For decades, marketers have relied largely on demographic and behavior data to craft and target messages, using age, location, income, past purchases, and so on to help deliver the right message at the right time. But today, we have a new data set that could greatly improve our ability to do just that: psychometrics.
If the word is new to you, you’re not alone. Psychometrics refers to a set of tools that measure personality traits. Over the years, psychologists have developed many such frameworks. You’ve probably heard of Meyers Briggs Type Indicator, or MBTI. Another, called OCEAN, or The Big Five, quantifies five dimensions of personality: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. To see how OCEAN can work in a marketing context, let’s look at each dimension briefly:
Openness to experience. People who are open to experience display a lot of creativity and curiosity. If you score too high on this measure, you could lack focus or display risky behaviors. Score low, and you’re probably close-minded and pragmatic.
Conscientiousness. People who score high on this one tend to be disciplined, organized and goal-focused. Over-indexers are often stubborn and obsessive, but if you lack conscientiousness entirely, you may be sloppy and unreliable.
Extroversion. This category has to do with being outgoing, energetic and generally positive. If you over do it, you’re a bit of a drama queen or overbearing. If you have a low score, you’re probably reserved and maybe even self-absorbed.
Agreeableness. Agreeable people are compassionate, cooperative and easy to get along with. Score too high on this one, and you’re naïve; too low, and you’re competitive and unpleasant.
Neuroticism. This is one you probably want to shoot low on (and please note: it is not what’s commonly meant by the word “neurotic”). People with a lot of neuroticism jump quickly to negative emotions, like anger, anxiety and depression — and can be difficult to get along with.
While it might not seem that knowing whether or not a person is agreeable matters for marketers, it does. For example, a travel company probably does better with people who are open to experience, while The Container Store’s customers likely have a high degree of conscientiousness. We might want to target those to a high degree of neuroticism with scary car insurance ads, while agreeable people might appreciate ones that are emotionally touching.
Traditionally, of course, we had a big barrier to using psychometric data: it was cumbersome to collect. You could only uncover personality traits by having people take a test that might have as many as 100 questions. No one wears their Big Five score on their foreheads, and having all of your customers take a test would be impossible.
Personality trait trails, online
As with everything, that has changed in recent years. People have poured their hearts and souls into social media, and they’ve left behind a rich set of psychometric data. A few years ago, a pioneering firm named Cambridge Analytica discovered that you could assess Big Five scores, with a great degree of accuracy, simply by looking at what a person on Facebook has liked.
Today, we have psychometric tools for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, all of which can quickly determine your personality type by analyzing your posts. Are they effective? The answer is a resounding “yes.” One of the most surprising recent developments in politics may have come as a result of psychometric targeting. The campaign for Donald Trump used Cambridge Analytica data to help target people with a high degree of neuroticism on Facebook. The election result speaks for itself.
Psychometric data gives us a new way to find and reach out to those who are more receptive to our messages. Start using it today to learn more about your customers and deliver more relevant and welcome messaging to them. Those who start with it will have a first-mover advantage.