Consumer Psychology

How to Market to the #Selfie Generation [Research Summary]

The same personality traits that predict men’s preference and openness to one-night stands also predict their selfie behaviour, with interesting implications for marketing.

A new study in the psychology journal ‘Personality and Individual Differences’ links ‘dark’ personality traits in adult males (the so-called  ‘Dark Triad’ of narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism) to selfie behaviour.

Specifically, the US study, conducted by Dr Jesse Fox of Ohio State University found that men with narcissistic and psychopathic personality traits tend to post more selfies online, whilst narcissists and self-objectifiers (people who judge themselves on their appearance rather than competences) are also more likely to edit their selfies. Overall, male narcissists and self-objectifiers tend to spend more time on social networks.

So ‘Dark Triad’ traits in men predict their openness to one night stands, and propensity to post selfies.  Good news if you’re searching for a one-night stand with a guy; just target guys who post selfies.

But what does this mean for marketers?  First, marketing to prolific selfie posters is useful since this is a visible (and measurable) activity that is linked to personality traits (and therefore needs).  Secondly, how we can market successfully to this group is revealed by the underlying needs and propensities of these traits

  • Marketing Message 1 “You Matter” – this will appeal to narcissists who are egocentric individuals with a sense of grandiosity, dominance, and entitlement who perceive themselves as smarter, more attractive, and better than others, but are still marked by insecurity
  • Marketing Message 2 “For the Thrill of It” – this will appeal to psychopaths who lack empathy and often engage in impulsive and thrill-seeking behaviours regardless of the cost to others
  • Marketing Message 3 “You are in Control” – this will appeal to Machiavellians who are strategic and cynical. They seek to satisfy their own needs with little regard for morals, often by manipulating others

For more opportunities, check out the contents of the Dark Triad Personality Scale and the Self-Objectification Questionnaire; each element could offer a compelling value proposition for the #selfie generation…

Dark Triad Personality Scale

  1. I tend to want others to admire me. (Narcissism)
  2. I tend to want others to pay attention to me. (Narcissism)
  3. I tend to expect special favors from others. (Narcissism)
  4. I tend to seek prestige or status. (Narcissism)
  5. I tend to lack remorse. (Psychopathy)
  6. I tend to be callous or insensitive. (Psychopathy)
  7. I tend to not be too concerned with morality or the morality of my actions (Psychopathy)
  8. I tend to be cynical. (Psychopathy)
  9. I have used deceit or lied to get my way. (Machiavellianism)
  10. I tend to manipulate others to get my way. (Machiavellianism)
  11. I have used flattery to get my way. (Machiavellianism)
  12. I tend to exploit others towards my own end. (Machiavellianism)

Self-Objectification Questionnaire

When considering your physical self-concept, please rank the following 1-10 in order of impact…

  • Physical coordination?
  • Health?
  • Weight?
  • Strength?
  • Sex appeal?
  • Physical attractiveness?
  • Energy level (e.g., stamina)?
  • Firm/sculpted muscles?
  • Physical fitness level?
  • Measurements (e.g., chest, waist, hips)?

Fox, J., & Rooney, M. C. (2015). The Dark Triad and trait self-objectification as predictors of men’s use and self-presentation behaviors on social networking sites. Personality and Individual Differences, 76, 161-165


An online survey of a nationally representative sample of U.S. men aged 18–40 assessed trait predictors of social networking site use as well as two forms of visual self-presentation: editing one’s image in photographs posted on social networking sites (SNSs) and posting “selfies,” or pictures users take of themselves. We examined the Dark Triad (i.e., narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy) and trait self-objectification as predictors. Self-objectification and narcissism predicted time spent on SNSs. Narcissism and psychopathy predicted the number of selfies posted, whereas narcissism and self-objectification predicted editing photographs of oneself posted on SNSs. We discuss selective self-presentation processes on social media and how these traits may influence interpersonal relationship development in computer-mediated communication.

Chartered psychologist specialising in consumer behaviour, wellbeing and technology. Certified CX professional experienced in Design Thinking. A researcher, writer and speaker, Paul is head of Digital Insight at SYZYGY.

1 comment Add New Comment

  1. Dr. Marsden-

    I thought I had built a selfie game but was told that I actually have built a powerful consumer personality survey. Users do’t know it is a survey so the results are remarkably honest and accurate as the users explore their attitudes.

    As noted, it is mostly a game right now but that is only because I don’t know what questions consumer data researchers would ask our users. I need help to make the game more accountable.

    It’s too weird to describe but I hope you can take 2 minutes to try it and consider how powerful and specific a branching drill down of questioning could be in this embodiment.

    Thank you,

    Kirk Cameron

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