Trait Theory in Personality Consumer Behaviour

Personality is another internal determinant which influences our consumption pattern. We tend to use products that go with our personality.

Personality may be defined as those inner psychological characteristics that determine and reflect how a person responds to his or her environment. Inner characteristics are those specific qualities and attributes traits, factors, mannerisms that distinguish one person from another. Personality influences the individual’s product choices and brand choices. It also responds to a firm’s promotional efforts and, when and how they consume particular products or,services. By associating personality characteristics with consumer behavior, a marketer can formulate marketing strategies in an effective manner.

Personality reflects individual differences. Therefore, we can categories them into groups on the basis of few traits, e.g., low sociability/high sociability, dull/bright, practical vs. imaginative etc. Personality is consistent and enduring and is only one of the factors that affect consumer behavior. Personality can change due to major life events. These could be birth, death, marriage. It can also be changed by a gradual process.

Trait theory of Personality in Consumer Behaviour

Trait Theory
A trait is defined as a predisposition to respond in a particular way. Traits are used to define behavior of consumers.
There are a number of traits given by Cat tell and they are sixteen in numbers:

  1. Reserved vs. Outgoing
  2. Dull vs. Bright
  3. Docile vs. Aggressive
  4. Serious vs. Happy go lucky
  5. Unstable vs. Stable
  6. Expedient vs. Conservative
  7. Shy vs. Uninhibited
  8. Tough-minded vs. Tender-minded9. Trusting vs. Suspicious
  9. Practical vs. Imaginative
  10. Unpretentious vs. Polished
  11. Self-assured vs. Self-respective
  12. Conservative vs. Experimenting
  13. Group-dependent vs. Self-sufficient
  14. In disciplined vs. Controlled
  15. Relaxed vs. Tense

Cat tell believes that traits are acquired at an early age, or through learning, or are inherited. This theory is representative of multi-personality theories (more than one trait influences behavior).
Trait theory is based on certain assumptions, which are:

  1. Traits are relatively stable characteristics
  2. A limited number of traits are common to most people
  3. The degree of traits possessed by an individual can be measured by using a rating questionnaire in a continuum, on a 1 to 10 scale.

The Psychoanalytic Theory of Freud
Freud proposed that every individual’s personality is the product of struggle among three interacting forces: These three are fully developed and are in a state of balance in a healthy person. If any individual is underdeveloped, then this balance is disturbed and there is dissatisfaction with the self and the world.
Id: According to Freud’s psychoanalytic theory of personality, the id is the personality component made up of unconscious psychic energy that works to satisfy basic urges, needs, and desires. The id operates based on the pleasure principle, which demands immediate gratification of needs.
Ego: Ego is that state of awareness which thinks of you as separate from the other. Ego thinks in terms of guiltiness and shames and glories of the past, and it thinks in terms of fears and hopes about the future. It never thinks about what ‘is’, but always thinks about ‘what was’ and ‘what could be’.
Super Ego: The superego is the aspect of personality that holds all of our internalized moral standards and ideals that we acquire from both parents and society--our sense of right and wrong. The superego provides guidelines for making judgments.
Consumers have competing desires and want to satisfy their wants. Marketers, therefore,create fantasies about the product which is used as a basis for influencing consumers.

Marketers use flights of fantasy to propel people to buy their products. Hedonism is an appeal to pleasure principle and this approach offers products for an affluent society. Psychoanalytical theory appeals to the buyer’s dreams, hopes and fears. It can also provide products which are rational and socially acceptable.
Id: It is the strong urge or desire which is at the heart of a consumer’s motivation and personality. The function of the Id is to discharge tension which it does by demanding instant gratification, even at the cost of violating the norms of society. Id operates on the pleasure principle. Psychologically, id is the source of all desires and wishes that exist in the form of unconscious images and fantasies. Since all wishes are not satisfied, there is frustration and this may lead an individual to break norms and rules for his satisfaction. It does not deal with objective reality and is subjective.
Ego: This comes into existence because of the limitation of id. Ego operates on theReality Principle. It tries to achieve the demands of id in a realistic and possible way. The ego develops ways to postpone the wishes of id. If id wants a product the ego restrains it because of financial constraints. It controls impulsive behavior. Id engages in dreams and fantasies which exist as pleasurable imaginations.
Ego can distinguish between dreams and reality. Ego is an individual’s social control. It acts as an internal monitor and attempts to balance the demand of id.
Super ego: It strives for perfection. It is the individual’s moral code and helps in striving for perfection. It restrains the aggressive impulse of the id rather than postponing them, as does the ego.
Social-Psychological/Neo-Freudian Theory
It is of the view that social relationships are fundamental to the formation and development of personality. So, consumers have been classified into three personality groups:
CAD Model
Compliant Individuals: Move towards others for the need of love, affection and approval; are conformists who prefer known brands.
Aggressive Individuals: Tend to move against others and are manipulative; feel ahigh need for achievement, power, success; prefer specific
brands, so that they can be noticed.Detached Individuals: Move away from others: feel a need for self reliance, independence and freedom; are least aware of brands.


  • Different personality types of individuals tend to use different products and brands.
  • Compliant types prefer known products and brands, while aggressive types prefer specific brands out of a desire to be noticed.
  • Detached types appear to have the least awareness of brands.
  • Emphasis on the social nature of consumption e.g., while advertising for personal care products, care is taken not to offend any particular group. Products be advertised which are used in social interactions or when in groups.

Emotions control our behavior. They are relatively uncontrolled feelings which affect toreador. We are emotionally charged by environmental factors and events. If somebody misbehaves with us we feel angry. On our achievements we feel happy. Whenever we are emotionally charged, physiological changes also take place within us. These may be faster breathing, perspiration, dilation, or moistening of eyes. Increased heart and blood pressure,enhanced blood sugar levels, etc. Mental activation also takes place, and we recall a lot of pleasant or unpleasant incidences and can also think rationally. The behavior of different individuals vary from situation to situation, and emotions are mostly associated with behavior.

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