What if the world map were redrawn according to personality type - what would it look like? And what can multinational marketers learn from this reimagined map, especially as they look to expand into new markets and strengthen their presence in others?

JWT's Personality Atlas reveals that aside from a few exceptions, global perceptions don’t align with local ones. Quite often, our attitudes toward and perceptions of a particular country are dictated by our level of familiarity with that market and the stereotypes related to it.

This report (literally) maps out gaps in perception between how locals view their country and how the global population views it. We asked people to assign personality traits to the 27 countries surveyed, including their own.  The results: a Stereotype Map, which depicts how the the global population perceives different countries, and a Introspection Map, representing how the locals perceive their own countries.

The Stereotype Map illustrates the global population’s perceptions.

The Introspection Map represents how the locals perceive their own countries.

In comparing the two maps—global versus local views on each country—we see disparities between the perceptions of outsiders and insiders: 

  • While the global population sees Mexico and Thailand as relatively chill, Mexicans perceive their homeland as humorous and Thais see their country as religious.

  • The world sees Italy as fun and the U.K. as arrogant, but their locals believe the countries stand out as cultured.

  • The global view is that Finland is balanced and Germany orderly, but locals think of their countries as reliably tough.

  • Perceived as smart by the global population, China rates high as reserved and productive by its population. 

  • For some countries, the global and local populations align in perceptions: Australia and Canada (balanced); Egypt, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia (religious); and Hong Kong and Japan (hardworking). 

What can brand learn from these new world maps?
How can they reconcile their views of each market with local views?

For starters, a prerequisite is to ensure a representative share of voice within the organisation. There’s no better way to gain a nuanced, current, on-the-ground view of the market and avoid offensive oversimplification.

How consumers receive stereotypes varies greatly from market to market. In Japan, for instance, people tend to see the world in shades of gray and the use of stereotypes (positive or negative) largely comes across as unsophisticated. Italians, on the other hand, are OK with stereotypes—as long as marketers lean into the positives: Italy’s culture, style and 'la dolce vita' way of life versus its loudmouthed, mammy-reliant alter ego.

Do you wonder where in the world your personality would fit best? Take our personality test, which matches your personality traits with the personality profiles assigned to the country.

Often, stereotypes—positive and especially negative—and humour go hand in hand, allowing people to laugh at their cultural foibles. However it’s dangerous to make fun of cultures as they are so tied to identity. One reason stereotypes can sting is because they often contain some element of truth—and that makes people question the intent of the 'teller'. When portraying a culture’s idiosyncrasies in a comedic light, marketers have to be clear that they’re laughing with their audience, not at them.

Whether we admit it or not, the vast majority of us organise the world according to stereotypes—standardised mental pictures that represent an opinion, prejudiced attitude or uncritical judgment. Some have argued that as the world becomes more interconnected, its citizens will develop more informed and nuanced views on other countries and cultures.  But it seems we are relying more than ever on stereotypes as shortcuts to navigate a global landscape that’s increasingly complex and information-dense.

Ultimately, marketers have to know the modern country rather than relying on potentially outdated and ill-informed impressions of a country. Then they’ll likely discover many new themes to reach today’s consumer. 

JWT's Personality Atlas report is based on a 27-market quantitative study of 6,075 adults aged 18-plus conducted in October 2012 using SONARTM, JWT’s proprietary online research tool. We polled 225 adults aged 18-plus in each of the following markets: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States.


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