Addressing consumers with the right kind of message: understanding HBDI profiling

Addressing consumers with communication triggers that fit their personality and behaviour patterns is essential, in a world where there is too much information, too much advertising, too much attraction and so little time.

One clever way of building content that can easily engage your audiences is understanding how behaviour profiling works: one efficient technique we are using is applying the Herman Brain Dominance Instrument patterns on written and designed content, producing content that fits best with the personality of the core audience of each of the brands we manage online. You can find out more about what Kite can do for you from here, and now, let’s see some insights on how HBDI profiling generally works:

The Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI) is a system to measure and describe thinking preferences in people, developed by William “Ned” Herrmann while leading management education at General Electric’s Crotonville facility. It is a type of cognitive style measurement and model, and is often compared to psychological assessments such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Learning Orientation Questionnaire and others.

In his brain dominance model, Herrmann identifies four different modes of thinking:

  • A. Analytical thinking (Blue)
Key words : Auditive, logical, factual, critical, technical and quantitative.
Preferred activities : collecting data, analysis, understanding how things work, judging ideas based on facts, criteria and logical reasoning.
  • B. Sequential thinking (Green)
Key words : safekeeping, structured, organized, complexity or detailed, planned.
Preferred activities : following directions, detail oriented work, step-by-step problem solving, organization and implementation.
  • C. Interpersonal thinking (Red)
Key words : Kinesthetic, emotional, spiritual, sensory, feeling.
Preferred activities : listening to and expressing ideas, looking for personal meaning, sensory input, and group interaction.
  • D. Imaginative thinking (Yellow)
Key words : Visual, holistic, intuitive, innovative, and conceptual.
Preferred activities : Looking at the big picture, taking initiative, challenging assumptions, visuals, metaphoric thinking, creative problem solving, long term thinking.

Herrmann’s theory was based on theories of the modularity of cognitive functions, including well-documented specializations in the brain’s cerebral cortex and limbic systems, and the research into left-right brain laterilization by Roger Wolcott Sperry, Robert Ornstein, Henry Mintzberg, and Michael Gazzaniga. These theories were further developed to reflect a metaphor for how individuals think and learn. Use of that metaphor brought later criticism by brain researchers such as Terence Hines for being overly simplistic, however the metaphorical construct has proven effective in a variety of organizational contexts, especially for business and government.

Herrmann also coined the concept Whole Brain Thinking as a description of flexibility in using thinking styles that one may cultivate in individuals or in organizations allowing the situational use of all four styles of thinking.

Now, if we move forward to the multiple applications of HBDI, it can be applied from understanding employees better and creating a work environment that values their personality style, to creating advertising that appeals to each of the main “HBDI colours” and testing them to have a better picture of how your audience can be generally characterised: are you talking to “RED” caring and social consumers, mostly, or are they the “BLUE” analytical type that needs data, status and facts in order to make decisions?

Of course, most of the times, we have bits of every type of dominant personality in our communities, and of course no human is exclusively in one single HBDI colour segment. But the bottom line is to understand what HBDI profile does your brand have and what are the most present groups of HBDI profiles amongst your consumers, in order  to maximise your engagement potential by addressing them the right way.

What do you think is your HBDI profile? Start from here: