Building Customer Affinity through MBTI: Part 2

Welcome to part 2 of the Building Affinity through MBTI series. If you missed part one where we talked about customer- centricity, be sure to catch up here. Okay, now that we’ve got the basics covered, let’s talk about why the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator can help you build affinity with customers.

Man and a woman having tea. Sam Edwards via gettyimages.com, Alwaysuttori.com
Photo Credit: Caiaimage – Sam Edwards – 595346999. gettyimages.com

In the post, Why isn’t Cognition Branding a Thing?, I posited that the Harry Potter phenomenon was driven by intuitives, and specifically, introverted intuitives. This is because, while a person expressing sensing, or an ‘S’ in their cognition stack may have liked and enjoyed the Harry Potter books and movies, this type of cognition would have had a much more difficult time getting immersed in J.K. Rowling’s magical world. Why? The ‘S’ or sensing function is focused on the outer world. Those with ‘S’ as a primary way of interacting with an environment have a cognitive preference for the substantive. They prefer perceptible over imperceptible, the material over the immaterial, and the tangible over the intangible. This cognition style wants to be shown and told. They don’t enjoy the theoretical. This isn’t to say that sensing types are incapable of this type of cognition; instead, it’s not their preferred form of cognition. ‘S’ types dislike being made to search for or discover value; whereas their intuitive or ‘N’ counterparts enjoy the process of discovery, so much so that ‘N’ cognition types often identify added, or unintended, value. This characteristic of discovery is why Harry Potter serves as such a great example of the type of product that both sensors and intuitives find attractive. The Potter universe is large and far-reaching in scope, allowing for a story that can be experienced with both sensing (observable) and (intuiting) discoverable value.

Gringotts Bank. 2015. Photo Credit: I'mari Avey. 2015. All RIghts Reserved.
Gringotts Bank, Harry Potter World, Orlando, Florida, Universal Studios. Photo Credit: I’mari Avey. 2015. All Rights Reserved.
Customer-centricity in the Age of Choice

As we discussed in Part 1, brands compete in a marketplace overloaded with choice; because of this, defining a customer-centric model allows them to both connect and gain the knowledge they need to better engage customers, building the affinity necessary in a choice-driven market. The key to engagement is attention. The key to attention is understanding how your customers think.  MBTI provides a quick start guide to achieving this.

Most people know that MBTI was developed by the mother/daughter team of Katherine Briggs and Isabella Briggs-Myer in 1943. The test worked to clarify, and to make more accessible, the works of Carl Jung, who originated Psychological Types in 1921. Jung’s works outlined a theory of distinctions in how people take in information and make decisions (see MBTI basics for more on how this works).

A girl with a teddy bear thinking
Photo Credit: JGI/Jamie Grill – 182656336. gettyimages.com

Today, the test is used in schools and by hiring managers to help people better understand not only themselves, but others. Understanding cognition preference is also used to help create effective teams. If MBTI can be trusted in important matters such as these, why can’t brands use an understanding of cognition style to connect with and build affinity to their customers? MBTI can serve as one aspect, or filter, in helping a brand get to the heart of what appeals to their core customer because it focuses on how a customer perceives the world and her place in it; as opposed to using a profile that assumes a mass identity based on a demographic. If you’ve watched Project Runway, you have, undoubtedly, heard designers talking about their customer in the following manner: “My girl is a jet-setter heiress. She plays tennis on the weekends and goes to galas at night.” Over and over, season after season, the customer becomes the property of a designer, who then designs not for the customer, but for the activities in which the customer participates. While form follows function is a good rule of thumb in design, the concept can be overlooked when brands are so internally focused, they forget that branding is about getting the customer’s attention. Outfit-by-activity becomes how the designer assesses the customer. Activity is mass market. Yet, it is the individual customer who makes the purchase. In the end, the designer/brand has limited the customer by activity. It’s specific, yes, but in a choice-rich marketplace, it is also too broad. Anyone can be a jet-setter who enjoys tennis and attends galas. Instagram is full of this type of girl (including me – though I rarely attend galas). Yet, that descriptor does not get to the soul of the customer. Are they an introvert or extrovert? Do they actually enjoy attending galas, or do they go as a requirement? Nothing in the designer’s customer profile answers those questions. It is a design brief created by someone uninterested in the customer, and undeserving of the customer’s attention and/or loyalty. A brand that designs products, experiences, and even the buyer’s journey, around the cognition stack skips the banality of activity-based branding. Cognition branding may provide a ready-made model that leads toward a previously unimagined level of customer-centricity. Cognition Branding can help narrow down the native motivations behind preference, enabling a brand, your brand, to get the attention required for connection with core customers.

Woman holding a clear orb. Tom Merton via gettyimages.com. Alwaysuttori.com
Photo Credit: Tom Merton – 184313999. gettyimages.com

So if MBTI is the answer, and developing customer journeys based on cognitive functions is important, what is a cognitive stack? How can your brand use it to help you identify your customer’s motivations? The cognitive stack, also called a functional stack, represents individual cognitive functions and places them in an order that includes how they are expressed — in either an extroverted (outward) way, or introverted (inner) way. For each MBTI type, it’s important to understand that the order of the function slightly changes how it is expressed. Unfortunately, in this space, it would take too long to go into that level of detail, but I will briefly explain each cognitive function, covering brand or product possibilities that appeal to each function.


Ni – Introverted Intuition

Ni looks for patterns and connections. It is future oriented and seeks to predict what will happen. It loves mystery, theory, and imagining new things or new possibilities. Because this is a future oriented function, these types tend to be dedicated to long-term plans. Additionally, they like to consider all, or most, available options.

Brand Logic Ni

What this means for brands – Ni is not spontaneous. A customer with this type of function requires a long sales strategy. Engage their sense of possibility by selling them an idea of how they can become smarter, faster, better by using your product. Ni can easily imagine the future, so selling them a tangible persona or something to become in the future through use of your product is the ideal tactic to engage this function.


Ne – Extroverted Intuition

Ne is interested in patterns and meanings across multiple contexts. It is also future oriented, but Ne looks for what could be. Ne loves to debate all aspects of a topic and is drawn to ideas and the expansion of ideas through the question “what if?” These types like to keep options open and love the unconventional.

Brand Logic Ne

What this means for brands – Give this type options and features. Ne loves a product that is multi-functional, that does more than it was intended to do. This type may also be a challenger sale as they need to consider all options and don’t like committing quickly.


Si – Introverted Sensing

Si thrives on drawing connections from the past and bringing them to the present. To the Si the present is because of what happened in the past. Previous impressions are very important as they shape both the present and future. Si focuses on details, tradition, and status.

Brand Logic Si

What this means for brands – To connect with the Si function, you need to create a past association. Remember, this association needs to be good because Si will remember both the good and bad. If the present and future are determined by the past, it may be difficult to correct a past wrong in the future. No need to think outside the box, as this type likes tradition and status quo. Brands with some history and reputation will appeal to this function.


Se – extroverted sensing

Se is focused on the here and now in a very physical sense. It is active and present in the environment, searching for input from surroundings so as to make decisions and take actions. Because the environment can change quickly, this function is not scared of spontaneity, or of going after what it wants in a direct way.

Brand Logic Se

What this means for brands – Brands doing flash sales, or with scarce products, this is the function to target. Se can act and make decisions quickly based on the factors available in the market. Because their environment is so important to them, they enjoy luxury. This function may very well be the type to not only indulge in high-end products, but to also splurge.


Ti – Introverted Thinking

Ti works within a model and seeks to find the principle behind how things work. It is concerned with fact checking ideas and making sure they are accurate and precise. It organizes and analyzes data to fit into its framework. It needs time to process and asses all the data before making decisions.

Brand Logic Ti

What this means for brands – Despite books on the market about making the “emotional sale,” it is a strategy that won’t catch this function’s attention. Instead, Ti is focused on ideas and how they fit into what it knows. The product should be accurate and reliable because Ti will notice immediately if there are inconsistencies. This function needs time to process and make decisions, so expect a challenger sale.


Te – Extroverted Thinking

Te is focused on creating systems through logic, organization, efficiency, and consequences. Te makes plans and focuses on the end goal. It isn’t afraid to make change along the way for efficiency and improvement. It strives for the best possible outcome.

Brand Logic Te

What this means for brands – if your product is the best, top of the line, then Te is your market. Expect a longer sale cycle as Te considers how your product would fit into a system. However, Te is concerned with efficiency and streamlining processes, so even if they already have something similar, this type will not hesitate to update if a better option becomes available.


Fe – Extroverted Feeling

Fe is concerned with societal connections and values. It considers what is appropriate in a situation and how decisions affect others. It is interested in what others are doing and can be influenced by the emotions of those around them.

Brand Logic Fe

What this means for brands – Fe will be interested in your product if everyone else is using it. Because Fe is concerned with what everyone else is doing, hype and word of mouth work well. Emotional appeals may work to get buy in, however Fe can also be sensitive to emotional appeals and can be wary of being manipulated.


Fi – Introverted Feeling

Fi focuses on inner values. Inner values and identity are so important to Fi that violation or denial of their existence become offensive. Fi wants to stick with what is right and staying true to values.

Brand Logic Fi

What this means for brands – if your brand doesn’t match up with Fi’s values, then it is probably a lost cause. However, if your values do match, then there is potential for a very loyal customer. Relating through personal and/or customer story-telling will appeal to this type as this is how they relate to others.


Surprised Red-hair young woman. Photo Credit: Izabela Habur. gettyimages.com. Alwaysuttori.com
Photo Credit: Izabela Habur – 470099630. gettyimages.com

As a data/business analyst, I am constantly surprised by how often brands use internal filters as a justification to ignore customers. Despite the fall of numerous business titans like Borders Books, Blockbuster, and others, these brands resist changing  preexisting models, preferring to expect consumer to not only pay attention to brand messages, but to remain committed and loyal, even as these companies off-load responsibilities onto the consumer, making the consumer work even harder to buy their product. Ultimately, this is a losing strategy, as business disruption continues at an unprecedented pace, and demographic factors impact the size of a brand’s loyal customer base. If your customer base remains static, or is shrinking, the possibility is strong that your business just doesn’t understand your customers.


Love him, or hate him, Jeff Bezos of Amazon gets it right when he says: “If your customer base is aging with you, then eventually you’re going to become obsolete or irrelevant. You need to be constantly figuring out who are your new customers and what are you doing to stay forever young.”


Customer-centricity isn’t purely a function of consumer activities. Besides, such a focus is more the role of retail. They can offer a multitude of activity-based products. It is up to the brand to be what the customer wants. In addition, other factors such as size, body type, ethnic background, etc. are of little help in determining buyer interests. In a choice-rich marketplace, attention is currency. Connecting on a deeper level through core motivation will help to build true affinity with customers. If you are an up and coming brand with a strong niche market, consider using cognitive branding to capture the true heart of your potential customers.

This article is purely theoretical. Although I do have business experience as a data analyst working with marketing groups, and because I’m an INTJ, I love examining business from an MBTI perspective. However, if you are a brand, I hope that some of the theory in this article can actually be of help to you in the following areas:

(1) getting your customer’s attention
(2) increasing customer engagement
(3) building affinity with your customers

Next week, we will get very specific by examining the 5 factors of INTJ cognition, and how to build affinity with this rare and mysterious cognition style.

P.S. If you’d like to know more about the individual cognition stacks, check these articles out.

How to Recognize MBTI in Real Life

Understanding the 8 Cognitive Processes

How Each Cognitive Function Manifests in Relation to it’s Position

As always, thanks for reading.