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Marketing Targeted To Personality Types Increases Influence And Effectiveness

Melinda Enfinger June 15, 2012

Marketers devote countless hours and gobs of money to the continual improvement of their marketing messages.  In 2012, it is projected that nearly $530 billion will be spent on marketing campaigns worldwide.  The standard advice that you will hear from coaches, trainers, and experienced marketers is to focus on a particular demographic or niche, but could there be more to it than that?

 It is easy to understand that a first time homebuyer would have different fears, needs, and desires than a seasoned investor or a seller facing foreclosure.  Even within these different demographics though, there are other psychological factors that influence behavior and control the buying impulse[i].  Understanding these factors can help you tailor your message more specifically to individuals within the group.

A new study featured in Psychological Science and co-authored by Jacob Hirsh of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, was initiated to determine if the effectiveness of persuasive messages could be improved “by targeting personality characteristics that cut across demographic categories.”

Hirsh and his co-authors, Sonia Kang and Galen Bodenhausen, developed five advertisements for a cell phone, each designed to appeal to a different trait that makes up the human personality:  Extroversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Emotional Stability, and Openness to Experience.

324 participants were asked to rate the effectiveness and persuasiveness of ads that consisted of a picture of the phone alongside a paragraph of text that had been altered to reflect the motivational concerns of the different personality traits.  For example, the advertisement tailored to extroverts included the line “With XPhone, you’ll always be where the excitement is.”  The same line in the advertisement geared toward neurotics read, “Stay safe and secure with the XPhone.”

Participants were also instructed to complete a personality profile questionnaire to determine their dominant personality characteristics.  The results of the study indicate that different personality types react in predictably different ways with regard to advertising.  In fact, in every case, the messages that were in alignment with the participant’s personality type were rated as most effective.

The interesting thing is that although the product was the same in each case, the perceived value varied based solely upon how the marketing message related to the individual’s personality.  All this evidence that one-size-fits-all marketing is considerably less effective than tailored messages suggests that the most successful marketers will soon be those who tailor their messages to target personalities within their target markets.

Many companies already use personal information gleaned from purchase histories, and site visits to personalize the user’s online experience and the offers they receive.  Savvy marketers embrace this opportunity to integrate personality into their message because when you speak to someone’s inner motivations you automatically build rapport and enhance your likeability simply because people believe that if you “get” me, you must be “like” me.   This is a crucial part of the relationship building process.

So how can you use this information in your real estate marketing?  The underlying need—to buy a home—may be the motivation to start the process of searching for a home, but the buying decision is an emotional one.  An extrovert first time home buyer would respond to a message that highlights the excitement and social rewards of buying a home while that message may have little or no effect on a buyer who craves safety and security.  A buyer whose dominant personality trait is conscientiousness would be much more apt to positively respond to a message that speaks to efficiency and goal pursuit rather than creativity and intellectual stimulation.

These findings aren’t meant to suggest that what you are doing now in your marketing is wrong and that you should scrap it all and start over.  You should still focus on your chosen niche or demographic, but if you take advantage of this information you can make your already persuasive message even more effective and further distance yourself from your competitors.

What do you think?  Think about the commercials on TV that you like.  Why do they speak to you?  Is it mainly because of a true need or because it reflects your personality?  Join the discussion and leave your comments below to be notified when we publish our list of real estate marketing headlines tailored to the five personality dimensions.


[i] Cialdini, R. B. (2007).  Influence: The Psychology Of Persuasion.

New York, NY: HarperCollins


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About Author

Melinda Enfinger
Melinda Enfinger

Melinda Enfinger is a professional copywriter and blogger whose areas of expertise include real estate sales, coaching, training, and marketing. Her leadership background and attention to detail speak to her nine-plus years of active duty military service as a United States Marine. A hunger for excellence and continual improvement is the driving force for her to serve, inspire, and encourage others to reach ever-higher levels of personal and professional growth. Melinda can be found at or View all posts by Melinda Enfinger →

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