Why social personality traits make better marketers

Do people with a strong social personality make better marketers? Jac Phillips discusses.

Marketing issue badge The Social issue“Let’s talk social,” James said.

“Great,” I responded, “I love social media.”

But he wasn’t referring to the tech channels we use to create or share information in virtual communities and networks. Instead, he wanted to discuss people with a social personality. He was referring to the real meaning of the word ‘social’ before we had turned it into a generic term.

German philosopher Karl Marx stated way back in the 19th century that as human beings we are intrinsically, necessarily and by definition social beings. We cannot survive or meet our needs without social cooperation and association. No surprise then that social media has been embraced so enthusiastically in the 21st century!

But I digress… the discussion James and I were about to embark on actually involved the personality traits of high-performing marketers. James’ theory was that people with a strong social personality, those who love to communicate, enjoy helping others and gain great satisfaction from engagement with the public make better marketers. True or false? It certainly got me thinking…

Before I could agree or disagree I needed to understand some things first:

  • What are the defined attributes of a person with a ‘social personality?’
  • Did the exceptional marketers I knew possess the attributes?
  • For those of us yet to reach exceptional marketer status, can we learn these traits?

What attributes does a social personality type possess?

According to the academics at Radboud University in the Netherlands (intelligent sources are usually the best place to start!), individuals with a social personality type are dedicated leaders, humanistic, responsible and supportive. They use feelings, words and ideas to work with people. They enjoy talking, closeness, sharing, groups and being in charge.

People and their concerns are the focus of a social personality type. Making friends easily, these individuals are both empathetic and sensitive to emotional cues that help them solve problems, as they possess good awareness of others’ moods and feelings. They can pull people together easily and naturally generate positive energy, according to the experts.

I also learned social personality types enjoy being helpful, and they are good at training, developing, informing and curing people – they sound like saints. I think Mother Teresa had a social personality.

 

Exceptional marketers with social personality traits

In my career I have been incredibly privileged to have met and worked with some extraordinary marketers. Some have major public profiles globally as well as locally, others are lesser known but absolutely fit the criterion of ‘exceptional’, having led significant, successful brand transformations, created incredible customer experiences and fundamentally increased the revenue and values of the companies and businesses they represented.

When I reflect on the key attributes and characteristics of these expert marketers – while there were many commonalities, there were a few who were quite different as far as their style or manner went, but they did all share one thing and that was an authentic interest in, and care for, people.

The first marketer I had the privilege of working for many years ago in Sydney was the most positive man I had ever encountered. He started every written communication with ‘Happy’ followed by the day. He was kind-hearted, caring and intuitive. Our clients adored him and he worked very hard to ensure we delivered outstanding results for them. He co-owned a successful communications agency and had an incredible way of understanding you and your situation even though it may not at all have been familiar to him.

An example of this was when I announced to him I had some serious news. He looked at me in horror and said, “You’re leaving,” to which I replied, “No! Worse, I’m pregnant!”. He was so genuinely happy for me and when I naively suggested I would return to work within four months of my first baby being born, he made it very clear to me that I would have a job to return to irrespective of if I took off very little time or a lot of time. The pressure was removed immediately, as I trusted him.

When I met the beautiful Kanakporn, a Thai-born marketing leader whom I reported to when I lived in Singapore, I had very fortunately won the leadership lottery again. She, too, genuinely loved people and she especially loved seeing her people develop and succeed. She had a great respect for learning and wanted to ensure we had access to ongoing education. She set up a mini university at our workplace, which her marketing team (a regional team consisting of around 50 people across six different countries) could utilise.

Fast forward to more recent times and I find myself working with not one, but two incredible marketing experts. Both have different personalities with different styles of leading and engaging, but they share traits when it comes to their need to understand and help people. One is the most intelligent person I have ever come across. What do they say about a high IQ – must then have a low EQ? Couldn’t be more wrong – this person has both happening in equal quantities and totally fits the criteria of a social personality type.

I have been taught more in the past 18 months about not just how to bring out the best in myself, but especially how to bring out the best in those I directly influence. I have observed this person really listening, showing empathy for what has been said and done and then articulating a question or a point that has every single other person in the same room thinking that together we could cure cancer!

From the above examples it may appear I have been surrounded by marketing legends; however, just to be clear, those I have mentioned are not the majority of marketers I have worked with or for across the past 20-plus years. The rest I have also learned from too, in fact some of them taught me exactly how not to behave if I wanted to succeed in the wonderful career that marketing can offer.

The point is, great marketers aren’t everywhere (sadly), so when you do encounter them, think about what it is that makes them amazing.
It is unlikely to only be their brilliance when it comes to technical ability. It is unlikely to only be their strong work ethic or their creative nous.

 

Can we mere mortals be exceptional marketers, too?

Absolutely. It simply takes self- awareness. Identification of who you really are, how you behave, what you do that people like, what you don’t do that you should start doing and what you should stop doing because it isn’t helping you engage those you need to. And think about the attributes that make up a social personality – if you don’t have one, think about whether you can develop one.

The exceptional marketers I referred to above knew their audience, internal and external. They really ‘got’ people, which meant they had exceptional intuition about others. They genuinely wanted to understand what interested, motivated and concerned people and they wanted to know why. They spent more time developing and helping people succeed than they did blowing their own trumpets, but amazingly their trumpets got blown anyway, and in stereo, by many others.

These great marketers were observant. Marketing is all about listening – to the public, to the target market, to superiors and to other marketers. Being observant pays off, which encourages an ‘always learning’ attitude. These best marketers are voracious about taking in new information constantly, and from diverse sources.

 

Could James be right?

Do people with a strong social personality make better marketers? Having not done any rigorous research, but instead simply reflecting on my own experiences, I think there is some good evidence to suggest social personality traits give marketers a real advantage. We can safely state marketing is not a solitary job. The nature of a marketer’s job is social. It is about interacting, collaborating, asking questions, gaining feedback and generally always learning from others.

Now there’s some good marketing.

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Jac Phillips
BY Jac Phillips ON 4 May 2016
Jac Phillips is head of brand and marketing at Bank of Melbourne.