Consumers might as well be zombies when they’re shopping, making decisions about what to buy without knowing the real reasons.

Their motivations are buried deep in their unconscious ... and their tweets. Or so claim the designers of a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) software platform that can dig up the deepest drivers in a shoppers’ brain, for the benefit of marketers.

Called MotiveMetrics, the software gathers publicly available text — from such sources as Twitter streams — and breaks it into "linguistic variables," explained Dan Cudgma, the company's president and co-founder.

Personality Profiles

“Modern psychology research tells us that the way people use words is inextricably linked to their personalities. It’s a relationship that’s quantifiable and almost impossible to fake, meaning it can’t be manipulated," Cudgma said.

Next, the software makes sense of the variables with a proprietary analytical model, which produces an individual personality trait profile. Marketing power comes when the tool aggregates the individual profiles and holds them up against traits from the wider population. That, Cudgma claimed, allows marketers to then understand the motivations of an entire market segment.

The implicit message — explicit message if you read MotiveMetrics' press release — is that current tools in the marketer's tool belt fail to do this.

'Why Did I Do That?'

But there's no need to take just the words of the people promoting a new product. Karen Winterich, an associate marketing professor at Penn State's Smeal College of Business, agrees that focus groups and surveys are limited in that they rely on consumers to be aware of their purchasing motives.

"Yet we know that many factors that exert an influence are non-conscious. For personality, specifically, some consumers may not even recognize what their personality is, and even for those that do recognize their personality traits, they are likely unaware of the full extent to which it impacts their decisions," Winterich said.

If consumers don’t know themselves, how can we expect marketers to?

To prove this point, MotiveMetrics created personality profiles for a given set of industries, as well as trait data for different types of personalities, like altruistic, brand-loyal, coupon-averse, prestige conscious and unconventional. They did so by creating a representative sample of Fortune 500 companies in each given industry, then analyzing Twitter followers associated with each industry cohort, as many as 50,000 followers per.

Next, they applied the MotiveMetrics tool, and like voodoo magic, it illuminated the zombie-like motivations of consumers for each industry.

Finally, they surveyed more than 125 marketers about the personalities of their Twitter followers. The marketers' perceptions of their followers failed to come close to the actual personality traits.

For instance, 62 percent of respondents said their followers were open to discounts. The data showed, on the other hand, that only 12 percent of the followers were; conversely, nearly eight in 10 of the followers were coupon-averse, meaning coupons not only don't turn them on ... they may turn them off.

From Winterich's point of view, marketers are getting more sophisticated at understanding their targets. They are using customer analytics, particularly with data they capture at point of purchase and about individuals' personalities and values.

"However, consumer decisions are influenced by an array of factors-individual differences in personality and values, as well as social influences and contextual factors at the time of the decisions. Given the number of factors at play, the average corporate marketer may have a reasonable understanding of consumer motivations for purchases in their particular product category or among their target market, but they are unlikely to fully understand how their customer will behave," said the business professor. 

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image  by alant79.