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An Ocean View

Tom Hutchison Last Updated May 28th, 2020
An Ocean View

You are unique. No one else on Earth is exactly like you. The blend of genetics and environment, experiences and upbringing makes you one-of-a-kind. You are special. The world has never seen anyone like you and it never will. You’re the Mona Lisa. You are Michelangelo’s David. You’re the swirls of starlight in the night sky of Provence Van Gogh captured in The Starry Night.

Yet, in spite of your singular nature, you are similar to other people. Your definitive characteristics, attitudes and behaviors are often found in others. While you aren’t exactly the same as other people, your similarities cause you to act and react in common ways. That’s good for marketers, because it lets us design messages and experiences that appeal to more than one person.

To create effective experiences, we have to know how people differ and to measure the extent of those differences. One method of organizing individual characteristics is the OCEAN model. It features five major traits: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. OCEAN provides a framework for grouping people, based on their personality. It can help us design marketing experiences to engage those consumers in more intimate ways. As you get started, it’s important to understand each trait and to identify sources of data that help you evaluate them.


The openness characteristic refers to a person’s appreciation for new experiences. It’s observed in people who like a lot of variety, who are creative and curious, and who appreciate adventure and unusual ideas. People who are less open prefer routine and predictability. They tend to be pragmatic and data-driven in their decision making.

To determine openness, you might look at transactional data to identify people who have made purchases soon after a new product launch. You might also assess your customers’ tendency to look through your e-commerce platforms for different products and explore many options before making a purchase decision.


A conscientious person tends to be organized and disciplined. They prefer planned activities and are neat and tidy. A person who is less conscientious is likely to be flexible and more prone to go with the flow. These people can be perceived as careless at times and can seem unreliable.

As a way of determining conscientiousness, look at how consistently a customer logs in to your web site and if it’s at the same time every day. You could also look at whether the customer fills out warranty cards or uses feedback mechanisms.


The tendency of being outgoing is referred to as extraversion. Extroverts like stimulation and a lot of interaction with other people. They tend to be talkative and can sometimes be thought of as needing to be the center of attention. An introvert prefers less social engagement and often has solitary pursuits.

Detect extraversion through social media channels by looking for customers who follow a lot of people or who have a lot of followers. Introverted customers will probably engage you through channels that don’t require human interactions.


An agreeable person is kind and compassionate. They’re cooperative and friendly, whereas a disagreeable person may be seen as mean or combative. An agreeable person may be thought of as a peacemaker. A disagreeable person may have a challenging or argumentative nature.

Examine the sentiment of your customers’ comments on social media. The ratio of positive to negative comments may serve as a quantifier of agreeableness. Mine the notes from support center logs to rate how confrontational customers are when they’re trying to resolve a problem.


Emotional stability and impulse control contribute to neuroticism. A person who is sensitive to negative emotions like fear and anger reacts differently from someone who is calm and stable. A high degree of neuroticism can make a person appear reactive and dynamic, but they can also look volatile.

Your content marketing performance data can indicate insecure customers by rating their engagement with messages that reference problems more so than benefits. You may also see neurotic in the tendencies in customer failing to complete their purchases once they’ve added products to their shopping carts.

The OCEAN personality traits give you a canvas on which you can create a work of art that rivals the seminal works of the old masters. Data provides the color and texture for the customer experiences that are as special as the people you want to reach. Your personas display more vibrant hues. Customer journeys show added detail and character. And your messages create a profound depth of feeling, making your customers feel like the unique, beautiful individuals they are.

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