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A nation of independently minded rule benders

Man jumping in lake

How can we speak to Kiwis who value their individuality and freedom during COVID-19?

We are in this together is very much the mantra of the messaging around COVID-19.

In a nutshell

  1. Our work shows that New Zealand divides into those who value the wider community versus those who focus more on being an individual and their close friends and family. 
  2. Independently minded Kiwis may be more challenged by the behavioural changes they need to put in place during COVID-19.
  3. Speak to their individuality and what motivates them. Let them feel that they are still in control, albeit in a more controlled world.

And we have some history to draw up on in how the nation has responded to other recent national crises, such as the Christchurch Mosque shooting. “This is not us” was a heartfelt response to a shocking act, bringing the nation together around how we felt.

What is being asked of people in regard to COVID-19 isn’t so much a united emotional response, but a behavioural one – and in that regard Kiwis will be challenged.

Community and individuality

From our survey work we know that the nation divides into those who value the wider community versus those that who are more focused on being an individual and their close friends and family. 

Around one third of Kiwis relate to the wider community and these people over index on ‘caring for others is part of wellbeing’ and ‘stories and skills are more important to me than material things’. These people are found in all demographic groups, though more likely to be found among older age groups. And, they like to buy Kiwi brands and they like to hear about Kiwi companies being successful. So, this is the easy group to talk to as they are already largely onside and want to hear about Kiwi organisations.

But, what do we do about the two thirds of people who possess that independent streak? Especially as a big chunk of them also think that bending the rules is OK (in some if not all circumstances). When we combine an individualistic MindSet* with a rule bending approach to life, we are staring in the eyes of one third of Kiwis.

How to reach independently minded Kiwis

How can organisations talk to this group in a way that recognises their struggle with the strict inhibitions being placed upon them? 

Empathy will help, certainly no finger wagging, and talk to the where they like to be. 

  • This group prefer digital conversations more than face to face (more likely to use Facebook Messenger than WhatsApp). 
  • They over index on listing watching shows/movies online as one of their favourite activities. 

And talk to what motivates them. They are driven by making life easy and are more likely to believe that the Government shouldn’t control individuals’ choices so let them feel that they are still in control albeit in a smaller and more controlled world.

Perhaps, most important of all, talk to their sense of individuality.

*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:

Kiwis or New Zealanders?
When progress is on pause, how should organisations behave?
When visions of a new life add uncertainty
What do Kiwis want brands to get behind?

Colleen Ryan
Partner at TRA
Colleen has a curious and strategic mindset fueled by 40 years of experience in business across Europe, North America and APAC countries. With a fascination and deep understanding of what it is to be human, specifically applying principles from cultural sociology, social psychology, behavioural science, and cultural analysis, she brings breakthrough insights to brand strategy, creative development and customer centricity.

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