Why classic personality measurements aren’t right for scaled commercial research

Learn how to fix the weak links of personality measurement by bringing behavioural science into online survey design, and drive more effective marketing.
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personality measurement, online surveys
Jon Puleston

Vice President, Innovation, Profiles Division

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For more effective marketing and advertising, you need to truly understand the aspects of people’s personalities that serve as drivers and barriers to behaviour change. For years, marketers and advertisers have depended on research to guide decision making, but have lacked a single tool that boosts effectiveness and cuts through to people’s personalities.

The problems encountered using classical personality measurement methods for commercial research

Ogilvy approached Kantar with the idea of mapping out the personality and cognitive thinking styles of Kantar’s online research panellists, both ethically and compliantly.

Our initial approach was to take a range of well-established classical personality tests and field them to our panels. We did this on quite a large scale: for example, 20,000+ people from around the world were profiled with the standard OCEAN Big 5 personality test.

However, as we began to try to use these tests in real-life commercial research projects, we started to encounter challenges.

  • The classical tests often struggled to differentiate one consumer from another: When we applied these personality tests to real-life projects, we often struggled to find any real differentiation between different personality segments. The example chart below, from a project to understand the personality of car buyers, illustrates the challenge. We were able to measure clear differences in only one of the Big 5 personality dimensions, while in the rest the data was completely flat. As a result, that data was not very useful.

personality measurement, online surveys

  • The tests do not travel well: what is more, when we ran these tests in different countries, the data proved very inconsistent and difficult to compare.

personality measurement, online surveys

  • Single tests were unable to tell the whole story: Each test in itself was not very useful considering the complexity of consumer decision-making. Just knowing the Big 5 facets of someone’s personality, for example, was often not enough, rather like going into an optician and they only have one pair of glasses with a fixed focal length. Every commercial project demanded that different facets of consumer personalities or decision-making processes be measured and compared.

We realised we needed to develop a more effective and comprehensive means of measuring personality and cognitive decision-making styles for commercial market research purposes, and our journey started with having a good hard look at some of the existing methods used to measure personality, to find out why they often deliver poor audience segmentation.

Creating a new approach to personality measurement

Through a multi-year collaboration, Kantar and Ogilvy have explored what is missing, how to fix the weak links in how we measure personality, and how to make better use of behavioural science in marketing. In doing so we have created, tested and deployed a singular instrument that more effectively decodes individuals at scale, using a series of proven behavioural science “lenses” that had never before been pulled together into one comprehensive approach.

Together, these lenses decode personality traits, cultural cognition, and cognitive styles to reveal a deeper understanding of individuals that serve as the drivers of, and barriers to, behaviour change.

With the practical application of this instrument and its findings, we can now reinvent personas and segmentation, and inform a better, more empathetically resonant crafting of message framing and content. Just as advances have led to personalised medicine by treating individuals based on their own specific genome, this approach offers a novel and much more effective way to communicate with individuals at scale and boost the success of marketing campaigns.

Learn more

Discover the findings from this research and explore new ways to approach personality measurement within your online survey research. Download the full report here.

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