USING THE MYERS-BRIGGS TYPE INDICATOR TO EXPLORE BRAND PESONALITY
The concept of “brand personality” dates back around 60 years and was developed based on the theory that a brand, like a person, had a “personality.” This concept was first published in an article by Burleigh Gardner and Sidney J. Levy, entitled, “The product and the brand,’ in the Harvard Business Review (March-April, 1955). Since that point in time, market researchers, including focus group moderators, have tried to get respondents to describe the “personality” of the brand in an effort to develop brand messages that are congruent with that “personality.” However, in 1997, Jennifer Aaker pointed out in her seminal article, that it is very difficult for consumers to describe the personality of a brand. Ms. Aaker tried to correct this problem by developing a brand personality scale, using these factors: sincerity, excitement, competence, sophistication and ruggedness (Aaker, Jennifer L. “Dimensions of Brand Personality” Journal of Market Research. August, 1997.).
However, since Aaker’s article appeared in 1997, there have been many articles about researching brand personality, but Professor Audrey Azoulay of Boston College believes the original concept lacks validity. Azoulay points out that the current measurements of brand personality do not in fact measure brand personality, but rather combine a number of dimensions of brand identity — personality being only one of them. Azoulay writes that, “Brand research and theorizing, as well as managerial practice, have nothing to gain from the present state of unchallenged conceptual confusion” (Azoulay, Audrey and Jean-Noël Kapferer. “Do brand personality scales really measure brand personality?” The Journal of Brand Management. Volume 11, Number 2, Nov. 2003.) Traci Freling at the University of Texas has also pointed out the problems in using “human-oriented” personality scales for consumers to describe the personality of a brand (Freling, Traci H. and Jody l. Crosno and David H. Henard. “Brand Personality Appeal: conceptualization and empirical validity.” Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science. Vol. 39, Aug. 2010.). Mark Avis at Massey University also challenges the idea that consumers can actually perceive brands as animate humanlike entities (Avis, Mark, Robert Aitken and Shelagh Ferguson. “Brand relationship and personality theory: metaphor or consumer perceptual reality?” Marketing Theory. Sept. 2012).
Holly Buchanan, an experienced market researcher, in an effort to clear up the confusion in “brand personality” research, has written that it is not the personality of the “brand” that should be researched but rather the personalities of the potential users that should be explored with the goal of having your brand act as “mirror” reflecting the potential users personality characteristics. Ms. Buchanan comments that by “mirroring” the consumer’s personality you can enhance communications. This insight, to be useful in market research, is dependent on two essential questions: is it possible to determine potential user’s personality? And how can the brand “mirror” that personality.
Ms. Buchanan explains how the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator [the personnel industry standard personality test] can be used to assess consumer personality: “By understanding and mimicking the audience’s preferences, copywriters can create more persuasive communication. Research like the “theory of congruence” . . . show people respond to those they perceive to be like themselves and that persuasiveness can be enhanced by creating similarity between source and receiver. . . The congruity principle relates to the similarity between source and receiver, and research shows that mirroring the thoughts and views of your audience . . . offers the key to more persuasive communications. The driving force here is to communicate in a style similar to that of the receiver whom you hope to persuade” (Buchanan, Holly. “Adapting communications styles to the needs of the market.” In Gloria Moss (editor) The Lessons on profiting from Diversity. Palgrave Macmillan. 2012.).
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator traces its development back to Freud’s associate, C. G. Jung. Jung described the basic concept in his ground-breaking book, “Personality Types” in 1921. Katherine Briggs and Elizabeth Myers built on Jung’s theory and published their first “type indictor” manual in 1943. Their first formal manual was published in 1962, and later refinements have been updated periodically (Manual III came out in 2009). Each year approximately two million people take the test, which is used extensively in the personnel and industrial psychology fields.
Subjects who take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test fill out a series of agree-disagree questions that allow the test administrator to determine where they fall on four basic personality traits: Extraversion vs. Introversion, Sensing vs. Intuition, Thinking vs. Feeling and Judging vs. Perceiving. There are 16 basic combinations of the four Personality Traits indicated above (each having its own particular characteristics). The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test is normally administered using a printed form (or online), and takes about 30 minutes to fill out and score the answers to determine the personality traits of the subject (Keirsey, David and Marilyn Bates. Please Understand Me. Prometheus Nemesis books. 1978.).
Focus groups can use the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to explore respondents’ personalities in a unique way so that marketers can better appeal to them with their communication strategies. Because it is not time-effective to have respondents spend 30 minutes filling out the formal Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a “short-hand” version of the test can be used. As an example, assume we are interested in assessing the personalities of respondents who are users of a particular brand compared to those who are not users, in the context of how they make brand choices. We would have each respondent choose which personality trait alternative best describes those who really “love the brand” as well as whether that trait alternative describes themselves, and to give the reasons for their choices. The question format used is as follows:
Extraversion vs. Introversion:Are they more sociable, focusing on the “outer world” of people and things, or are they more private and focusing on the inner world of ideas and impressions?
Sensing vs. Intuition: Are they more practical focusing on the present and on concrete information gained from their senses, or more imaginative focusing on the future and patterns and possibilities?
Thinking vs. Feeling:Are they more rational and use logic and objective analysis of cause and effect, or more emotional and use emotions and person-centered concerns in decision-making?
Judging vs. Perceiving:Do they want a planned and organized life and want things settled, or do they like things flexible and prefer to keep their options open?
There are 16 basic combinations of the four Personality Traits indicated above (each having its own particular characteristics). Once we know how the respondents categorize the “brand lovers” and themselves (and their reasons for their choices), we are able to better understand how personality traits are related to the brand’s perception, and how the brand needs to project itself (i.e. “mirror” itself) to current users and potential users.
This technique works best in Hypnosis Focus Groups where respondents’ subconscious minds are compelled to give us their honest and truthful answers and not hold back their true “personality” choices. And, while this technique can be employed in traditional “awake” focus groups it will encounter many of the problems encountered in other aspects of these “awake” groups, including “dominant respondent” problems and respondents’ desires to hold back their true feelings, or make choices to please the moderator.
As Timothy Wilson (Malcolm Gladwell’s source for much of the insights in his best-seller “Blink”) has written, "A lot of the confusion about personality and its relation to behavior has resulted from a failure to distinguish between the conscious and the nonconscious systems. There is increasing evidence that people's constructed [conscious] self bears little correspondence to their nonconscious self. One consequence of this fact is that the two personalities predict different kinds of behavior: the adaptive unconscious [subconscious] is more likely to influence people's uncontrolled implicit responses, whereas the constructed self is more likely to influence people's deliberative, explicit responses" (Wilson, Timothy. Strangers to Ourselves - Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious. Belknap Harvard Press. 2002.) What this means for marketers and researchers is that we need to know the subconscious (“adaptive unconscious") personality traits of respondents in order to influence and affect behavior.
USING THE "AUTOMATIC WRITING" TECHNIQUE IN HYPNOSIS FOCUS GROUPS
Automatic Writing is the process of writing without using the conscious mind. The technique is used in Hypnosis Focus Groups to deep-dive for emotional content from respondents' subconscious minds. The technique is used in addition to direct questioning about their emotions relative to the topics in the discussion guide. With this technique respondents are told to visualize a blackboard and to write on it, using a visualized piece of chalk, the words or pictures that describe their emotional response to the stimulus or questions given to them by the moderator. The stimulus might be to ask them to write their reactions to a brand name, or a particular word or phrase, or to complete a sentence. They are then asked to explain why they wrote the words or pictures, and further discussion then proceeds with the group.
The advantage of Automatic Writing is that the subconscious provides "instant" responses compared with the usual "lag" from respondents which is typical in traditional groups where their conscious minds "filter" the answers to guard their emotions. The technique of Automatic Writing using hypnosis has been validated by many academic studies as an efficient way to explore the subconscious.
Automatic Writing was originally used in Spiritualism and the New Age movement as a method of "channeling" spirits, and was used in séances by mediums . During the Surrealist Art movement, Automatic Writing was one of many ways artists used produce original works of art. It is also believed that many writers produced material that they would not have written by using only their conscious mind.
Edmund Gurney, Charles Richet, and William James, 19th century psychologists, are generally credited with first using Automatic Writing in the psychological field. Pierre Janet , a French psychologist , was a pioneer of Automatic Writing in the field of hypnoisis. Automatic writing has been used as a tool in Freudian psychoanalysis where it is a way to get insight into the mind of the patient through their subconscious word choices.
Today, psychological clinicians use Automatic Writing to interact directly with the subconscious. When using Automatic Writing, patients have no conscious knowledge that writing is occurring . Such writing can aid the therapeutic process by allowing hidden psychological material to be obtained. Additionally, the part of the brain that controls Automatic Writing is believed to have access to information that is unavailable to the brain centers that control speech. Automatic Writing can thereby uncover information not accessible through verbalization.
Automatic Writing in Hypnosis Focus Groups can be an exciting way to discover new and different emotional content from respondents. A typical questioning process (with respondents eyes closed) would be as follows, using a cosmetic brand as the example:
Now I want you to visualize that there is a blackboard in front of you. And next to the blackboard is a piece of chalk. Now I want you to take the chalk and write on the blackboard, using words and/or pictures, to tell me how you feel when I say the __________ cosmetic brand.
Then, each respondent, in turn, is asked what they wrote and why they wrote that. A series of “laddering” probes are also used at this point to deep-dive further into the emotional content about the brand, and its foundational elements. At the end of that questioning process, respondents can comment about what they have heard from other members of the group. The information from Automatic Writing Hypnosis Focus Group sessions has been used by many companies to better understand the emotional map of their brands.
THE HYPNO Q-SORT TECHNIQUE
Hypno Q-Sort is a powerful cost-effective technique to research a large number of brand positionings, ad concepts, new product ideas, package designs or other marketing plan elements in a single study, resulting in the discovery and quantification of distinct respondent segments. Results are easy to understand and are geared to making marketing decisions. In the past, Q-Sort studies were conducted with “awake” respondents, but now the technique can be conducted with respondents who have first been hypnotized so the results are based on their subconscious evaluations, a more reliable measurement of how they feel.
The Q-sort technique was developed 80 years ago by William Stephenson, a psychologist and Professor at the University of Missouri. The technique gets respondents to rank-order stimulus material, such as product concept statements, within a given context . For example, respondents can be asked to rank-order 50 product concept statements on a scale of "like best – like least ." Respondents also provide verbatim reasons for their "top" and "bottom" ranked concepts. Additional information about demography and purchase behavior can also be included in the questionnaire. Then, each respondent's ranking is statistically correlated with every other respondent in the study. For example, with 100 respondents, you will end up with 4,950 intercorrelations. (The "correlation" between two individuals who have rank-ordered the same data is simply a measure of how closely they did the rankings, with +1.00 indicating an exact match in their rankings, and -1.00 indicating they did their rankings exactly opposite of one another.)
The inter-correlations are then run through a factor analysis computer program to find the distinct groups (factors) of respondents with high inter-correlations. A “factor” can be thought of as a group of highly inter-correlated respondents. That is , if respondents 23, 78 , 83, 97 and 106 all had high inter-correlations, they would form the basis for inclusion in “Factor 1.” . The computer program would then go through the process again to find "Factor 2" , made up of another distinct group of respondents with high inter-correlations. (But not high inter-correlations with those respondents in Factor 1). The process continues until all statistically significant factor-groups have been identified. When the factor analysis is completed, you might end up with 4 or 5 "factors", or groups of respondents based on the similarity of their rankings.
Once the "factors", or groups of respondents, have been identified, the next step is to analyze which product concepts they liked and why. This is done by evaluating the rank order of the 50 product concepts for the respondents in each factor, and analyzing the verbatim comments about why they liked their “top-ranked” concepts. Other analyses could examine the size of the group , the demography or product usage or brand preference of the factor group compared with the general population, or compared to the other factor groups.
The power of this technique is that a large number of concepts or other marketing plan elements can be researched in a single study, determine which concepts rise to the top, and calculate the size of the groups with the winning concepts. And, by using hypnotized respondents, their subconscious evaluations will provide more reliable data than research using “awake” respondents.
HYPNO-SYNECTICS BRAINSTORMING IN FOCUS GROUPS
Hypno-Synectics is a technique that can help marketers and planners do a better job of getting respondents to brainstorm in focus groups. It combines the 50-year old brainstorming technique of Synectics (the original “outside-the-box” technique) with the scientific use of hypnosis.
The main problems in brainstorming are (a) getting respondents to access their own knowledge bank, (b) using that knowledge in a brainstorming process, and then (c) "cajoling" them to share the new ideas with other respondents in the group. Through the combination of hypnosis and the techniques of Synectics, these brainstorming problems can be solved, and the brainstorming process can be enhanced.
THE HYPNO-SYNECTICS PROCESS
What is Synectics? The term Synectics comes from the Greek word synectikos which means "bringing different things into a unified connection." The key brainstorming concept here is to get people in the focus group to focus on seemingly disconnected words, images and concepts in order to develop something new and original. The Synectics method gets respondents to use non-rational thought processes by "making the strange appear familiar," and by "making the familiar appear strange." As an example, respondents might be asked to think about new ways to show a car in a TV. commercial; but instead of the traditional method of the camera following the car along the road, they would be told to think about showing the car from the viewpoint of a pebble in the road, or by a nail in the tire, or the chrome trim on the door. New ideas will come from this type of thinking.
Why use hypnosis? Hypnosis enables a respondent to get in touch with their subconscious, where their knowledge bank memories and emotions are stored. The subconscious is like a hard drive containing information about everyone and everything they have ever come across in their lives. When people are in the “awake” state, it is extremely difficult for them to recall even a tiny part of their past experiences; but in hypnosis, through a process called “age regression” they can do this with ease. This is important since we want respondents to be able to recall and share their past experiences as part of the brainstorming process.
Hypnosis also enables respondents to suspend their “rational” side and more freely bring out absurd, crazy and weird ideas – ideas they might have withheld if they were awake for fear of sounding strange, or because of peer pressure in the session. These “crazy” ideas are often the launching pads for great practical ideas in the session.
The Moderator. The moderator in the Hypno-Synectics session prepares the stimulus material for the brainstorming , in consultation with the client. The stimulus material consists of the exercises and questions to be used to get the brainstorming session going and keep it on track, using the Synectics techniques The moderator conducts the hypnosis process for the group.
Respondents for the session. There are usually 6 to 8 respondents in each brainstorming session, usually chosen based on typical criteria such as demographics and product and brand usage.
The hypnosis process. At the start of the session, the respondents are hypnotized as a group. While in hypnosis, respondents will be very relaxed and will be told that it is “ok” to provide any ideas that come to them from their subconscious mind.
The Initial brainstorming exercise. The first step in the session is to state and define the brainstorming subject. Once the subject is defined , the initial exercise gathers information about it from the subconscious minds of the respondents . One key way to do this is to “age-regress” the respondents “back in time” to earlier events in their lives where they were involved in the subject of the brainstorming session. Each respondent probably has had some experiences relative to the subject, and this information will be brought out. All of the experiences and ideas from this segment of the session will be written on large sheets of paper and pasted up on the walls of the room where the session is being held (all the ideas from the session are posted this way as well). As ideas come out, respondents will be encouraged to ‘hitchhike” on what they hear, and those ideas will also be written up too. At the end of this segment, respondents will now have a more complete understanding of the subject and will have come up with some initial insights about it.
Additional Hypno-Synectics techniques. At this point in the session, respondents have been exposed to the subject in detail and have heard a good deal about experiences from the other respondents. They now have a base of information as a starting point. And, because they are in a state of hypnosis, they have been “trained” to share any ideas with the group, no matter how “crazy” they sound.
There are many different Hypno-Synectics brainstorming exercises that can now be used, depending on the goal of the session. Some of the more common ones are described below.
The “Direct Analogies” exercise is used in Hypno-Synectics to help respondents break up their existing minds sets. Here we tell respondents to find some similarity between things that are otherwise dissimilar. For example, Brunel, the inventor of underwater tunnels, solved some of his construction problems by watching and thinking about a shipworm tunnel into a timber. In the "direct analogy" you try to find some parallel situation that is analogous to the one you are brainstorming about. As an example, Let’s assume we are brainstorming new ways to promote an American automobile brand. Here are some examples of "Direct Analogy” questions that could be presented to the group:
How is buying a car like sky diving
How is buying a car like playing a game of solitaire
How is buying a car like a hair dryer
How is buying a car like seeing a kangaroo for the first time
After hearing everyone’s answers to a particular "Direct Analogy" question, respondents would be told to hitchhike on the answers and come up with ideas about new motivators to get people to consider the auto brand. As an example, a respondent might say that "buying a car is like sky diving" because they always feel like they are "floating on air" when they get a new car. And, another respondent might hitchhike and say, "Floating on air reminds me of the big balloons that car dealers put up at their showrooms." Then, another respondent might say, " Maybe the brand should have a big car-shaped balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade because that's a really American holiday to show off really American cars."
In the "Personal Analogy” exercise, we direct the respondents to become part of the subject of the session: For example, if you were trying to come up with new ways to combat subway graffiti, they could be told to envision themselves as a spray paint can and then try to come up with solutions or ideas. Or you might ask respondents to visualize themselves as balloons and to think about how to prevent graffiti on a famous building like the Eiffel Tower (and then respondents would discuss those ideas relative to the subway graffiti situation to see if they are feasible).
Hypno-Synectics uses "Role-playing" as a way to come up with new ideas. As an example, a respondent might be given the role of Marie Antoinette and told to "get into the role: the costume, the 18th century environment of Paris, etc." and would then be told to decide which brand of automobile she would buy. Again, by making the familiar into something "strange" we hope to come up with a new way to look at the subject. Another example of “role-playing” would be to give the respondent the role of Willie Shoemaker, the famous jockey, and ask them to decide how Willie would go about selling a particular auto brand. The respondent might come up with this idea: "Willie would re-create an historic race between a horse and an early 20th Century model of that car brand at a race track, to remind people of the brand’s legacy in the automotive industry.” Then another respondent might hitchhike and say, "That reminds me of that brand’s vehicles in NASCAR races." And, another respondent might say, "The brand should have a video game at its dealers where you drive a “virtual” NASCAR vehicle." Other respondents would be given different roles and asked how they would sell the auto brand: e.g., Albert Einstein, John Wayne, Donnie and Marie Osmond, etc. The idea is to get respondents to take something familiar and put it into a strange context from which something new can be generated.
There are many additional exercises for the group to use as stimulus for their brainstorming. A few of them are the following:
Setting up examples that defy physical laws (“What would it be like if there was no gravity in the car dealer’s showroom ”)
Putting respondents into anthropomorphic situations (“You are a butterfly in the car dealer’s showroom – what car features are you looking for?)
Using non-verbal symbols (“Who would you choose to write some unique music to symbolize that car brand ?”)
With each exercise, respondents hitchhike on each others ideas and the Facilitator then brings the ideas back to the task of achieving the brainstorming session’s goals. During the brainstorming segments respondents will stay in the hypnosis state, usually with their eyes closed. However, at times they will be told to stay in hypnosis but open their eyes so they can see ideas pasted up on the walls.
End of the session
After the key brainstorming exercises are concluded, the moderator might ask the respondents to focus on some of the best exercise results and brainstorm in a more directed fashion just about those ideas. There can also be a segment at the end where the respondents are asked to exercise their critical judgments about some of the ideas developed. A typical Hypno-Synectics brainstorming session can run for as long as 2 1/2 hours, but the length of time can be adjusted depending on the project’s requirements.
RESULTS FROM THE SESSIONS
At the conclusion of the session, the moderator distributes all the ideas generated to the client. After reviewing the ideas, the client may wish to add on to the list or provide additional comments. Once all the comments have been received, the moderator provides a written summary of the session, including conclusions and recommendations based on the session.