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Why advertisers should study personality, not demographics

Why advertisers should study personality, not demographics

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In a new study, researchers find that advertisements are more effective when tailored to specific personality types.

In order to ensure that their advertisements are as effective as possible, marketers spend huge amounts of time and money studying demographics. Campaigns don’t try to impact everyone—instead they target small segments of the population such as retired professionals or college students.

But according to new research, advertisers’ resources might be better spent studying personality instead.

In a study from the University of Toronto and Northwestern University, psychologists found that messages appealing to a person’s personality traits are better received than those that focus on traditional demographics such as race, sex or location.

“While persuasive messages are often targeted toward specific demographic groups, we wanted to see whether their effectiveness could be improved by targeting personality characteristics that cut across demographic categories,” said study author Jacob Hirsh in a statement.

In the experiment, researchers designed five cell phone ads each based on a different Big Five personality trait—either agreeableness, extraversion, emotional stability/neuroticism, openness to experience or conscientiousness. In an advertisement designed to appeal to extraverts, for example, a line would read “With XPhone, you’ll always be where the excitement is.” When the ad was tailored to those on the neurotic side, the line would say, “Stay safe and secure with the XPhone.”

Once participants viewed the advertisements, they were asked to rate the effectiveness of each one and to fill out a questionnaire assessing their own personalities.

Researchers found that in every case, the advertisements were more effective when they matched up with the participant’s personality type.

“We were impressed by the range of motives that can be brought to bear on a single object,” Hirsh said. “Although the product itself was the same in each case, its subjective value changed dramatically depending on the personal motives we highlighted in the advertisement.”

Read the full paper in the Association for Psychological Science’s journal, Psychological Science.

[via BigThink via The Fiscal Times]

Image: David Evers/Flickr

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Sarah Korones

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Sarah Korones is a freelance writer based in New York. She has written for Psychology Today and Boston's Weekly Dig. She holds a degree from Tufts University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure