Class discussions and readings, from both this semester and last semester, touch upon the ways marketing efforts can be more targeted or customized to individuals, largely through using data and analytics, and how this can be beneficial for both the company and the consumer. I recently read a Harvard Business Review article, What Marketers Should Know About Personality-Based Marketing, which discusses personality trait science. It explains how personality trait science moves beyond traditional personalization based on demographics, or consumer self-expressed desires, and allows for a kind of customization that “claims to interpret basic human drives and match issue messaging with personality traits” (Graves & Matz, 2018).
However, authors Christopher Graves and Sandra Matz write that some “view psychometric or personality targeting as a dark art” and go onto to say that using this type of data requires one to consider ethical implications. Both authors espouse that “Personality insights and other aspects of behavioral science offer opportunities to better connect with individuals, and if done ethically it can be beneficial for consumers and businesses alike. Personality marketing can create a better match for products, services or experiences” which is concurred by behavioral scientist Cass Sunstein, who also states that even though “there are sound uses for personal data on social media” it needs to be “handled ethically” (Graves & Matz, 2018).
Regarding the ethicality of retrieving data related to personality traits and then using them to craft marketing messages, it is thought that the general guidelines of other behavioral science research of consumers, employees, or patients should be utilized. These guidelines include: transparency of intent and usage; abiding by privacy laws and regulations; and aligning researcher/marketer interests with those of respondents, which means helping them rather than exploiting them (Graves & Matz, 2018). Even though there are concerns regarding ethics, there are also many positives associated with using personality traits to craft marketing and communication campaigns because analyzing personalities of individuals on social media platforms can help brands to identify and to match with potential consumers.
Cambridge Analytica claimed to use personality trait science to better tailor messages for its clients when its CEO explained that by doing so allowed them to nuance their messaging, “so that rather than serving the same advert to 100 million people… you can sub-segment people by personality and change the creative to resonate with individuals based on how they see the world” (Graves & Matz, 2018). The American Psychological Association defines personality as “individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving” and this article discusses how scientists have believed for centuries that humans have a “mix of traits that determine the way individuals interpret the world and how they subsequently behave,” so it makes sense that this then affects which brands people are attracted to, which brands people want to associate with, and which brands people want to purchase (Graves & Matz, 2018).
This article explains that personality science offers a way to lessen the possibility of a marketer presenting an irrelevant or off-key message to consumers because it offers a way for a brand to engage with individuals through the message, advertisement, or content in a way that is more likely to resonate with them and that the “potential payoff” of using personality science is to “be able to better match” how a company or a brand engages with and entices individuals by using their personality profiles, which can help companies/brands to predict consumer behaviors by using said personality traits (Graves & Matz, 2018). Essentially, the theory is that if one can match the tone and framing of the communications or marketing with the personality profiles and thinking styles of potential customers, the effectiveness of the communications/marketing campaigns can be increased.
In order to test consumers for personality profiles, the field of computational social science began using digital psychometrics, using people’s digital footprints, which encompasses things like Facebook Likes, Tweets, browsing histories etc. to make inferences about their personalities. Studies have been conducted where large groups of individual’s traditional personality questionnaire responses were compared with those same people’s social media behavior, in order to ascertain if their personalities could be accurately inferred by decoding their digital footprints.
Interestingly enough, researchers were able to identify empirical relationships between specific digital footprints and specific psychological traits and although additional research is needed and is being conducted, there have been more commercial attempts at predicting personality from people’s digital footprints. According to results of three campaigns reaching over 3.5 million users, it appears that personality-matched advertising creatives “significantly outperform their mismatched or neutral counterparts” and that “in practice, this sort of social media-based personality marketing does appear to work” (Graves & Matz, 2018). Additionally, IBM’s Watson Personality Insights, uses “natural language processing to digest bodies of text written by a specific user, like tweets and blog posts, to unearth their personality traits, needs, and values” and the prediction is that with the “rise of such services, insights from digital psychometrics will no longer be limited to mainly academic contexts, but will become available to industry at large,” thus potentially playing a very important role for marketers (Graves & Matz, 2018).
I’m curious as to people’s responses regarding using personality trait science to better tailor marketing experiences and communications to individuals? Do you find it too invasive or are you excited about the potential customization and targeting opportunities it could provide? What are some other ethical considerations and why do you think there may be ethical issues related to this? Do you think if the guidelines are followed, there will not be as many concerns or as much resistance/backlash to using personality trait science when crafting marketing/communications plans? Do you think this helps the consumer as well as the marketer, or is it skewed more towards one group?
Graves, C., & Matz, S. (2018, May 02). What Marketers Should Know About Personality-Based Marketing. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2018/05/what-marketers-should-know-about-personality-based-marketing