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To understand the buyer and to make a customer out of him is the main purpose of the
study of consumer behaviour. Though this problem has been analysed from different view
points under different premises, it still remains a complex one. On the other hand the buyer
is a riddle. He is a highly complex entity. His needs and desires are innumerable. Some are
latent, some manifest and some others are highly dominant. These have different priorities in
the his scheme of things. The buyer has his own ideas and plans about realising these needs
and desires. The first and foremost task of the marketer is to get close to the buyer and
understand his need-structure and priorities.
There are four major factors which influence the behaviour of the consumers. They are :
1. Psychological factors influencing Customer Behaviour
2. Social Psychological factors influencing Customer Behaviour
3. Sociological factors influencing Customer Behaviour
4. Economic factors influencing Customer Behaviour

These are the factors which are the personal attributes of an individual. We shall study Five
of them : Attitude, Motivation, Perception, Personality and Learning.



Each individual has inherent personality characteristics that influence his buying behaviour.

According to Kotler,
“Personality” is a set of distinguishing human psychological traits that lead to relatively
consistent and enduring responses to environment stimuli. It is often referred to as such
traits like : self-confidence, dominance, autonomy, deference, sociability, defensiveness, and

According to Schiffman and Kanuk,

“Personality” is defined as those inner psychological characters that both determine and
reflect how a person responds to his environment.
The single most important element in personality is inner characteristics of an individual.
These are the specific qualities, attributes, traits, factors, and mannerisms that distinguish
one individual from another. Thus the study of personality is very important, because it
influences the consumer’s product choice, response to marketers’ promotional efforts,
consumption patterns, etc.
Personality can be or rather is a useful variable in analysing consumer brand choices. This
concept says that Brands also have personalities, and consumers tend to choose brands
whose personalities match their own.

The following are the three important and distinct properties of Personality :

Personality Reflects Individual Differences :

Because the inner inherent characteristics which constitute an individual’s personality are a
complex combination of factors, no two individuals are identical or exactly alike. But
fortunately, many individuals may be similar on the basis of a single personality trait, but
not others. Like for example, out-going type, quiet type, shy type, family-oriented type, etc. So
it has become easier for the marketers to group or categorise consumers into different groups
on the basis of one or several traits.

Personality Is Consistent and Enduring :

The personality of an individual is both consistent (that is, it doesn’t change in the short run)
and enduring (that is, it doesn’t change in the long run). Both of these qualities are thus
useful for marketers to predict the behaviour of the consumers in terms of personality.
It’s very difficult to change an individual’s personality characteristics. The marketers can’t
change them. But if the marketers know which personality characteristics influence which
specific consumer responses, then they can attempt to appeal to those relevant traits in their
target consumer group.
Even if the personality of an individual is fairly consistent, still then the buying and
consumption pattern often varies with several external factors like, time, environment, social,
psychological, cultural, situational, change in fashion, availability of goods and services. We
have to consider the whole combination of influencing factors of which personality is just one
attribute to the change in a buyer’s behaviour .

Personality Can Change :

Under certain circumstances the personality of an individual can change. It may be gradual
and slow like a child grows into a changed personality. It can be also sudden on account of
any major events in life, like birth of a child, death of a dear one, divorce, major career
promotion, accident, loss of job, migration, natural calamity, etc.
There are also instances where the personality stereo-types may change over a period of time.
For example, over the last 50 years, men’s personality has generally remained relatively
unchanged, as compared to women’s, which has undergone significant change. This is
because of women moving into professions which were traditionally held by men earlier.

Consumers also have a certain amount of concept of “Product Personality” or “Brand
Personality”. This means that they attribute various descriptive personality like traits or
characteristics to different brands in a wide variety of product category. Such personality-like
images or brands reflect the consumers’ opinion of the inherent strength of the strong brands
of consumer products.
“Brand Personality” is defined as the specific mix of human traits that may be attributed to a
particular brand. A research study on brand personalities conducted by Jennifer Aaker has
identified the following five traits :
1. Sincerity : Down-to-earth, honest, wholesome, and cheerful
2. Excitement : Daring, spirited, imaginative, and up-to-date
3. Competence : Reliable, intelligent and successful

4. Sophistication : Upper class and charming
5. Ruggedness : Outgoing and tough.
Research evidence and common sense conclude that any brand personality which is strong
and favourable will strengthen a brand from the consumers’ point of view.

Brand Personification :
Some creative marketers have thought of an idea where they tried to recast the consumers’
perception of the attributes of a product or services into a human-like character. This is
known as “Brand Personification”. For example, the Muscle Power in dishwashing powder
and liquid. Many consumers feel about products or brands in terms of their association with
known personalities. Identifying consumers’ current brand personality links and developing
the same for new products are very important tasks for marketers.


Self-image or Self-concept is the perception of self, that is what image / concept an individual
caries about himself. Though it’s a kind of perception, it’s closely associated with the
personality of an individual. Consumers buy and use products and services and patronise
retailers whose personalities or images relate in some way or other to their own self-images.
Or in other words, consumers often choose and use brands that have a brand personality
consistent with their own, and avoid the ones which don’t match.

Single or Multiple Selves :

Traditionally, individuals are considered to be having a single self-image which they normally
exhibit. Such type of consumers are interested in those products and services which match
or satisfy these single self. However, as the world became more and more complex, it has
become more appropriate to think of consumers as having multiple selves. The explanation to
such a phenomenon states that a single individual acts and behaves differently in different
situations, like a person behaves differently with his parents, his children, his friends, his
colleagues, etc.
In fact this display of different personality in different social situations or social roles is
considered to be normal and healthy. And conversely, the absence of this is considered to be
abnormal or an unhealthy person. This observation is very important for marketers who try
to appeal to the different “selves” with a choice of different products.

The Make-up of the Self-Image :

Even if the individual has “Multiple Selves”, he/she has a “Self-Image” of his/her own as a
certain kind of person with definite skills, traits, habits, behaviour, relationships etc. This is
built since childhood, with the interaction of parents, family members, and later with people
Products and Brands have symbolic meaning and value for individuals, which they evaluate
them with their personal pictures, concepts, or images of themselves. So naturally some
products are a favourable match whereas others are not. Consumers tend to select
products/services which they believe can preserve or enhance their “images” or
“personalities”. Research study reveals that more women (77%) than men (64%) feel that the
brands they select reflect their personalities.
The relationship between brand preference and consumers’ self-image is often used to define
or describe themselves. Persons having a strong preference to a particular brand consider the

brand as an extension or representing an aspect of themselves. This “connection” helps
marketers to establish customer royalty and a positive relationship with them.
We have a variety of different self images / concepts represented in the following ways :
1. Consumers’ actual self-concept : this is how consumers actually see themselves,
2. Consumers’ ideal self-concept : this is how consumers would like to see themselves,
3. Social self-concept : this is how consumers think others see them,
4. Ideal social self-concept : this is how consumers would like others see them,
5. Expected self-image : this is how consumers actually expect to see themselves at some
time in future. This is somewhere between the actual and the ideal self-concepts. It’s a
future oriented combination of what they are (actual) and what they would like to be
6. Ought-to self-image : this consists of the traits and characteristics that consumers
believe to be their duty and obligation to possess.
The consumers are guided by different self-images in different situations for their buying
behaviour. For example :
1. For everyday household products (Private) – actual self-image,
2. For socially enhancing products (Public) – social self-image,
3. For fantasy products – ideal self-image
4. These effects are more pronounced for publicly consumed products as compared to
privately consumed goods.
Thus the concept of self-image is of utmost important and has strategic implications for
marketers. They can segment their market on the basis of relevant consumer self-images and
position their products/services as symbols of such self-images.

© Himansu S M / 16-Sep-2009