Personalized marketing would be super easy if zodiac signs were infallible. I think it is impossible to characterise the diversity of the human race into 12 convenient buckets. Turns out you can, though not by birthday. Personality tests classify humans into buckets depending on your preferred methodology.

What determines your personality

Your personality is based on just 5 characteristics:

  1. openness
  2. conscientiousness
  3. extraversion
  4. agreeability
  5. neuroticism.

It takes 10 minutes to provide an enneagram tool with all the information it needs to spit out its answer on “what personality type are you”.

Human by the Numbers Results in Personalized Marketing

In  “I do human better than you” I talked about the need to define what we mean by “being human”.  In other words, what are the values, what are our ethics.  We can then follow it up by putting in place a process to ensure that the organization abided by this definition. This was an organization-centric inward view.

In this post, I’m going deeper into our understanding of humans and asking you to classify your stakeholders by personality type.  You can use that to craft differentiated experiences for them. We can classify them either by running a series of custom ’tests’ or by studying their online social behaviour using tools.  The first step of personalized marketing is to understand the personality of your customers, right?

“You’re really my type” the holy grail of personalized marketing

I wanted to know my own personality type.  I picked the first test on offer, The Personality Lab, paid up Rs 1500, and got the results which I can agree with. Moreover, using the descriptions of the other “enneagrams” I’m able to categorise some of the people I know well. These tests are not fully accurate and depend both on how well you are able to answer the questions and how you interpret the results. But they do potentially give you a starting point to understand yourself.

How do you do personalized marketing without an enneagram?

Digital profiles might be more than enough!

I uploaded some of my Facebook information to and got some really cool insights about myself. It makes sense and is aligned with the earlier enneagram. Note that Facebook has a lot more knowledge about you than you do.  If you want to do personalized marketing at scale, you will need to use a tool to analyse your customers’ user profiles and categorise them accordingly.  You will need their consent to do so – the Cambridge Analytica episode taught us that!

Marketing by Personality Type

Personality types can also be used by marketers to better understand their customers. For example, if you want to encourage corporate decision makers to try your shiny new product that has no live examples of success yet, you want to appeal to those who have a self-perception of being risk-takers and path-breakers. A Gartner article on risk uses psychographics to explain a business problem by saying “CEOs and business executives are often natural risk-takers who seek out growth opportunities. CIOs and CISOs, on the other hand, are hard-wired to find ways to minimize losses that will erode value.” This is over-generalisation but it makes a point. In tech adoption product launches are centered around the ‘early adopters’ – essentially those who have a high appetite for risk and/or have a need to be seen as trendy.

Do Introverts and Extroverts want the same thing? 

Are you an introvert or an extrovert?

Do you want to go out and party on a Friday night or stay home and order food with a few close friends?

If we could distinguish our target customers on this simple parameter, we could ‘frame’ our conversations accordingly. For example, an extrovert would see ads suggesting clothes that are great for meeting friends at the pub. Whereas an introvert might be shown ads perfect for lounging at home with close friends. Our actions on Facebook apparently allow the algorithms to identify us as introvert or extrovert. Research by Sandra Matz of Columbia Business School showed that this is possible, and that conversions increased significantly when ads that acknowledged this difference were shown to potential buyers of beauty products.(“Dance like noone’s watching though they totally are” vs “Beauty doesn’t need to shout”)

One size does not fit all: the need for personalisation

I’ve taken Myers-Briggs personality tests (which are now not considered omniscient) during my corporate employment but I don’t recollect it being used to customise my employee experience. We all got the same “team building” outings, training programs and mentoring plans.

More of the wrong thing? 

Imagine that you run a company and want employees to return to work in the office. So you ramp up the get-togethers, team lunches and weekend outings. While these would appeal to the extroverts it probably makes the introverts cringe and even more determined to work from home! For them, a free lunch, quiet rooms, small format meet-ups, gym time and peer mentoring sessions may be way more enticing.

Desire to return to office is a complex choice and undoubtedly involves financial, logistical and professional choices, but by emphasising the non-work social aspects you might actually be scaring off some people. On the flip side, if you are looking for work from home talent you might position your role as ideal for those who are self-starters, connect well digitally and who work with minimal supervision…

Using cognitive diversity to promote connection

Cognitive diversity is currently a buzzword but it’s pretty hard to extract value from diverse individuals if you don’t have a differentiated experience. We can all sense when we ‘fit’ – whether it is a brand of clothes or a hotel or an organization. (I was hired by an organization presumably to transform the marketing function but I was rather miffed to hear myself described as the grain of sand required to irritate the oyster into producing a pearl! It was true though – I felt different and they consciously tolerated me for the sake of change.)

How do you develop personalised marketing strategies

Develop differentiated experiences for each archetype. Then test for which bucket they should go into by offering choices.

  • Would they like to attend a conference or would they prefer a 1-on-1 session with a leader?
  • Are they looking for clothes for going out or for hosting a party at home?
  • Do they want to do what 80% of customers did or would they prefer what only 5% did?
  • Do they want the latest option or the one that has a 100 use cases?

All are valid choices but belong to a different type of person.

Why do I do what I do

I write weekly because it gives me a structure to continue learning. I enjoy the conversations that result – yes, I think I’m an extrovert though that is contextual – I used to dislike the team building trips set up for me by HR and changed the format as soon as I was in a position to do so. Writing is my way of staying relevant and current in a world that is changing so rapidly.

The first article in HBR at 100 (yes, they’ve been around that long!) is, very appropriately, “Managing Oneself” by the great Peter Drucker. It’s a marvellous read and I’d strongly recommend it.  Amongst other things he says that people learn by writing, reading, listening or speaking. (I’d add watching now.) I learn by reading and writing and this newsletter is a manifestation of my journey. I’m inspired by that article to try to do an audio version of this newsletter but have starting trouble with this new, unfamiliar format. If you’d like to help please ping me!

Long format writing

I have a book “Marketing Without Money” that’s out and about this year. I was super chuffed to read this review by Shubho Sengupta which has wonderful quotes like

I write as a form of self-expression but it would be sure nice to have y’all read it. Have a great week!

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Jessie Paul is the Founder and CEO of Paul Writer, a firm she founded in early 2010 to raise the bar for marketing in India. Previously, as Chief Marketing Officer of Wipro’s IT business and as Global Brand Manager at Infosys, Jessie has been recognized for her contribution towards putting the Indian IT industry on the global map. With over 18 years in services marketing, including a stint with Ogilvy & Mather Advertising, Jessie is considered an expert in brand globalization and has been named one of the most influential business women in the Indian IT industry.


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