September 12, 2012Can using the MBTI help you write better copy?

“You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake,” or so said Tyler Durden in famous flick, Fight Club. And if you believe in the MBTI — the Myers Briggs Type Indicator — he’s right. You, and everyone else, is one of sixteen distinct personality types.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the MBTI, it’s a test that sorts people into one of sixteen types based on four preferences:

  • Introverted or Extroverted, (are you outgoing or not?)
  • Sensing or iNtuitive (do you learn through sense experience or deductive reasoning?)
  • Thinking or Feeling (do you follow your head or heart?)
  • Judging or Perceiving (is there one best answer or many possibilities?)

Take the test. The results are uncannily accurate, and much has been written on how our MBTI influences our careers, relationships, and personal growth.

I’m an INTJ, like Captain Picard of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Unlike the exuberant Captain Kirk (a classic ENFP), Picard is quietly intellectual, prefers to plan rather than jump in, and is happy to delegate responsibility (e.g. to his second in command) while remaining in control of the overall strategy.

If you don’t think any of this stuff is important, check out this infographic of how different personality types use social media in different ways.

How do other people see the world?

As a copywriter, I find the MBTI of most use when evaluating people’s communication preferences. It’s impossible to get inside the head of every possible customer, but the MBTI functions as a kind of rule of thumb. Most mechanics and engineers, for example, are “sensing” types, preferring to do things with their hands. Performers and artists tend to value feelings, but there’s a big difference between introverted artists and extroverted performers. The MBTI quickly enables you to discover how these similar but different types view the world.

Change your perception

It’s an invaluable weapon in any marketer’s toolkit. Not only because it gives you the rare opportunity to see how other people — your audience — view the world, but because it offers areas of potential growth where you, yourself, may be communicating inadequately. My personality type is famously rubbish at relationships, because we don’t understand the emotional give-and-take. It took me years and a half dozen failed relationships to realise that other people don’t apply logic to matters of love. If I’d paid more attention to the MBTI, I could have understood this weakness and corrected for it — in other words, learned how to communicate with my audience rather than play to my own personal preferences.

This isn’t new. Marketers have been using the MBTI for at least two decades, as this article demonstrates. The article notes how introverts hate telemarketers but respond well to direct mail. Similar lessons can be learned in the digital world — such as how we respond to social media.

All too often we as writers do things the way we’d like them to be done. When we’re given a brief, we often start by asking how we’d like to be sold something. That’s a start, but it’s wrong. It’s far more valuable to ask how the product’s target audience respond to different forms of communication and to come up with a strategy that reaches them. The MBTI is a shortcut to doing this.

For that reason, I recommend it as a great starting point for anyone looking to add an element of research to their work. Customers are often grouped by type — age, social status, income, education… even political preference. But rarely are they grouped by the way they do things or see the world. The MBTI is the fastest way to group people not by who they are or what they do, but by how they think.

How can the MBTI help you become a better copywriter?

1. Look at your product and imagine which of the personality types would be the primary audience (there’s a ton of sites that link the MBTI with career and lifestyle preferences). Evaluate what this personality type values, what their communication style is, and write accordingly.

2. Look at your own personality type and honestly appraise your own strengths and weaknesses. If you value feeling over thought, work on your ability to write a rational argument. If you hail from the cold land of logic and reason, consider introducing emotive arguments into your work — particularly if you’re appealing to other feeling types.

The MBTI isn’t a laser-guided missile with pinpoint accuracy, but it does provide a quick framework for discovering your own preferences, as well as working out the preferences of your target audience and discovering how to write copy that appeals to them.

It’s an essential psychological tool that belongs in every marketer’s toolbox. Consider the MBTI every time you approach a new project. It will challenge your preconceptions about what makes communication effective — and give you new insight into ways to reach your audience.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 12th, 2012 at 6:53 pm and is filed under Blog, Copywriting. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.


  1. Kristi Ward says:

    Great article! I use MBTI all the time in face-to-face contact, but never thought to apply these principles with the written word. Have you read “Do What You Are” by Paul D. Tieger? This book gives incredible insight into different career types based on MBTI, which could help copywriters further define MBTI types and what they value. Thanks for the great post!

  2. magma says:

    As an ENTP I’m curious about how this might apply to charities trying to write persuasive copy for funders. Hard to get a handle on what the ‘funder personality’ is, probably because their copywriter is so bad at communicating.

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