Viewing your target audience as more than just a consumer, but instead, as a human, is nothing new. But putting the individual first, in marketing, advertising and university experience, is no easy feat. No marketer wants to present an off-key, or even worse, irrelevant message. Want to know how you can avoid just that? Utilise personality marketing to ensure your efforts will resonate with the individuals you’re looking to connect with, combined with your socio-demographic segmentation to drive targeting on platforms. Here’s why student specialists, marketers and recruiters need to have personality marketing on their radar — what it is, how it can transform your strategies, and why it undeniably matters. 

We caught up with our Market Research expert Carmen about one particularly interesting (and exciting) approach to understanding your students on a whole other level. One that is underutilised in the university space, and can offer you more actionable marketing insights. 

Students are made up of a much broader array of emotions, attitudes, motivations, behaviours and expectations than suggested by their age, location, gender and social class. And you need to recognise those characteristics to understand young people’s experiences and struggles, and ultimately how to influence them into seeing your institution as the right place for them. And that’s done with personality marketing and the Big Five. The gold standard of individual profiling which breaks different personalities down into five key traits and sliding scales:

- Open-mindedness, 

- Agreeableness, 

- Conscientiousness,

- Neuroticism, 

- Extroversion.

In sectors like education, adopting personality marketing can have some significant positive effects, and therefore more effective marketing and higher engagement. Creating better matches for messages, services or experiences. And we’re not just talking for recruitment purposes or attracting that initial attention. But for retaining your students too. 

Take this for example; those who score low in conscientiousness (who are typically less achievement-oriented and organised) can be offered group study skill workshops to encourage motivation, engagement and time management, increasing the potential for academic success and satisfaction. 

On the other end of the scale, the more ‘neurotic’ of students are more susceptible to anxiety and experiencing negative feelings. You could use tailored messaging to support their mental health as well as helping them see their time at university as a transformative experience, as opposed to a taxing one. 

Taking this concept further, we thought we’d take a look at one project where this approach has been adopted and has triggered some great results. 

One London institution was considering recruiting students from a new international market. We found that students in that particular audience were high in neuroticism and were more likely to experience negative emotions during their application journey. In other words, they felt anxious and cautious about studying in the UK. So opting for messaging focused on the adventure of studying in a new and unfamiliar city would not resonate with this audience; in fact, it could have acted as a deterrent. They weren’t drawn to the excitement that comes with living in a new city and, unlike their counterparts from another territory, words such as “possibility” and “adventure” would not cut-through. Instead, the takeaway was that this institute's messaging in the new market should reflect on the security and safety that could be offered, and the services that the university could provide to ease transitions, and that would be the content that would really resonate. Without this personality analysis, understanding what the target audience wanted to hear could have ended up as an (incorrect) stab in the dark. 

It’s important not to flatten the segmentation process, as socio-demographic criteria are important, but in combination with personality marketing, your understanding of existing and prospective students is elevated. This strategic and thorough profiling can help to identify specific segments to target through tailored and more engaging messages, in turn driving marketing effectiveness, as well as recognising where you may have gaps compared to the HE sector as a whole. As well as understanding which services and messages are underperforming for which groups and why. So, it begs the question, are you sending out energetic messages when a more considered tone would be better, or are you offering social activism opportunities to those who anxiously shy away from confrontation? 

If you want to better understand your audience, get in touch

Article by

Eleana Davidson Native Author

Eleana Davidson

Senior Marketing Executive