When you try on a new piece of clothing, like a shirt or a new jacket, what do you see when you look in the mirror? If you’re like most consumers, you’re not looking at the clothing. Rather, you’re looking at yourself and thinking about how that new clothing fits the image of the person you are or want to become.
As a innovator, you need to understand this very important aspect of consumer behavior called personality. Your customers are complex, and their mental make-up affects everything they do in terms of shopping, buying, and using your products.
Personality is the collection of individual traits and characteristics that make each of us unique. Now the study of personality is highly complicated with many different theories and approaches. But for innovators, one personality factor you must understand is known as the self-concept. Self concept is a person’s ideas and feelings about himself or herself. We live our lives shaping and influencing it.
Each of has more than one concept of ourselves. The real image is how people actually see you. Your self image is how you see yourself regardless of how others view you. And your possible self is what you aspire to become one day. It’s like an ideal self image. Possible self also goes the other direction. Sometimes we hold an image in our head of what we want to avoid becoming. For example, we want to avoid becoming a bad parent or friend.
These self images can change depending on where we are and who we’re with. Your self image might be a lot different at home with your family than it is at work, for example.
As a innovator, you can use these self images in several ways. First, you can build products and services that help people enhance one of these images. Research shows people try to influence most how others see them, so people buy products that are impressive to others. An innovation method like SIT, for example, can be used to point you in this direction. The Task Unification Technique in particular can be deployed in a way that forces you to seek benefits related to the consumer’s self image.
Or, you can appeal to how customers see themselves in their own eyes. If they consider themselves very handy around the house, you can offer tools and other products that help them be great at it. If you want to appeal to customers striving to get ahead in life, you can offer self improvement products and services that let people pursue their dreams.
The self concept is also a very useful way to perform market segmentation. Segmentation is grouping people around at least one common characteristic. A particular type of self image could serve as a way to segment and target customers in your marketing plan.
Finally, innovators need to understand their customer’s self image so they can appeal to it in communications such as advertising or product packaging. Let’s go back to our handyman example. If you wanted to reach this target audience, you would show a commercial featuring a handyman at work using your inventions and doing a great job with it. All the handymen out there will identify with the commercial because it’s telling us that your products will reinforce my self concept as a handy person.
People consume products and services to make themselves happy, and a big part of that is feeling happy about who you are. Innovators don’t just create products. They help consumers shape the person inside. And that’s a very special role.
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Drew Boyd is co-author of “Inside the Box: A Proven System of Creativity for Breakthrough Results.” Follow him at insidetheboxinnovation.com and at @DrewBoyd/drewboyd