Tell me what I want to hear – Targeted personality messaging

By Adam Bull, Newgate Research

Who knows you best? Your mum? A sibling? Your spouse perhaps? Well, if you “like” over 300 pages on Facebook, the answer is actually Facebook.

That’s according to Patrick Fagan (former Head of Psychology at Cambridge Analytica) in his presentation at Nudgestock 2020.

He spoke at length about all sorts of interesting insights regarding the correlations between interests, personality types, and behaviours, as well as the unbelievable power of Facebook ‘Likes’ as a predictor of behaviour. Through incredibly smart algorithms, you can reliably predict someone’s personality from a very small slice of information. Apparently, you can judge a book by its cover!

This all helps to explain why Facebook ads seem to read your mind. But what can communicators learn from this?

A topical example would be the Government messaging around lockdown. Given what we know about predicting behaviours from different personality types, should there have been a level of flexibility in the Government messaging? 

Stay Home
Protect the NHS 
Save Lives

Given this slogan was designed for the entire UK population, were they missing a trick considering the conservative nature of the messaging? Stay. Protect. Save. 

Could they have achieved greater message cut-through if there was an alternative message for more liberal, extroverted personality types, who we know react better to more aspirational messaging?

Enjoy Home
Help the NHS
Win the War on Covid

Given we know the power of targeted messaging based on personality types, would this message have better resonated within some audiences?

Could this logic also be used to help the communications around facemasks too? To achieve better uptake and less resistance to masks, should there be different messaging for liberal and conservative personality types?

Or, using Facebook, should you craft specific campaigns for distinct audiences? As we can accurately predict people’s behaviours from these seemingly insignificant slices of their interests, why not? Perhaps messages about masks helping get the economy back on track to readers of the FT, and messages about helping the NHS to Guardian readers.

We have already opened the floodgates for this type of hyper-targeted messaging, what better way to use it than to protect lives?