Personality Traits and Consumer Behavior

Concept: Construction workers inspecting brainPersonality is something which is very difficult to be explained in one sentence, but it is important to understand the basic idea of personality and consumer behavior before exploring how specific traits can influence decision making.

Personality can be defined as the unique dynamic organization of characteristics of a particular person, physical and psychological, which influences behavior and responses to the social and physical environment.

There has tremendous progress in the field of personality analysis during the 19th and 20th century, which have helped to come up with different types of personality theories. The reason that personality impacts consumers’ behavior can be found from the main four theories of personality. The four theories used to evaluate the human personality are the psychodynamic, humanistic, trait and cognitive social theories.

Psychodynamic theories explain behavior based on unconscious and conscious influences. The most important one being the Freudian theory which comes from Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory.

Freudian theory itself is based on the existence of unconscious needs or drives as the heart of human motivation and personality. According to Freud, human personality consists of these three systems, the id, super ego and the ego.  The Id is the “warehouse” of primitive drives, basic physiological needs such as hunger, thirst, and sex. The superego drives the individual to fulfill their needs in a socially acceptable function.  Finally, the ego is the internal monitor that balances the needs of the id and the superego.

Humanistic personality theories state that humans continually strive to reach higher levels of achievement, and as such continue to change over time. Every person is born with certain traits; people are considered to be fully functioning when they reach a level of their inborn traits and are no longer swayed by the opinions of others. According to humanistic theories, people who lose sight of the traits they were born with, will not achieve a level of a fully functioning person and therefore will never reach happiness within their lives because they are too concerned with pleasing everyone else around them.


What is particularly interesting is how research has shown that these different personality groups differ in their brand usage.

Unlike Freudian and Neo-Freudian theories, trait theory is less quantitative and more focused on measurement of personality. According to trait theory, a person’s traits determine how the person acts and these traits define the personality of the person. Tests can be performed to measure a single trait in consumers such as how receptive they are to particular themes.

Finally the cognitive-social learning theories state that every person has unique internal values that they live up to, which shapes the person’s personality. The behavior is influenced by the person’s life history, such as immediate environment, past experiences and continued learning throughout life.

The leading brands of the world, through their analysis have come to know that people, during their purchase, follow certain patterns that exist in their subconscious mind. The brands then capitalize on these patterns to attract more customers. Brands are in fact able to identify and categorize consumers, while fine tuning their marketing strategies to reach people in a better and more productive way.

Personality trait theory, shows the most promise is linking personality to an individual’s preference. A trait is a characteristic or individual difference in which one person varies from another in a relatively permanent and consistent way but are common to many individuals.


How Our Decisions are Shaped

Dan Ariely, a professor of behavioral economics at Duke University, presents examples of cognitive illusions that help illustrate why humans make predictably irrational decisions.

EG is the celebration of the American entertainment industry. Since 1984, Richard Saul Wurman has created extraordinary gatherings about learning and understanding. EG is a rich extension of these ideas – a conference that explores the attitude of understanding in music, film, television, radio, technology, advertising, gaming, interactivity and the web – The Entertainment Gathering

Dan Ariely is the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Behavioral Economics at MIT Sloan School of Management. He also holds an appointment at the MIT Media Lab where he is the head of the eRationality research group. He is considered to be one of the leading behavioral economists. Currently, Ariely is serving as a Visiting Professor at the Duke University, Fuqua School of Business where he is teaching a course based upon his findings in Predictably Irrational.

Ariely was an undergraduate at Tel Aviv University and received a Ph.D. and M.A. in cognitive psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a Ph.D. in business from Duke University. His research focuses on discovering and measuring how people make decisions. He models the human decision making process and in particular the irrational decisions that we all make every day.

Ariely is the author of the book, Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, which was published on February 21, 2008 by HarperCollins.

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Must Read Books

Tim Ferriss and Kevin Rose discuss their top 5 Must Read Books.

Random w/ Tim and Kevin – Ep3 from Glenn McElhose on Vimeo.

I endorse the following:

Other books on my reading list this year.


Educause 2008

This years Educause conference took place in Orlando, Florida.

Educause is a nonprofit association whose mission is to advance higher education by promoting the intelligent use of information technology. Membership is open to institutions of higher education, corporations serving the higher education information technology market, and other related associations and organizations.

The association provides a social networking Connect site that supports blogs, wikis, podcasts and other platforms for IT professionals to generate and find content and to engage their peers; professional development opportunities; print and electronic publications, including e-books, monographs, and the magazines Educause Quarterly (EQ) and Educause Review[1]; strategic policy advocacy; teaching and learning initiatives; applied research; special interest discussion groups; awards for leadership and transformative uses of information technology; and a Resource Center for IT professionals in higher education.

Major initiatives of Educause include the Core Data Service, the Educause Center for Applied Research (ECAR), the Educause Learning Initiative (ELI), Net@EDU (advanced networking), the Educause Policy Program, and the Educause/Internet2 Computer and Network Security Task Force. In addition, Educause manages the .edu Internet domain under a contract with the U.S. Department of Commerce.[1]

The current membership of Educause comprises more than 2,000 colleges, universities, and educational organizations, including 200 corporations, with 16,500 active members.

Below are pictures from the conference:

[slickr-flickr tag=”educause 2008″ id=”61116089@N00″ group=”n”]

My schedule at the conference:

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Friday, October 31, 2008

Overall I thought it was an excellent conference, there weren’t as many people this year as previous ones.

The exhibit hall was fun as always. Some exhibits were great and others sucked which brings up another subject. Marketing.

There were two exhibits that stood out amongst the crowd. The first one from Bradford Networks and the other from Trapeze Networks. These guys not only gathered leads, but engaged their prospective customers allowing them to deliver their sales pitch. Two companies that I will definitely be following up with.

Other companies that did well on their marketing pitch were Turning Technologies, Novell, CDW, Zimbra, Elluminate, and Microsoft. Although the only thing Microsoft had going for itself was as great demo on a smart-board of Image Composite Editor.

Microsoft Image Composite Editor is an advanced panoramic image stitcher. The application takes a set of overlapping photographs of a scene shot from a single camera location and creates a high-resolution panorama incorporating all the source images at full resolution. The stitched panorama can be saved in a wide variety of formats, from common formats like JPEG and TIFF to multi-resolution tiled formats like HD View and Silverlight Deep Zoom.

The things that characterized the good exhibits can be summarized in a few words. They were accessible, had an inviting environment, gave away free stuff (like free iTouch and laptops every hour) and had either professionals or very seasoned sales people giving the presentations.

On the other side of the coin, were the very big and expensive exhibits which just didn’t deliver.

Some that deserve mention are AT&T which has a very expensive three environment exhibit representing campus life and U-Verse all over the place. Alcatel-Lucent had a not very inviting exhibit and their staff sat down most of the time. Citrix was just offering a $5 Starbucks card for filling out a survey. Cognos had a closed exhibit that wasn’t inviting to anyone.

Its not that these companies were cheap, which they were; but they are spending a lot of money for lead generation when they could also be qualifying the leads and delivering their product demos to a captive audience.


Nortel Struggles Continue

Nortel stocks have plummeted after they annouced lower than expected sales for 2008.

It has seen its biggest declines since 1980 according to Jonathan Ratner article “Nortel faces tough timing as peers struggling too”.

“With softening demand and increased competition, Nortel may need to once again retool and refocus as it looks to find its position in a consolidating industry,” RBC Capital Markets analyst Mark Sue told clients.

After spending three days with the folks at ATT at the 2008 FOCUS Users Group, I got Nortel’s marketing spill which was all centered about going Green.

I am all for minizing energy use and saving resources, but something is seriously wrong when thirty minutes into the conversation all I am getting as a potential client is not how good the product is, not how much better it is than its competitors offering, not the features and how they’ll make all the issues I deal with on a daily basis go away but rather how much I will save on my electricity bill.

Nortel needs to go back to the drawing board, focus on the basics, be better than everybody else and then market it.