacks the mind.

Malware for humans.

This is not fiction. Not a future dystopia. This is reality. Our reality of today…

This is part two of #LoveBomb, a special investigation* into weaponised data and disinformation, social media, and counter offensives.

*The format is, in of itself, experimental and includes multiple formats which will be refined over the course of the investigation.


Part 1.

Part 2:

Marketing to emotions sounds harmless. But it is not. Emotions include prejudices, fears. Hate.

We have all fallen victim to games being played with our psychology. It’s been happening for years, even.

But last year marked a step change because, all of a sudden, we weren’t being sold burgers or cars. We were being sold the politics of division. Seeds of hate. Open white supremacy and xenophobia. Nationalism.

But we can’t be that pliable, can we?

The answer is yes. Yes we can.

An Introduction To Psychographics:

Psychographics, in marketing terms, was a logical development. A step beyond simple demographics, which relied on age, location. The tangible.

Psychographics, on the other hand, targets your wants and desires, so it is perhaps unsurprising it became a weapon. A military technology which harnesses big data, our public and private traces in the world, to steer us into behaviour.

Segmentation is an essential part of this process: dividing a market based upon consumer personality traits, values, attitudes, interests, and lifestyles. This allows those controlling the operation to better develop and market products and messages because there will be a more precise match between the information style and each target’s needs and wants.

The framework is relatively simple. People have different interests, attitudes, and traits. Some really care about the environment, while others don’t. Some are health conscious while others are “foodies”. Some take sports seriously, while some just want to have fun during the weekends. Psychographic segmentation is the division of a marketplace by their desires and prejudices.

Obviously, the more detailed a picture of a person you can build, the more accurate your tailoring of a message can be. In fact, with say 5,000 points of data, you would know someone so much better than they knew themselves you would know how to make them act against their own interests without batting an eyelid.

This is just what Big Data company Cambridge Analytica, who now focus on defence among other areas, did during the Trump campaign and they also worked with Leave.EU during Brexit.

They take their work seriously and are proud of what they do and what they are capable of:

By harnessing psychographics and social media, using knowledge of Network Centrality (see Part 1), the sky would be the limit in terms of your ability to not only reach people, but your capability to bend them to whatever will you were designing.

And in respect of the message, it needn’t be anything as complex as an advert or a even a written word. Think of Trump’s MAGA hats, a vibrant red – the same colour used in almost every major fastfood chain.

The Psychology of Colour:

A myriad of amazing resources exist on the internet which explain the importance of colour. CoSchedule is a particularly good resource, which starts with the colour wheel and gives the best explanation you are likely to read of the whole psychology.

But the basics are these:

Colour is a weapon. It makes the targets “see what you want them to see, feel what you want them to feel, and to do what you want them to do.”

Hues and contrasts affect whether content is readable or not.

Even NASA is concerned about color; enough so that they provide free online resources to help non-designers choose just the right shades.

The psychology of colour spreads across all media, and each colour has a defined meaning or understanding relating to its use and the impact it will have on mood and, yes, the efficacy of psychographics.

So, going back to the example of MAGA caps and fast food, Red is a very powerful, dynamic color which mirrors our physical needs.

It helps us decide whether to show affection and love, or to portray terror, or even bring out a survival instinct. Depending on its context

Red can be energizing or portray friendliness and strength, but it equally be demanding and display aggression. It makes sense on Trump’s head, right?

As CoSchedule writes: “Overall, if you’re looking to have a really powerful presence or get someone’s attention fast, red is your go-to color. Just remember to use it sparingly to avoid the extreme negative reactions it can so easily awaken.”

Next In Series:

The next article in this investigative series will be exploring network centrality in action – using Buzzfeed and post-terror incident reactions as real world examples of how it is used differently to the same ends across our networks.

You can support this series and the ongoing work behind it here.