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The Role Of Personality On Consumer Behaviour In A Digital World

By Lara-Anne Derbyshire

While personality has indeed always been a consideration in consumer profiling when trying to segment and reach your ideal target audience, so much has changed in terms of how we can connect with our audiences via digital advertising platforms. The targeting options are becoming more and more granular, and we have the opportunity to serve our consumers’ needs more directly, efficiently and authentically. But, are we?

If we are not getting to grips with really understanding our consumers as an “audience of one”, as we so often hear, we are running the risk of missing a significant shift or transition that is taking place in consumer behaviours and processes. Our approach needs to shift.

Personalities represent characteristics that determine and reflect how an individual responds to their environment. These characteristics are – attributes, traits, qualities, factors and mannerisms that distinguish one individual from another. In other words, the inner psychological characteristics that both determine and reflect how a person responds to their environment.

However, the defining difference here is that we live in a digitally social world, and it’s affecting and exposing our personalities like never before, brands and consumers alike. It’s a value exchange of mass proportion! Not only are brands becoming even more aware of these idiosyncrasies, but consumers are becoming more interested and informed about the discovery of self, the value of introspection, how they portray themselves to the world, the brands they choose to align with their concept of self, and the portrayal thereof. Never before have brands, personal lives, or selves been more exposed. In our digitally social world, even the slightest deviation or show of incongruence in personality is detected immediately.

We cannot change consumers’ personalities to conform to brands or products, but if we know which characteristics influence specific responses, we can better adapt and engage with consumers by aligning with relevant and inherent traits. An individual’s personality tends to be both consistent and enduring, but the environment has changed drastically, we need to anticipate how various personalities would respond in these digital environments.

So, we shouldn’t stop at focusing on generating insight into personality, in terms of product usage. Rather we should look at how we can expand on this by applying deeper personality understanding in the digital context, and form predictions around their responses and behaviour in the digital space? How do we offer intrinsic value to these personality types?

Understand personality and various theories

  • Research, connect and engage with consumers online and offline, across platforms
  • Capture and analyse the data around personality and the linked behaviour
  • Create digital specific audience segmentation personas
  • Devise and tailor a range of communication frameworks or approaches around persona types
  • Remember you can’t change their personality, but you can engage it
  • Build this into your strategy

The three main theories of personality are: Freudian theory, Neo-Freudian personality theory and trait theory.

  • Freudian Theory is based on the premise that unconscious needs or drivers are at the centre of our human motivation
  • Neo-Freudian focuses on the social relationships being fundamental to the formation and development of personality
  • Trait theory is more of a quantitative approach to personality as a set of psychological traits

These psychological foundations form the basis of the many current day approaches and models of personality profiling. How we apply this knowledge to our audiences online, acknowledging who and how a consumer behaved traditionally, will not be the same way they present themselves in the online world. This is what will set brands apart.

Beyond demographic, geographic, psychographics and behavioural segmentation, it is vital to gain deeper insight into personalities given the increasingly granular nature available through – digital targeting, AI capabilities and data-driven strategy. The brands that get this right will undoubtedly have a leading edge in the minds of consumers, and the virtual real estate we need to occupy every day.

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