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.