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How do Australians see themselves?

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Australians are largely traditional and have a content outlook, new data shows.

In a nutshell

  1. We surveyed almost 10,000 Australians to find out how people see themselves.
  2. The 10 MindSets are a fixed system unlikely to change throughout someone's life.
  3. Marketers can use MindSets to better identify, understand and communicate with their audiences.

For too long, researchers and social scientists have split people into demographic groups based on surface-level markers such as age, gender, location and ethnicity.

This is despite what we know to be true – that demography doesn’t truly account for how people act or what they believe. If we rely on demographic information alone, we’re missing out on what truly makes people tick. 

This is where TRA’s MindSets comes in.

Since 2021, we’ve surveyed almost 10,000 Australians to find out how they think, what they believe, and how they see themselves.  

MindSets Australia is the natural extension of our work on MindSets New Zealand, where we surveyed almost 300,000 people since 2018. MindSets are designed to go beyond demography to measure people’s underlying approach to life. By asking simple, targeted questions, we created 10 distinct MindSets of Australians that share the same outlook and beliefs about themselves.  

“We are now able to truly begin to understand Australian MindSets,” said Melbourne-based TRA Business Director Alex Forrester, “and it’s clear that what drives behaviour is not so much what you are, but who you think you are.”  

What are the MindSets? 

The MindSets are based on four dimensions: a traditional vs. progressive approach to life, an aspirational vs. content outlook, mainstream vs. unique tastes, and a community vs. individual/family focus.

graph showing distribution of MindSets across Australian population

The largest group in Australia are the Sentinels (28%). Making up more than one in four Australians, Sentinels see themselves as having a traditional approach, a content outlook and an individual/family orientation. Sentinels are the group who most agree that you should follow the rules. 

The Australians in the next largest group, the Pillars (15%), have similar inclinations to the Sentinels, including a traditional approach to life. However, Pillars believe themselves to be more community minded. These people are more likely than the Sentinels to engage in community-based events or be involved in their neighbourhood.  

Following the Pillars are two MindSets that believe they have a progressive approach: The Mavericks and the Challengers (10% each). The Mavericks report feeling content with their life and future, whereas the Challengers have more of an aspirational attitude. 

As you can see, the majority of Australians (65%) view themselves as having a traditional approach. This isn’t a simple case of young versus old: our research shows that Australians aged 18 to 24 are evenly split between progressive and traditional approaches, while 25% of 55–64-year-olds and 15% of over 65’s see themselves as progressive.  

You’ll also notice that The Builders, Thrivers, Mavericks, Climbers and Challengers aren’t listed as having an Individual or Community focus. This is because our research demonstrated that people with a progressive approach were almost exclusively Individually focused. Furthermore, we saw that this focus was not a clear indication of behaviour, as it was for the other MindSets, and that these MindSets acted similarly regardless of Individual or Community focus.  

Do MindSets differ by city or region?  

We see differences in the MindSets across the major centres. Melbournians are more likely to have an aspirational MindSet, while those from Adelaide are more traditional and likely to have more mainstream tastes than the rest of Australia. 

mindsets showing split between sydney and melbourne

Melbourne recorded slightly higher for a progressive approach, aspirational outlook and community-focus than Sydney, but the difference was very slight.  

How can brands and organisations use MindSets? 

“Australians respond best to marketing when they see themselves reflected in it - and that means seeing their beliefs replayed back to them, not their demographics,” says Forrester. 

“If your customers feel you understand them, they are more likely to trust your company, identify with you and feel warmly about your brand. For marketers, the MindSets are a holy grail of knowing how to connect with their customer.” 

There are numerous ways a brand can utilise this holy grail.  

Mirroring how your target MindSet thinks, talks and acts with your messaging is a sure-fire way to create trust and connection between your audience and your brand.  

If you’re targeting the Challengers, for example, then knowing what they are interested in and where they are turning up is valuable information. Challengers want to enjoy their life and tend to live for today, preferring experiences over physical items. They are often at the forefront of new trends, usually being one of the first to try new things. 

Alternatively, if you were targeting the Builders – 8% of the Australian population – you should keep in mind that while they are aspirational and see themselves as having unique tastes, they also have a traditional approach. Builders want to get ahead in their own unique fashion, but they aren’t about to forget their roots.  

Finally, if you wanted to target Thrivers, then you may want to position yourself alongside their mainstream tastes and content outlook on life, while keeping in mind their progressive approach. It pays to know that Thrivers are frequently going to concerts/festivals, eating out and working out at the gym.  

Shift your messaging slightly depending on who you want to reach. How you show up in the world is going to resonate differently to a Challenger, a Builder or a Thriver. By being aware of these key differences you can plan accordingly and alter your strategy. 

You can also use MindSets for a broader approach guided by one of the four MindSets markers, such as traditional vs. progressive approach. 

An example of this is marketing technology. While historically we have understood older people to be less confident with technology than younger users, our research shows that MindSets are a more reliable indicator: those with a progressive MindSet are more confident with technology than a traditional MindSet – regardless of age. Altering the way you communicate with progressive or traditional MindSets around technology will help you build connection and trust with audiences that have different approach.  

Can someone’s MindSet change?  

While our circumstances and experiences are constantly changing, TRA’s research shows that our MindSet stays relatively fixed throughout our lifetime.  

“MindSets function like an overarching mental operating system – like an iOS or Android. They influence what we believe, the attitudes we hold and what type of things motivate us,“ said Forrester. 

This provides a golden opportunity to marketers – a fixed system by which to identify distinct audiences and communicate with them in a way that makes an impact, over a prolonged period.  

While traditional demographic markers like age or location can change over time, a person’s MindSet remains static and therefore much easier to target and talk to. 

Go deeper

Get in touch at hello@theresearchagency.com to find out how your brand or organisation can use MindSets.

Headshot of Andrew Gale, Head of Quantitative at TRA in black and white
Andrew Gale
Head of Quantitative Practice
Andrew is passionate about using data to help clients solve their business problems. Highly skilled in all facets of Quantitative research, advanced analytics, market sizing and financial analysis. Extensive experience in Financial Services, FMCG, Utilities, Telecommunications, Social research and Government projects. Andrew is exceptional in providing clients with the confidence to act based on a sound understanding of the opportunities and issues they face, including the financial implications and ROI of any actions.

Understand the forces of culture and shape radical ideas

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