Why personality matters

The way you dress is an expression of your personality.

– Alessandro Michele

Bob the builder is a likable middle-aged builder, who lives in Smithtown with his partner and two children. Bob enjoys a Friday evening out and typically votes Labor. He has lived in his local area for quite a few years.

Bob visits his local Bunnings on average two times a week to buy tools for his trade, and he buys pretty much the same groceries and clothes on a regular basis.

Data shows what, where and how Bob buys his retail products. Now, how do you motivate Bob to buy more of your product?

You know where Bob lives, although knowing this and what and how he buys historically doesn’t actually provide the rich insights you need to build a strategy.

While it’s all very well analysing Bob’s past behaviours to try to predict his future actions, it’s a rather restrictive approach. The limitation lies in the fact that you’re subjecting a range of historical behaviour to probability assumptions, and in fact, these assumptions are based on aggregate behaviour.

Knowing the customer’s postcode doesn’t matter as much as understanding their personality. It’s about understanding why Bob behaves the way he does.

This is the new frontier of consumer insights. And it’s the biggest reason that demographics are yesterday’s news when it comes to getting the reliable predictive insights that underpin retail strategy.

Yes, data clearly has its place. But it’s only in combination with personality based segmentation that you have real power to understand consumers. Neuroscientists would say that personality understanding is circa 95 per cent and demographics is circa 5 per cent (so they do play a part).

Defining the personality segmentation of your target customer is crucial to position your brand and all its resultant touchpoints from shop design, category treatment, digital, advertising and marketing through to website design and even staff service and sales training

As our friends at My Customer say: Not every 25-year-old girl who lives in a certain postcode buys one particular brand. It comes down to emotional connection, or the brand values that connect with that individual.

This is where traditional demographics really fall down – they’re far too reductionist.

Customers move through demographic groups, but their personality doesn’t change as they age, it stays true all the way through their life. That’s why personality – not demographics – is key to predicting consumer behaviour.

Now let’s go back to Bob the builder. Let’s say you have determined through your analysis of consumer insights that Bob has an adventurous personality.

He is drawn towards brands that speak to a light bending of the rules, excitement, adrenaline and edginess; brands that are slightly challenging. He was born that way and will remain that way for life because that is his personality.

Now you can extend your insights far beyond Bob’s postcode, age, gender and historical purchase data to understand the real drivers of his (and his friends’) brand behaviour and build a real emotional connection that leaves the transactional aspect behind.

Ever heard the term, “emotional connection to a brand?” Well, it’s the personality that either attracts the mind, or not.

You might have presumed his go-to is Holden, but Bob is really Harley.

Brian Walker is founder and CEO of Retail Doctor Group, a retail advisory and consultancy group and the Australian elected member of the global retail expert’s alliance Ebeltoft Group.



  1. Jason posted on October 5, 2018

    There are some well founded points in this article, but it is quite simplistic in its' examples and analogies. The article seems to only deal with Bob's working choices, which as a builder who uses Bunnings regularly, may limit him to certain brands based on previous experience, or budget, therefore removing the personality out of it altogether. I find that personality can only be factored in when it comes to personal/lifestyle choices. I mean really, comparing Bob's ride between "Holden" and "Harley" is pretty meagre when Bob may have a Holden Colorado for work but get around (minus the partner and kids) on the weekend on a Harley. And did Bob only decide on a Harley after going through a mid-lfe crisis, which would then alter his personality!

  2. Brian posted on October 11, 2018

    Thanks Jason Its designed to simplify some fairly complex initiating context, Fundamentally, from a neuro scientific perspective - our dominant personality dosen't change in our lives Best fit retail I appreciate the comments though Brian

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