The Role that Personality and Motivation Play in Consumer Behavior: A Case Study of Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC)
In today's information-oriented society, research and development, particularly information research, has become an important activity for business companies, institutions, and organizations, who want to know more about the consumer market, people who consider consumption as embedded and part of their everyday lives. Initially, commercialism of goods and services through advertising mainly focused on extant products and services that people need; nowadays, persuasive messages are extended through advertising, informing people about the goods and services that they should and ought to know and buy for themselves.
Selling these products and services through persuasive advertising messages, however, are the products of advertising research. More specifically, consumer research tries to identify not only the socio-demographic, but also psychographic profile of consumers, understanding how people can be persuaded to buy a company's product or service. Consumer research looks into the motivations and personalities of an individual in terms of consuming or buying a particular product or service, later turning this information into strategies geared at gaining a particular segment of the market that the company targets or centers on.
This paper discusses in detail the role that motivation and personality plays in influencing consumer behavior, taking the case of the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) as an example to discuss and analyze these important points. In this paper, an analysis of the print ads of HSBC is analyzed, relating its features to identify its target market and perceived motivations and personalities of HSBC's target market. This study aims to provide an illustration of how motivation and personality analysis of consumers are vital to the understanding of consumer markets and behavior.
Consumer Personality and Motivation as illustrated in HSBC Print ads
The terms motivation and personality may seem familiar for people, but its significance to consumer behavior is less known, yet increasingly essential in identifying, determining, and understanding insights regarding consumption patterns and preferences.
Personality is defined by Sheth et. al. (1999) as "[a] person's consistent ways [sic] of responding to the environment in which he or she lives" (G-11). Personality, he states, is created through the combining of external influences or the social environment and genetic or biological traits of the individual. The combination of social with the individual results to the creation or development customer personality; consumer personality may be product- or service-oriented, or both (243). Product-oriented consumers tend to patronize a product or service based on the merchandise itself, while service-oriented consumers tend to "seek relationships" with the seller, producer of the service or manufacturer of the product.
Motivation, meanwhile, is identified as "an inner drive that reflects goal-oriented arousal" (Arnould et. al., 2004:259). It differs from personality in that it is a deeper and more abstract concept, although similar to it in the sense that motivations are also linked to the social environment and individual traits of the individual.
In order to distinguish properly between the two terminologies, personality may be understood as a holistic or general term to describe consumer behavior -- that is, consumer behavior at the macrolevel. Motivation, on the other hand, provides an in-depth look of the consumer as a unique individual and harder to discern and understand. Motivation, thus, represents consumer behavior at the microlevel.
Applying these concepts in the context of HSBC and its adverting and marketing strategies, the researcher of this paper analyzed three (3) print ads, which came out on three issues of TIME magazine: March 11, 18, and 25 for the year 2002. These issues are relevant for this study, since this is the year that HSBC launched its campaign on multiculturalism, entitled "Business Connections," carrying with it the slogan, "Never underestimate the importance of local knowledge."
These ads, which serve as units of analysis of the study, are textually analyzed to generate themes that depict the influence of motivation and personality of the target consumer market in the production of the advertising message and form. The texts that follow discusses the salient points generated from the analysis, which involves the following: (1) HSBC ads illustrate how culture as the social environment and cultural traits serve as primary consideration in crafting today's advertising messages to the consumer; (2) motivations such as achievement, power, uniqueness, affiliation, and self-esteem are the determinants of a consumer's cultural environment and traits. These linkages are seen thoroughly in the next section.
Never underestimate the importance of local knowledge": HSBC on culture and the consumer
It was initially discussed that consumer behavior in terms of the personality dimension is primarily determined through the consumer's merchandise- or service-orientedness. However, going further into the analysis of consumer personality, there is also recognition that consumers adopt various personalities depending on the role that they assume as consumer: user, payer, or buyer (Sheth et. al., 1999:243).
These distinctions are somewhat similar to the merchandise-oriented and service-oriented dichotomy introduced earlier, although in this new set of consumer personalities, the economic dimension is taken into consideration. Thus, consumer personality is divided into three facets: the merchandise-oriented consumer as the user, the service-oriented consumer as buyer, and the consumer's financial position as the payer.
In the HSBC "Business Connections" advertising campaign, these components of consumer behavior become evident. The buyer or service-oriented consumer, clearly, is the primary target market of HSBC, since its business orientation is to provide banking services for potential clients. However, it is evident that HSBC decided to transgress its role as bank service provider to becoming the consumer's "expert" on cultural knowledge of every nation engaged in the business industry. Its ad campaign is developed to fulfill this objective, allowing the consumers to get to know other societies and cultures around the world, stressing how HSBC knows each culture featured, and understands these cultures well, enabling them to effectively handle business and financial transactions with them.
The March 18, 2002 ad of HSBC shows two images of hands toasting glasses together, with the first image displaying the text, "HUNGARY: Bad luck," while the second image shows the text "USA: Good health." This simple, yet effective display of cultural differences around the world is reflective of HSBC's work ethic, implying to the reader (who is also a potential customer) that they understand various cultures very well. This understanding of various cultures of the world becomes HSBC's advantage, since it helps them "...recognise [sic] financial opportunities invisible to outsiders" (TIME, 2002).
The buyer (service-oriented consumer) would be enticed with the said ad, since institutions whose primary commodity is service provision knows that understanding the individual and his/her social/cultural environment is one way of highlighting the fact that they are selling service that reflects the personality of consumer-buyer. For example, an American who encountered the HSBC ad discussed above will show approval of the distinction made by the banking company. This approval will, in turn, lead to the development of credibility of HSBC and trust from the consumer; thus, the next time the consumer should consider seeking help in banking services of financial transactions, s/he would seek HSBC, primarily because it understands the individual's sentiments, feelings, and opinions -- in other words, the customer's personality.
This can also be applied to the consumer as user, wherein the commodity can be either the information about Hungarian and American culture depicted in the ad, or the banking service provided by HSBC, or both. The first scenario occurs when the individual is also a business person who is interested in knowing the business culture of another country, which, to the business-oriented individual, is always a potential customer. The information that it is bad luck in Hungary and good health in the U.S.A. To toast glasses will become helpful to the individual when s/he deals with clients coming from these countries. Or, it may be that the consumer-user is interested in knowing up to what extent HSBC's credibility and banking experience is; thus, from the ad, one can already surmise that HSBC has sufficient experience to merit credibility and warrant trust from the consumer.
The consumer as payer, meanwhile, is different from the preceding kinds of consumer personalities discussed. Since in this category, the impact of economic stability and financial capability are taken into account, the strategy of HSBC must then emanate as to include and address the concerns of the consumer-payer in its ad. In the ad, this concern is addressed by the inclusion of the term "local knowledge" in its ad, giving reference to the fact that not only did HSBC learned to know and understand the culture of a country, but it was also able to capture its people, the masses, which ultimately constitutes a particular culture, the keepers and actors of this "local knowledge."
Whether the consumer-payer has financial troubles or not, HSBC considers everyone a potential customer, and the consumer-payer, through the ad, shall assume that HSBC will aid him/her for whatever banking service or financial support s/he wants to avail, simply because the institution understands "local knowledge," the…