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Uncover consumer insights with Big Five personality traits

Learn about Big Five personality traits and how they can be used in marketing to understand consumer behavior and decision-making processes and to optimize marketing messages.
11 Min Read    |   April 13, 2024

Table Of Contents

    A good marketer should have a solid understanding of their target audience. It is the only way to build effective marketing strategies that are in line with customer wants and needs.

    Earlier, you had to rely on common factors like age, gender, and location along with other demographic details to design marketing messages.

    But times have changed.

    Market research now combines demographics, psychographics, and behavior to gain a thorough understanding of the consumer. This helps uncover reasons behind purchase decisions and learn why buyers do the things they do.

    The five-factor model of personality is a new approach to understanding consumer behavior. It outlines the Big Five personality traits that could be used to inform your marketing campaigns.

    What are consumer personality traits?

    According to the American Psychological Association, personality refers to “the enduring characteristics and behavior that comprise a person’s unique adjustment to life, including major traits, interests, drives, values, self-concept, abilities, and emotional patterns.”

    Simply put, it is the combination of a person's long lasting qualities and behavior that often determines how they adapt to their environment.

    Each personality trait shows three important characteristics:

    • Consistency across different situations
    • Stability over time and age
    • Individual differences among people

    Consumer personality traits are somewhat similar if not the same. They include behavioral patterns that affect the way in which buyers interact and engage in the marketplace.

    However, this applies at the group level and not at the individual level.

    Psychological traits also go beyond the surface and delve deeper into customer emotions, helping you shape the buyers’ journey and influence the decision-making process.

    Ways to determine personality profiles

    Finding your customers’ personality type can be beneficial to your marketing efforts since personality traits have been shown to influence purchasing patterns.

    There are numerous ways to do this.

    You can conduct surveys and opinion polls, pass out questionnaires, and use data analytics and segmentation to identify consumers with similar personalities.

    Ways to determine personality profiles

    Web analytics

    We have all heard of the vastness of big data and how large companies are using it to get a deeper understanding of their market ecosystem.

    Of course, not everybody has the means or the resources to afford it.

    You can go for simpler web analytics options which are equally effective. Platforms like Google Analytics can collect and analyze your website data to give you an overview of your users.

    The overview contains a lot of useful information, including:

    • Demographic data points (age, gender, location, language)
    • Channels that users come from (Organic, Paid, Referral, Social)
    • Browsing and transaction history
    • Hobbies and interests
    • Type of content users interact with
    • General activities users perform on your website

    Insights like these can aid you in identifying the different personalities that make up your consumer base.

    However, it is best to use analytics data along with qualitative data. You need to know your customers personally before you start making up profiles that correspond with their personality traits.

    Voice of Customer (VoC)

    The voice of the customer (VoC) is best heard from, well, your customers. It gives you an idea of their needs, expectations, and aversions from your brand.

    Gathered via surveys, feedback forms, social media posts, and focus groups, VoC can also help you figure out your customer personality.

    Or personalities.

    It’s not very hard to get answers or feedback from your buyers. Just keep your questions simple, straightforward, and host them on the right platforms.

    Nowadays, there are many online services that can do this job for you. You can mix the end results they deliver with your analytics data and generate a better output.

    Marketing segmentation

    Marketing segmentation is the practice of dividing your existing and prospective customers into groups or subgroups based on certain characteristics.

    It is one of the best ways to analyze and group different buyer personalities.

    All you need to do is:

    1. Collect customer data
    2. Segment your audience
    3. Analyze behavioral patterns

    Start by gathering information that takes into account customer demographics, goals, challenges, motivations, lifestyle choices, online behavior, transaction history, etc.

    Divide them into distinct segments based on shared characteristics.

    Then analyze the way in which they interact and engage with the people around them. You can take your study a step further by conducting surveys to collect more information on common traits or tendencies.

    It will enable you to identify the personalities within your segments.

    With customer segmentation, you not only get access to important insights but will also be able to create psychographic profiles for each segment based on different traits.

    The concept of personality and other trait theories

    Before we start with personality in marketing and messaging, it’s important to know the works and theories behind it.

    Now there are many of those, but we will go over five of them:

    • The theory of four temperaments
    • 16 factor model of personality
    • Five factor model of personality
    • Seven factor model of personality
    • Six factor model of personality

    The theory of four temperaments

    Let’s begin with Hippocrates and his theory of four temperaments.

    According to this Greek physician, personality could be classified into four temperaments: melancholic, phlegmatic, sanguine, and choleric.

    Each of these temperaments is associated with specific personality traits.

    The theory of four temperaments

    For example, people with a melancholic temperament are analytical, introspective, and detail-oriented. They are also prone to sadness and mood swings. Phlegmatic people, on the contrary, are easygoing, calm, and content.

    Similar to the latter, sanguine individuals are optimistic, enthusiastic, and sociable. They are extroverts who are quick to express joy and excitement.

    The fourth temperament, or the choleric temperament, is associated with assertiveness and dominance. Such individuals are competitive, goal-oriented, and may feel intense bouts of anger.

    As the names suggest, the four temperaments were initially used for medical purposes but were later adopted by psychologists.

    16 factor model of personality

    Raymond Cattell (1905-1998) developed the 16 factor model of personality, which encompasses a wide range of personality traits.

    He initially identified quite a few (more than a hundred) but narrowed them down to sixteen factors via factor analysis.

    Cattell’s 16PF model includes warmth, reasoning, stability, dominance, liveliness, rule-consciousness, social boldness, sensitivity, vigilance, abstractedness, privateness, apprehension, openness to change, self-reliance, perfectionism, and tension.

    These factors were measured through personality tests and supposedly provide a detailed view of a person’s personality.

    Cattell’s model was later used in the development of the Big 5 personality traits, which will be thoroughly covered in the next section.

    Seven factor model of personality

    The seven-factor model was created by Auke Tellegen and Niels G. Waller in 1987. Derived from the Big Five model, it consists of seven dimensions of personality:

    1. Positive emotionality reflects the extent to which a person experiences positive emotions like happiness and joy.
    2. Negative emotionality shows the opposite, i.e., the probability of experiencing negative emotions such as anxiety, fear, sadness, and anger.
    3. Dependability assesses the degree to which a person is reliable, responsible, and organized.
    4. Agreeability is similar to agreeableness.
    5. Conventionality refers to the level of adherence to social norms, traditions, and conventions.
    6. Positive valence measures the tendency to interpret situations and events in an optimistic and positive way.
    7. Negative valence represents the inclination to look at the same in a negative and pessimistic way.

    Six Factor model of personality, HEXACO

    Kibeom Lee and Michael C. Ashton came up with the HEXACO model in the early 2000s.

    It takes a different approach compared to the Big Five and focuses on six factors: Honesty-Humility, Emotionality, EXtraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, and Openness to Experience.

    Honesty-Humility exhibits sincerity, fairness, and modesty. Emotionality relates to one's emotional attachment to others, their sentimentality, and anxiety.

    These personality traits were added to showcase the ethical and moral aspects of human personality, particularly in cross-cultural contexts. The remaining four are similar to their counterparts in the five factor model.

    What are the Big Five personality traits? The 5 factor OCEAN model

    Psychologists like Fiske, Smith, Goldberg, McCrae, and Costa, have carried out research in the past to understand certain personality traits that make up the general human population.

    The Big Five personality model first emerged in the 1960’s.

    Also known as the five-factor model of personality, it is a theory established by psychologists to represent the fundamental traits present in human beings.

    It can be remembered with the acronym OCEAN or CANOE and encompasses five key traits like: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, And Neuroticism.

    The five traits have two features:

    • Stability across time, age, and situation
    • Shared by people across different cultures and continents

    The five factors are widely accepted and used by psychologists. Here’s a thorough description and explanation of each of them.

    The big five personality traits

    #1 Openness

    Openness describes an individual's willingness and ability to welcome new experiences and opinions. It also contains factors like curiosity, creativity, and imagination.

    People who are open think outside the box and are more likely to come up with innovative ideas and solutions. Furthermore, they exhibit:

    • Strong desires to explore the world
    • Inquisitiveness and willingness to learn
    • Acceptance towards unconventional ideas and lifestyles
    • Inclination to take risks (both personal or professional)

    Consequently, those on the other end of the spectrum tend to be:

    • Comfortable with established routines
    • Predictable and resistant to change
    • Confused by abstract concepts

    When it comes to marketing, buyers who score high on this trait are likely to try out new products and services, and prioritize the quality of a product over its style.

    #2 Conscientiousness

    Conscientiousness depicts a person's level of organization, efficiency, productiveness, and discipline in their approach to certain tasks and responsibilities.

    Highly conscientious individuals are:

    • Well-organized and prefer structure in their lives
    • Reliable and consistent in their commitments
    • Determined and work hard to achieve their goals
    • Calm, self-controlled, and plan for the future

    On the other hand, those with low scores:

    • Prefer spontaneity and flexibility
    • Don’t adhere to schedules or plans
    • Procrastinate and struggle to complete tasks

    Such buyers tend to follow a plan or schedule, take their finances seriously, and hardly ever go over budget. They look at things like how reliable your product is or whether it matches their principles.

    #3 Extraversion

    Extraversion relates to high activity levels, sociability, and assertiveness in social interactions. It reflects how outgoing and energetic a person is in the company of others.

    People who are extroverts tend to be:

    • Assertive, expressive, and confident
    • Outgoing and enjoy being the center of attention
    • Energetic and favor engaging in social activities
    • Open to new experiences

    Introverts might be more prone to experiencing discomfort in big social settings and prefer solo activities or small social gatherings.

    #4 Agreeableness

    Agreeableness measures the level of friendliness, compassion, and willingness to cooperate with others. It revolves around how a person interacts and relates to those around them.

    People who fall into this category are usually cooperative team players who value harmony in social situations. For example, they:

    • Avoid conflicts and confrontations
    • Prioritize building positive relationships
    • Concerned about the well-being of others
    • Value kindness and cooperation over materialism
    • Go out of their way to support friends and acquaintances

    Agreeable people are attracted to innovation and support causes related to the well-being of the environment and society.

    #5 Neuroticism

    Neuroticism is synonymous to emotional sensitivity. It shows the extent to which people face negative emotions and how they respond to stress, anxiety, and change.

    Individuals who score up on this scale display the following personality traits:

    • Emotional instability and frequent mood swings
    • Prone to anxiety attacks and feelings of insecurity
    • Pessimistic and expect the worst in any situation
    • Low self-confidence and esteem

    Neurotic customers are shopaholics who buy online in order to avoid in-person shopping experiences. They often go with the crowd and are responsive to social trends.

    Role of personality traits in shaping consumer behavior

    Personality influences consumer behavior. In fact, a strong link has been found between the Big Five personality traits and brand preferences, impulsive buying, and political consumer behavior.

    People naturally gravitate towards the things they connect with.

    This is also true when it comes to brands and their products. So it’s important that you develop targeted marketing campaigns that resonate with your consumers’ personality traits.

    That said, here’s a brief rundown of the buying habits of the five personality traits.

    • Openness and consumer preferences

    Openness is directly related to how likely your buyers are to try out new brands. Such buyers are attracted to unique features, being highly receptive to futuristic technology and avant-garde trends.

    If you are a company with a wild product idea, these are the folk that you should be targeting.

    • Conscientiousness and brand loyalty

    Conscientiousness and brand loyalty go hand in hand. Customers prefer established brands with a reputation for quality and are likely to conduct a thorough research before making a purchase.

    • Extroversion and impulsive buying

    The thrill of shopping while interacting with others makes extroverts susceptible to impulsive purchases. Retailers can capitalize on this personality trait by creating engaging in-store experiences and promoting social events.

    • Agreeableness and word-of-mouth influence

    Agreeable people seek products that align with their values and are approved by their peers when making purchase decisions. They can be swayed by word-of-mouth recommendations, referrals, and testimonials.

    • Neuroticism and risk aversion

    Neurotics don’t like taking risks and hence are hesitant to try new brands and products. They prefer tried-and-tested options that provide a sense of security and reduce the likelihood of regret.

    How to use personality science in marketing?

    As a marketer, you must have carried out research to understand what makes your buyers tick.

    Personality science offers an easy way to understand your customers and develop the messages, ads, and content they need.

    It is important to create a link between your consumers’ personality and brand. It is equally important to study the internal and situational factors that compel your buyers to purchase your product.

    Having said that, here are some ways in which you can use personality in marketing:

    Use personality science in marketing

    1. Build buyer personas

    You can create buyer personas by analyzing the various personality traits that make up each of your customer segments.

    Personas are archetypes that represent your ideal customers and tell you about their demographics, psychographics, and behavior.

    Once you build the personality profile of your most loyal segments, you can work on plans to keep them happy while targeting buyers with similar (if not the same) traits.

    The best part about buyer personas is that you won’t have to conduct the Big 5 personality test on each of your customers to understand their habits.

    2. Optimize customer journey

    You save a lot of time and resources when you know which people to target. Similarly, you can offer a better customer experience if you know the hurdles they face over the customer’s journey.

    Personality traits provide context on consumer preferences, needs, and pain points.

    You can map the customer journey for each segment and identify barriers in the decision making process. Create content that is relevant at each stage and matches their personality type.

    3. Create targeted marketing campaigns

    Specific personality types have affinities towards certain products, services, and brands. Segmentation by personality types helps you identify such customers.

    It aids you in building campaigns that connect with the right audience.

    You will be able to find out where they are in the marketing funnel, determine their choice and mode of communication, and tailor messages to suit specific segments.

    After all, targeted messaging is much more effective than generic messaging.

    4. Customize creative content

    Creativity is the key to making yourself known in the marketing industry today. With various personality insights at your disposal, you can create content that is both visually appealing and informative.

    Analyze your target customers and list down their preferences in terms of written and visual content.

    It can be things like the tone of voice, language, fonts, color schemes, and the overall layout of content. The list will also tell you which medium they prefer, such as text, image, audio, or video.

    5. Develop brand personality

    Brand personality goes hand in hand with consumer personality. It reflects the human traits associated with a particular brand name or company.

    Customers buy from brands that speak to them and reflect them in some way. Hence, it only makes sense that companies develop a brand personality with their target audience in mind.

    For example, a brand whose customers display conscientiousness cannot have a personality that is inconsistent and unreliable.

    Wrapping up

    Recent development in digital psychometrics has made it easier to understand factors that make up consumer personality.

    We can now leverage the Big Five personality traits to gain invaluable consumer insights and create campaigns that target the right people at the right time.

    It will help you achieve your business goals while staying ahead of the competition!

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    What is the trait theory of personality in consumer behavior?

    The trait theory of personality states that people have certain universal personality traits that differ from each other in strength and intensity. These personality traits affect consumer preferences, spending habits, and consumption patterns in marketing.

    What are the Big 5 personality traits?

    The Big 5 personality traits, as defined by the five-factor model of personality OCEAN or CANOE, are openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Each represents the fundamental personality traits inherently present within human beings.

    What is the importance of personality in consumer behavior?

    Personality traits influence consumer behavior. They directly affect their interests, preferences, needs, and motivations, consequently impacting their purchase decisions. When you understand consumer personalities, you can map customer journeys, identify purchase barriers, and influence decision-making.

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