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  • Subject area(s): Marketing
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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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Personality is the set of unique psychological characteristics that consistently influence the way a person responds to situation in an environment, which determines and reflects how a consumer will respond or react in a certain situation (Solomon, Marshall and Stuart, 2009). Traits strongly affect a consumer's buying behaviour and choice, which make up a huge part of one's personality. The Big Five personality traits are the most prevalent personality framework. The theory applies in multiple countries and cultures around the world (Schmitt et al. 2007). The Big Five traits were identified to be Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism. This report will examine neuroticism, extraversion and conscientiousness, which are part of the key influences on consumer behaviour within the food and drink industry, supported by appropriate examples and business strategies.

One influential aspect in consumer behaviour is Neuroticism which represents the tendency of individuals' to experience psychological distress, neuroticism tends to prevail in most psychiatric conditions (Costa, Jr & McCrae 1992 cited by Brown, V 2018). People who score higher in Neuroticism tend to be more emotionally labile and they complain more frequently about worries and anxieties; the opposite of neuroticism is emotional stability (Goldberg, 1990 cited by Brown, V 2018). Prior research reported that there is a relationship between compulsive buying and neuroticism (Gohary and Hanzaee 2014 cited by Brown, V 2018); following Johnson and Attmann (2009) who found a significant relationship between neuroticism and compulsive buying. According to (Brown 2018), neuroticism is positively related to watching violent media, real crime, and police drama. It has a significant influence on the willingness to buy online, and the studies confirmed that neuroticism is linked to compulsive buying. Therefore, compulsive buyers make purchases in order to improve their mood, cope with stress, gain social approval/recognition, and improve their self-image. (Lejoyeux and Weinstein 2010 Karim and Chaudhri 2012; McQueen 2014; Roberts 2014). This relates to Keller and Siegrist (2015) who links neuroticism to the consumption of sweet and savoury foods as a result of emotional and external eating, which indicates that neurotic and emotionally unstable individuals seem to adopt counter-regulatory external or emotional eating and eat high-energy dense sweet and savoury foods. An example of this, dates back to 2000 where Red Bull's TV advert shows an unamused man with a negative facial expression, after he drinks a can of the sugary energy drink Red Bull, he smiles and as the advert promises ‘it gives you [him] wings' as seen in appendix D. Neuroticism is generally found in compulsive buying consumers, which means that they are more likely to be attracted by the appearance and the smell of food and drinks. For instance, Taiwan's unique night markets have been replicated across the world, which provide street food and drink, and as seen in Appendix B, they attract customers by extravagant aesthetics and attractive smells. Globally, businesses have adopted the idea of tapping into people's senses with indulgent food markets, which links in to the 7P's marketing theory with product, placement and promotion being focussed on (Booms and Bitner 1981). With neurotics who tend to be drawn by colours, smells and compulsion, this business strategy works successfully to attract this kind of consumer.  

Another personality trait that influences consumption is extraversion, which contrasts with neuroticism in terms of personality but are similar in food selections. Extraversion indicates how outgoing and social a person is (Solomon, M., Marshall, G. and Stuart, E. 2009), it promotes sweet and savoury, meat and soft drink consumption via promoting external eating (Keller and Siegrist 2015). People with high extraversion are more social and more embedded in social nets (Friedman et al. 2010 cited by Keller and Siegrist 2015), therefore they tend to eat in groups. The fast food industry is targeting certain products and meal deals to extroverts and their social situations. For example KFC, the globalised fast food chain, released a video advertisement for Christmas 2017 that had the message “Roll together, feast together” as seen in Appendix A. This video advertisement is directly targeted at individuals that tend to eat in groups, hence the promotion of ‘bucket size' and ‘family deals'.  This way KFC can increase their sales, by selling items for a social group instead of an individual.

Research has shown that a variety of personality characteristics greatly affect drinking levels. The personality trait that was found to be the single best predictor variable is extraversion (Martsh & Miller 1997 cited by Donlin 2018). A study was done to examine the link between alcohol consumption and personality (Cook, Swansea, Young, Taylor & Bedford 1998 cited by Donlin 2018). Results indicate that alcohol that is consumed is positively correlated with extraversion and sociability (Cook et al.1998 cited by Donlin 2018). Budweiser released a video and a poster advertisement in 2010 to promote their beer with the title ‘Grab Some Buds'. Both the video and the title of the advertisement show that the product is targeted at individuals that tend to drink in groups and are more extraverted, we know this because Budweiser used transitions from different shots and locations in the video to display loud, busy and sociable environments where Budweiser unleashes the extraverts and underpins the fun. The use of the word ‘Buds' is a double entendre, meaning to get some beers (Budweisers) and grab some ‘buds' meaning friends to share these moments with, as seen in appendix C.

Conscientiousness has been described as the tendency to be task- and goal-orientated, to plan and delay gratification, to strive to achieve through self-discipline and follow societal-approved norms and rules to manage impulses (Srivastava S. 2004). Conscientiousness tends to present positive life benefits because it has proven associations with nutrition, well-being, longevity, work performance and behaviour benefits (Fleeson W. & Gallagher, P. 2009). Moreover, the function of a product has been defined as a “consumer satisfaction of benefits” and that “in all cases, we are selling the satisfaction or use derived or expected from the purchase of the product (McCarthy 1960 cited by Doyle 2011). Innocent Smoothies, a 1999 formed juice and smoothie company, target the conscious consumer, they promote their creation of “natural, delicious, healthy drinks that help people live well and die old” (Innocent 2018).Therefore, McCarthy suggests that Innocent is not only a smoothie or drink, it's a route to satisfaction for a consumer because of the promise of natural ingredients, “a minimum of 10% profits each year go to charity”, and “sourced sustainability” (See figure E) which connects the purchase to the buyer and creates the thesis of a healthier consumer who is taking a step towards stopping world hunger; a satisfying sentiment to leave with a contentiousness consumer.

The conscientiousness of consumers therefore has become an opportunity for marketers and food companies. Moreover, “73% of US consumers have refused to buy a product they felt had a negative environmental impact” (Komornicki 2018). Thus, the way in which shoppers choose their products has changed; marketing trends and food companies have recently concentrated on recycling or plastic free, vegan, healthier living and global sustainability related strategies, to target the percentile who are conscientious of making a change. Another example of this, is Whole Foods, “America's healthiest food store” who operate in only one segment: natural and organic foods. Whole Foods does not carry products with hydrogenated fats, animals raised with antibiotics, caged hen eggs, products containing artificial flavours, colours and sweeteners or non-recyclable packaging (Whole Foods 2018). Whole Foods has become a success story across the USA, Canada and The UK, in line with health and environmentally conscious consumers, with a market capitalization of over $10 billion reported in 2016 (Whole Foods 2018).

Personality has proven to be an interesting yet complex approach to consumer behaviour. Although often overlooked, this report has given an insight to the importance of personality traits and their impact on decision making, to the extent that it could be considered as an eighth ‘P' as part of the 7P's theory (Booms and Bitner 1981). Marketers should contemplate ‘which personality traits does my product appeal to?', this would create a deeper discussion on consumer behaviour and provide awareness on greater groups of target markets. However, the realms of personality is a subjective matter which may become overly complicated for an average marketing department, and more appropriately for the educated psychologist.


Consumer behaviour is defined as “a discipline dealing with how and why consumers purchase, or do not purchase, goods and services” (Ling, D'Alessandro and Winzar 2015). One of the factors affecting consumer behaviour is social class, with the Oxford dictionary definition of this being “a division of society based on social and economic status” (Oxford Dictionaries English 2018). Gilbert and Kahl identified nine variables that contribute to one's social class and categorised them into three groups; economic variables which cover occupation, income and wealth, interaction variables such as personal prestige, association and socialisation, and political variables including power, class consciousness and mobility (Engel, Blackwell and Miniard 1990 p.109). We are going to explore how social class affects consumer behaviour by looking at some of the main theories and its subsequent impacts on business strategies and practices that are adopted by organisations in the food and drink industry.

One of the main social class factors that influences what products consumers purchase is the cost associated with food and drink. Freshly prepared foods of a higher quality and with more nutritional value tend to be priced at a premium, making them less affordable for low-income, low-class consumers. This group of consumers are more likely to have a lack of proper cooking facilities and so the need for frozen and/or processed ready meals which have little preparation and are highly convenient is increased (Eufic 2004). To add to this,

working-class women are also less likely to experiment with new products due to them preferring predictability over novelty and so would stick to basic meals with few ingredients (Solomon et al 2009). A study focusing on class differences in food consumption/considerations came to a similar conclusion; data on 849 mothers' eating habits from countries across Europe including Germany and Belgium were collected. The results concluded that the lower-income, lower-class mothers prioritised the cost of products and so business strategies focusing on money-saving deals such as ‘BOGOF' would be more effective (Hupkens, Knibbe and Drop 2000). On the contrary, higher-income earners favoured products that either promoted health benefits such as ‘part of your 5 a day' (see appendix G) or demonstrated quality with good taste. However, regression analysis on this study did show that while social class contributes to class patterns in food consumption, it is by no means the only factor.

Karl Marx based his theory on the belief that “under capitalism bourgeois versus proletarians is the fundamental form of the class struggle” (Poulantzas et al 1977, p. 26). The Bourgeoisie own the means of production and exploit labour power whereas the Proletariat merely own labour power and so work for a capitalist-employer in an exploitative social relationship (Uregina 1999). These classes would consume different products, for example the Bourgeoisie have power and status and so would want products such as luxury goods that serve as status symbols to reflect this (Solomon et al 2009 p.170). The social perception of a brand or retailer is known to play a role in the behaviour and purchasing decisions of consumers (Rani 2014). Therefore, those associated as being a part of the bourgeoisie are more likely to shop in places with an upper-class stigma such as Waitrose, as it can act as a visible marker to provide a way to flaunt ones' membership to a higher social class (Solomon et al, 2009 p.170).

 Another view similar to this is Max Weber's social stratification theory which was influenced by Marx's ideas. Weber used three components to divide society into different social groups: Class, Status and Power (Group 2017). Those in the same group often live a similar lifestyle and are presented with the same opportunities and so consume the same products. Those with a higher status are more likely to buy branded food and drink to maintain popularity, in the same sense that those with lower prestige go for supermarket own brands such as ‘Tesco Everyday Value' (see appendix H) (Tesco 2018).  Warner also defined social classes. He split society into 6 groups: upper-upper, lower-upper, upper-middle, lower-middle, upper-lower and lower-lower and saw each group to follow different ideas on what members of said group should buy (Camera 1971).

However, all of these theories are from the 19th century and so are considered to be outdated. Society has a very complex structure and so it can be seen as a very simplistic and generalised view to say that everyone can be categorised into a certain number of groups. These theories also suggest that those from the ‘Proletariat' or a lower class or those with low class, status and power would only buy food and drink from supermarket own brands. Yet, supermarkets are trying to appeal to those from all classes, for example Tesco has its ‘Tesco Finest' range as well as the ‘Everyday Value' option (Tesco 2018). Students, who typically have a low income and would stereotypically shop in discounted supermarkets such as Lidl, are in fact shopping in places such as Waitrose; a supermarket that comes with the assumption it is only for those of a higher class, power or status. This is partly due to them diversifying by bringing out an ‘essential Waitrose' range (Waitrose 2018). Some consumers also shop outside of their means to give the impression they are of a higher class than they actually are, which conflicts against the assumptions made in Marx, Weber and Warner's theories.

“Eating out and drinking wine were once only pleasures enjoyed regularly by upper class members of society” (Lancaster, Reynolds 2005 cited by Durmaz and Taşdemir 2014). This is no longer accurate, due to restaurants such as ‘Nandos' offering meals at a more affordable price and so the social occasion of ‘eating out' has become more accessible to all. However, this isn't true across the globe. Societies in countries such as Denmark and Canada are less affected by class distinctions and status compared to countries such as India (where majority of the population are Hindu (Census 2011) and Brazil where segregation is more extreme (Hollense  2010 cited by Durmaz and Taşdemir 2014). India's caste system is one of the world's oldest surviving form of social stratification (BBC News, 2017) where in New Dehli, “one's social significance is assumed to be nil unless there are tangible signs to the contrary”, with “corporate brands” carrying the “most authority” (Ranadasgupta 2009). According to the Ipsos Global Trends Survey, 58% of Indians measure success on the basis of what they own, compared to 34% being the global average, meaning those of a higher caste such as the Brahmins are much more likely to purchase branded goods (Parikh 2017). So here, a consumer buys food based on the caste they are in due to each caste having different qualities or energies and so having different diets. There are three gunas (social classes), (Sattva, Rajas and Tamas), all of which contain different qualities (purity, passion and darkness). The highest caste (Brahmins) only eat food from the Sattva guna diet such as grains, nuts, fruits and vegetable. The Kshatriyas and Vaishyas eat from the Rajas guna diet, containing foods such as onions, garlic, caffeine and tobacco with the lowest caste the Shudras eating from the Tamas guna diet containing meat, fish and eggs (Welles 2015). This means their buying behaviour, especially in terms of food and drink, reflects the guna they are in. With companies such as ‘Eastern Condiments' adopting business strategies of offering ‘Brahmin Sambar Powder' to indicate high quality and purity for the higher caste and ‘Sambar Powder' for all castes below (see appendix I) (Agrawal 2016). There are even cookbooks and coffee shops dedicated to accommodating to the needs of those from the Brahmin caste. Meaning social class has a major impact on consumer buying behaviour and so strategies adopted by businesses are altered dependant on which caste they are targeting.

Theories such as Marx, Weber and Warner's and studies such as the one mentioned previously show that social class does have a big effect on consumer behaviour. So, business strategies adopted by companies in the food and drink sector do have to be adapted to target different social classes, for example supermarkets like Tesco having a variety of product ranges from “Everyday Value” to “Tesco Finest” (Tesco 2018). However, social class is by no means the only factor that affects a consumers' buying behaviour and the extent to which it does impact their decision varies from country to country.

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