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In a crisis, how do mindsets influence our behaviour?

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Our mindset helps us frame and position ourselves in the world.

In a nutshell

  1. New Zealanders' approach to life can influence how they might behave, and the decisions they might make in a crisis.
  2. One approach is to look at the different values Kiwis hold. Our research has found that roughly 50% of us hold “traditional” values and 50% hold “progressive” values. 
  3. For brands, it’s important to look at the different channels these groups use and understand that we can’t look at all kiwis through the same lens.

It forms our worldview and acts as a governor, influencing our behaviour based on a set of beliefs and values that ultimately shapes who we are as individuals.

This also forms the basis of our Mind-Sets* framework, a post-demographic approach to population segmentation. The framework uses socio-cultural factors to understand New Zealanders through their approach to life, their tastes, position in life and social influence. It’s a shift from more traditional approaches, that look at things such as age, gender, ethnicity, income and education, to using one’s beliefs and values as a frame for understanding people.

Understanding people’s approach to life can provide insight into people’s behaviour in the COVID-19 crisis. This is all the more important as we try to understand the role that brands can play during this time.

We tend to make decisions that fit our current worldview, enhancing or maintaining our beliefs and values. Of course, this is not always possible and cognitive dissonance can play a part here too.

In this article, we’ll focus on how New Zealanders' approach to life can influence how they might behave, and the decisions they might make in a crisis.

Traditional and progressive values in New Zealand

Peoples’ approach to life can be defined as either having traditional or progressive values - here are some characteristics of each:

People with traditional values are more likely to

  • Be late adopters of technology
  • Have a preference for face-to-face communication
  • Be living by themselves or with only their partner
  • Own a home and be mortgage free
  • To garden.

Those with traditional values make up 52.1% of all Kiwis. They are more likely to be late adopters of technology and use traditional channels for media such as radio, print or TV. They’ll probably prefer face-to-face communication over communicating via digital channels.

They are more likely to skew over 45 years old, be living by themselves or with only their partner, own a home and be mortgage free. Their top three drivers are ‘improving the health of me or my family’, ‘reducing the amount of waste I produce’ and ‘providing a good example for my kids’.

People with progressive values are more likely to:

  • Be tech savvy and early adopters of technology
  • Have higher use of texting and messaging apps
  • Be confident using technology in everyday life
  • Communicate digitally and prefer digital communication over face-to-face
  • Have higher use of social media 
  • Live with others and be renters
  • Do things outdoors, travel internationally and go to cafes, bars and restaurants

The remaining 49.1% of Kiwis with progressive values are more likely to be tech savvy and early adopters of technology. Accordingly, they’ll consume content online and have a higher use of texting and messaging apps. Digital communication tends to be preferred over face-to-face communication.

They are more likely to skew younger than 35 years old, live with others and be renters. Their top three drivers are ‘making the world a better place’, ‘I can save money’ and ‘I feel that I’m making a difference’. 

But, it's not black and white

We need to be careful not to look at traditional or progressive values as homogenous. Our values are not always fixed and may change over time. 

Moreover, one can hold a mixture of traditional and progressive values, depending on the topic matter and context. So, while a person may identify as having traditional values, their values may not be the same as another’s, and the same is true for progressive values. 

How are these Mindsets influencing us during the COVID-19 pandemic?

The data implies that there is some digital divide across the two mindsets. Those with traditional values are more likely to be less tech savvy and late adopters of technology. 

Working from home has become the new normal and keeping in touch with our friends, families and loved ones has shifted towards video platforms like Zoom. This new societal dynamic is asking us to reassess what social interaction and connection is and means to us – if physical distance needs to be maintained, how might we maintain and reinforce our social bonds? 

We must also navigate the potential pitfalls of unintended social isolation, and not confuse “social distancing” with social isolation. This is perhaps a reason why “physical distancing” later entered our vernacular.

For those with traditional values, there may be a steeper learning curve in adapting to these new means of communication. Those with progressive values, who are more likely to use a vast array of social media platforms and trust social, must be careful of entering an echo-chamber of anxiety-inducing headlines, fake-news, dubious remedies and fringe commentaries. 

We may also see some of those with progressive values chafe at the restrictions placed on them by lockdown rules. Colleen Ryan, TRA partner, recently wrote that speaking to independently-minded people empathetically, in a way that allows them to feel that they are still in control, “albeit in a smaller and more controlled world” may help. 

So what does this mean for brands?

  1. This new normal has caused people to go in to survival mode and while we must acknowledge this, we cannot look at all people through the same lens. We need to understand their context and what needs they are trying to meet. Listen and be empathetic. We may need to shift our role and be supportive. 
  2. Understand the channels they use. Purely digital strategies may miss out on some people, so how might we be more inclusive in our communications or interactions with our customers? While omni-channel approaches may not be appropriate (or possible) during this crisis, education may play a part here in helping people navigate the new normal. 
  3. We need to go back to our purpose, mission or ask the question – what is our role in society? To be authentic in this space we need to go back to our core brand essence. In a time where social media and digital channels are crowded with stressful news and commentaries, how can you perform your role while being useful, relevant and supportive?

*MindSets: a TRA framework for understanding Kiwis

It's never been more important to make information-based decisions. Because although the country is in lockdown, organisations still have to make choices that will guide their actions and determine the success of what they do.

So, in this series, we’re sharing what TRA knows about New Zealanders to help inform better decision making, so that our companies can better serve people. 

Read the other articles in this series:

When progress is on pause, how should organisations behave?

A nation of independently minded rule-benders
When visions of a new life add uncertainty
What do Kiwis want brands to get behind?
Brand purpose during COVID-19

Jonny Almario
Cultural insights specialist

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