Consumer narcissism can impact the success of ad personalisation strategies

New Ideas in MarketingEssential news for marketers, summarised by YouGov
April 09, 2019, 7:09 PM UTC

Inconsistencies in the success of targeted messaging could be down to consumer psychology.

The authors of this study note that, enabled by tracking and database technology, marketers are investing increasing amounts in personalised, targeted advertising. They reference a “widespread belief” that more personalisation leads to greater effectiveness but point out that recent research has suggested the situation is more complicated than this.

The paper distinguishes between two types of ad personalisation: individual-level which uses information such as name and birthday that identifies consumers as unique individuals, and group-level which targets people based on “social identity” characteristics like workplace, gender or ethnicity. The “situational effects” of these types of adverts were examined by comparing the attention and attitudes of consumers with different personality traits; specifically, varying levels of narcissism, a personality characterised by “self-aggrandizing, self-centred, egocentric” tendencies.

As the authors predicted, high narcissism individuals gave greater attention and had a more positive attitude towards individual-level than group-level personalisation. Lower narcissism consumers were more positive about the group based ads, but did not seem to pay more attention to them than others. They suggest that to achieve broad awareness, advertisers should consider individually personalised messaging to ensure more self-centred consumers take notice, but caution that this approach may “backfire” with people with low narcissism.

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