How Personality Affects Consumer Behavior🛍️💃🎁

How Personality Affects Consumer Behavior

Many products consumers buy are reflections of their personalities. Every type of personality involves certain characteristics. Some theories explain different types of personalities. Knowledge of such theories will help marketers to identify what product features are demanded by different personality types.

The Concept of Personality

One individual is not different from the other, not only in physical aspects but also in personality type. It is one factor that influences one’s behavior in the marketplace.

What consumer purchases, when, and how his personality type influences his purchases? This is why marketers are particularly interested in understanding the meaning of personality and traits of personality as well as identifying how these traits affect consumer behavior.

The meaning of personality varies according to whose theory we consider. There are so many explanations of personality by so many authors that there is no major agreement on exactly what personality is.

According to some, the personality of an individual is sum total of his hereditary characteristics and childhood experiences.

To others, it is the result of the social and environmental influences on the person concerned. Generally speaking, many personal or individual characteristics determine his response tendencies to environmental stimuli.

Harold H. Kassarjian defines personality in the next few words; since individuals react fairly consistently in various environmental situations, these generalized patterns of response or modes of coping with the world can be called personality.” It is the total of an individual’s patterned, enduring, and interacting characteristics.

How a person responds to different stimuli is determined by how these characteristics or traits are organized. In any one person, certain personality traits dominate others, as a result of which people are labeled as aggressive, compliant, aloof, friendly, charismatic, or obnoxious.

Lawrence A. Pervin defines personality as a concept that accounts for the apparent consistencies and regularities of behavior over time and across a variety of situations.

Thus, personality includes those aspects of behavior which are relatively stable across situations and, as a result, predictive of future behavior.

In the words of Melvin H. Marx and William A. Hillix, “Personality has also been understood as the unique way in which traits, attitudes, aptitudes, etc. are organized in an individual, and this draws attention to the ways in which individuals differ from one another through the peculiar configuration of traits and other characteristics each possesses.

Each consumer is unique in terms of his or her ambitiousness, competitiveness, conservatism/liberalism, degree of extroversion, and so on”.

Together, these primary character traits constitute the individual’s personality. These characteristics are developed over time from the experiences the individual gathers and from his reference groups.

For consumer study, personality also implies the same meaning. For consumer behavior purposes, it may be defined as a person’s set of more or less consistent response tendencies to items in his market domain.

Properties of Personality

Analyzing the consumer behavior-related definition of personality as well as other definitions cited before, along with the interpretation, one can identify the following few properties of an individual’s personality. They are:

  1. it reflects individual differences;
  2. it is consistent and enduring;
  3. it can change.

Let us now have a look at them in turn:

It Reflects Individual Differences

No one in this earth is like the other as the snowflakes and fingerprints. But, there may be similarities among individuals on certain dimension(s) of personality traits.

You may find a group of individuals more compliant than others and another group that is more aggressive than the others.

Thus, using the personality concept, we may categorize consumers into different groups and, can segment the market and develop different types of products for different personality types.

It is Consistent and Enduring

Personality deals with long-lasting personal qualities that allow individuals to cope with and respond to the world around them. It means that an individual’s personality does not change in a short time span. It represents a dispositional consistency in the person.

One’s behavior occurs in a context where his personality is reflected in his reactions to the environment.

It Can Change

The concept of personality indicates that an individual’s personality is fairly consistent, but it is not static.

That is, a person’s personality may change as the circumstance changes. Though personality is subject to change, but it takes time, or certain abrupt or unusual things must happen for an individual’s personality to change.

For example, a man’s personality may change once he loses his mother or father very early. His personality may also change with the elapse of time, as he gradually becomes mature because of his exposure to new things or acquisition of new experiences.

Personality Theories

As you know, unanimity is lacking among researchers on personality traits, and there are quite a few theories of personality developed by researchers based on their interpretation of personality traits. Since there is no universally accepted theory on personality, here we shall focus on some of the major theories of personality.

The major approaches to the study of personality to be discussed here are

  1. psychoanalytic theory or orthodox Freudian theory of personality.
  2. sociopsychoanalytic theory of personality
  3. Gestalt theory of personality
  4. stimulus-response theory of personality
  5. cognitive theory of personality
  6. trait theory of personality.

We shall now discuss these theories one by one:

Psychoanalytic Theory or Orthodox Freudian Theory of Personality

The most widely used theory of personality is one developed by Sigmund Freud. Freud believed that there are three forces that work in an individual’s psyche.

They are the id, superego, and ego. He thought that the interaction of the id, ego, and superego determines an individual’s personality.

Id includes the instincts and is present at birth, which pushes an individual toward the immediate gratification of his needs.

Superego, on the other hand, inhibits the impulses of the id and influences the individual toward conforming to all of the moral principles.

Ego mediates between the impulses of the id and the inhibitors of the superego and shows the individual ways of satisfying his needs in socially acceptable ways, thus creating balance in the individual. He also believed that individuals pass through a number of sequential stages from his birth to the first few years of life.

One’s personality develops on the basis of the amount of frustration and anxiety he faces at each of these stages.

If he cannot resolve these anxieties and frustration successfully, he becomes fixated at that stage of development – that is, he continues to react to the world in the same way as during that particular stage of development.

The stages identified by Freud are: oral, anal, phallic, and genital.

The oral stage starts from birth and continues for approximately up to eighteen months.

The child basically eats, sucks, and swallows during this stage. If he experiences excessive anxiety and frustration and cannot cope with the situation, he becomes either talkative, selfish, passive or greedy, or all at a time.

The anal period starts from approximately the eighteenth month and continues up to three years of age.

During this stage, parents train the child on certain aspects, such as using the toilet. If the child experiences anxiety and cannot successfully cope with the situation, he becomes stubborn, authoritarian, stingy, excessively neat, messy, disorderly, or destructive.

The third stage, the phallic stage, starts at the age of three and continues up to four and one-half. Sexual pleasure begins at this stage as the child’s main focus is sexual at this stage.

One may find boys of this stage fantasizing about sex with their mothers by becoming very close to their mothers and vice versa. If the child is fixated excessively at this stage, he is likely to develop abnormal sexual attitudes or developing deviant attitudes toward authority.

Finally, during adolescence, the healthy individual learns to derive pleasure from relationships with the opposite sex and is able to begin to love and care for other people.

This mature sexuality becomes evident during what is referred to as the genital stage.

The crisis of this last stage is the conflict we face all over our lives.

Sociopsychoanalytic Theory of Personality

This theory of personality has been put forward by Karen Horney, one of the disciples of Sigmund Freud, as a modification of his theory. Horney believed that the personality of an individual is determined by how he interacts with others in society.

The nature of interaction will dictate one’s personality. In her study, she identified three personality types found in different individuals. The first type is ‘compliant.’ One whose personality is of compliant type, he want to love others and expects that others will accept, need, and appreciate him.

To be accepted by others, such a person can even go up to the last extent of sacrifice. He always conforms to others to avoid conflict and receive friendly treatment from them.

Another type of personality identified by Karen Horney is the ‘detached type’. Individuals of this type of personality normally avoid responsibility.

They also do not like to be dependent on others. They cannot trust anyone surrounding them. They think that they are rational, intelligent, and possess talents. They expect others to recognize their talents no matter whether they display their talents or not.

The third type is ‘aggressive’. Individuals of this personality type are highly achievement motivated. They are keen on gaining prestige, achieving things, and getting recognition from others.

They consider everyone their competitors and believe everyone acts based on self-interest. They also act based on reality and rationality, not based on emotion or sentiment.

Horney believed that a particular type of personality develops in an individual because of his attachment to persons of similar personality types.

Gestalt Theory of Personality

In discussing different aspects of motivation, you were given the idea of the Gestalt theory of motivation. The same explanation may be given with regard to the description of the Gestalt theory of personality.

According to the Gestalists, personality of an individual should not be viewed in terms of independent personal characteristics.

Rather, separate personal characteristics together determine an individual’s personality. The internal characteristics of an individual interact with his life space forming his personality.

Moreover, Gestalt psychologists believe that the valence or the combining force of an element (including both negative and positive aspects of the element) interacts with his motivation and attitude, determining his personality and behavior.

That is, Gestalt psychologists talk about the totality of a situation and are of the opinion that personality is sum total of the factors or personal characteristics as they interact with each other.

Stimulus-Response Theory of Personality

The stimulus-response theory holds that organisms respond to stimuli coming from the environment. Those responses that are reinforced usually become permanent, and ones that are negatively reinforced, are extinguished.

Some of the learned responses may also extinguish because of the lack of positive reinforcement. And an individual’s personality is the sum total of these response habits learned over time. Thus, according to the stimulus-response theory, one’s personality pattern may change over time.

The reason is that the combination of learned responses changes over time as the person gathers new experiences and as the person may eliminate some of the previously learned responses because of the lack of positive reinforcement.

Thus, this theory of personality gives us the idea that an individual’s personality is a flexible concept that slightly contradicts the definition of personality, where it was termed as a more or less consistent and enduring set of characteristics.

Cognitive Theory of Personality

Cognitive theory of personality was developed out of the failure of the stimulus-response theory in predicting and explaining consumer behavior.

According to cognitivism, the stimulus-response theory of personality is a total failure in explaining the complex nature of consumer behavior because of the inaccurate proposition of this theory regarding personality and its influence on behavior.

Cognitive theorists see personality as a system or structure consisting of two sets of aspects. They are the directive aspects of personality; and the dynamic aspects of personality.

The directive aspects help the individual process incoming stimuli through a number of stages, viz. exposure, perception, comprehension, agreement, retention, retrieval, and decision-making.

Once the person is exposed to a stimulus, he tries to perceive it and understands the meaning of it; that is, his comprehension happens, which motivates him to accept the message. He retains the messages that he comprehends and retrieves those to help him in decision-making and taking appropriate actions.

The dynamic aspects basically play the role of motivation. They lead him toward certain goal-oriented behaviors. Thus, according to cognitive theorists, personality is a mental structure consisting of the perceptual process and the forces of different motives that work in an individual’s mind.

Trait Theory of Personality

Trait theory represents a quantitative approach to the study of personality. This theory postulates that an individual’s personality is composed of definite predisposition attributes called traits.

A trait is more specifically defined as any distinguishable, relatively enduring way in which one individual differs from another.

In Trait theory, personalities typically have one or more characteristics such as compulsiveness, ambition, gregariousness, dogmatism, authoritarianism, introversion, extroversion, aggressiveness, and competitiveness.

Generally, how these traits are organized determines how a person responds to stimuli. As certain traits dominate others, we commonly label people as aggressive or compliant, impulsive or dominant, friendly or aloof, etc.

These traits are formed very early and are relatively unchanging over the years. Researchers have developed a number of personality scales to measure the degree to which an individual displays a given trait.

Psychologists and marketing researchers measure people’s psychographic traits or characteristics using dimensions such as confident or diffident, gregarious or loner, conscientious or happy-go-lucky, assertive or submissive, neurotic or well-balanced, tense or relaxed, adventurous or unadventurous.

Marketers may use these dimensions in product formulation and in developing promotional messages.

Marketing Implications of the Concept of Personality

It is logical to assume that personality differences should correspond with differences in consumer products. Confirmation of this logic, however, has been difficult because of substantial research findings supporting this logic.

Researchers tried to find relationships between personality types and buying behavior. Though a few relationships were identified, the results of many studies have been inconclusive.

Despite the lack of a good number of research findings supporting personality relationship with buying behavior, marketers believe that personality does influence the types and brands of products purchased by consumers.

Consumers purchase products to reflect their personalities. The type of house, cloth, furniture, appliances, automobile, and jewelry people buy may reflect their personalities. Marketers, therefore, develop their products and advertising and promotional campaigns, keeping in mind the personality types of their target consumers.

In terms of purchasing behavior, for example, the ego and superego act in a constraining manner, satisfying the needs most deserving of attention.

A marketer, therefore, must not appeal strictly to the raw needs of buyers but instead focus on the importance of need fulfillment through buying his products. He must try to match his product or service to the personalities of the target market.

According to the psychoanalytic theory of personality, people are motivated by both conscious and unconscious forces of their psyche, and, as a result, purchase decisions are based at least to some extent, on unconscious motivations.

Marketers should, therefore, consider not only the conscious, rational aspects of the products in developing appeals but also the consumers’ unconscious motives.

There is a general agreement among marketers that personality traits influence consumer behavior. A number of studies have been made on personality traits in relation to product and brand preferences in a wide variety of product categories.

Personality traits may help marketers predict the type of clothes people may wear, automobiles they drive, shops they prefer to buy, or restaurants they prefer to eat.

Marketing interest in the personality is based on the assumption that, in spite of their uniqueness as individuals, members of groups and aggregates may possess a given trait or type in common with each other.

Such grouping might be the basis of separate market segments and justify a special marketing program. Two classic research which attempted to link personality traits with product use concern the ownership of different brands of cars.

These two research studies were carried out in the US and, among other things, involved car owners’ preferences for Ford or Chevrolets.

While mechanically and in terms of design, these makes of cars were almost identical. Marketers had tried to create very different brand images for each, based on what they assumed were the profiles of car buyers.

Studies revealed that Ford owners were independent, impulsive, masculine, and self-confident in terms of personality traits, whereas prospective Chevrolet buyers were found to be conservative, thrifty, prestige-conscious, less masculine, and moderate in their personality traits.

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