personality and purchase behaviour

Personality is a major determinant of purchase behaviour. It influences not only our interests and preferences about products and services but also frames the arguments that convince us to make a purchase. By recognising the value of personality in marketing, we can substantially increase campaign effectiveness.

The OCEAN model

Data driven methods applied to classification of personality types resulted in the creation of the OCEAN model consisting of five main traits: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. These factors are largely orthogonal, meaning that they are independent of each other. They can be further divided into sub-traits called facets which provide insight into more fine details of our personality.

The model can be used to predict multiple aspects of our lives, such as occupational success (low neuroticism and agreeableness, high extraversion, conscientiousness and openness), relationship success (low openness and neuroticism, high conscientiousness, agreeableness and extraversion) or educational attainment (high openness and conscientiousness, low extraversion and agreeableness).

In the media context, personality can be used to predict preference for different products. People with high neuroticism (sensitive to negative stimuli, overestimating threat signals, interpreting neutral situations as negative, high risk avoidance motivation etc.) are more likely to seek products such as home security devices, virtual private networks, pension plans and “rainy day” funds, low risk investments. By contrast, people with low neuroticism are more likely to be interested in risky endeavours such as high-risk investments, get rich quick schemes, betting and gambling, extreme sports and other thrill-seeking activities.

People with high openness exhibit novelty seeking, which makes them more predisposed to looking for new products and trying them out. This results in overall higher conversion rates. They are also more likely to be among the early adopters of new technology as their open mind means that they are driven towards any innovative and trendy product. Conversely, people with low openness to experience have lower overall conversion rates. They prefer products which they know already, and which they have been buying and using previously. This results in them adopting new technology later on once the majority of people have tried the product and provided evidence that it is reliable.

Personality not only predisposes us for certain products but also makes us more likely to convert by particular argumentational paradigms. The same products can be framed in different ways – for example a crossword app can use high openness paradigm by referring to an unlimited number of possibilities; suggesting that creativity, challenge and imagination is needed to solve the puzzles. By contrast, a low openness paradigm would involve framing the product as tried and tested by a large number of people. Delivering congruent messages to each personality type increases conversion rates by up to 50%.

Below is a table showing key traits of each personality type and a tailored message which can be used for a product, in this case a PC. We can see how each message is congruent with the key trait of consumers’ personality.



Darius Lucas - Behavioural Analyst

Author:Darius Lucas - Behavioural Analyst

Darius Lucas is a psychologist specialising in behavioural science and neuroeconomics. His main role in Behave is generating behavioural insights for strategy and media campaigns. He joined Behave after completing his MSc in Psychological Research at Oxford.