The two mindsets that define (and divide) the nation

Lucy Batchelor
September 16, 2021
The two mindsets article thumbnail image graphic of 2 men with a plus above one's head and a minus above the other

Would you say you’re more of a ‘glass half-full’ or ‘glass half-empty’ type of person? Or do you sit somewhere in the middle?

With a nickname like ‘the lucky country’, we should be a country of optimists. And historically, that’s been the case – Australians tend to be a pretty optimistic bunch.

But 2020 saw an inflection point. As COVID-19 tore across the world at breakneck speeds, death tolls rose and lockdowns were enforced, our country of optimists started to feel, well, a little pessimistic.

A trend towards Australian pessimism

One of many 2020 sentiment reports, The Lowy Institute Poll on Australian Optimism reported unparalleled shifts in public opinion. The study indicated the lowest levels of optimism about the economy ever recorded in the poll’s history, with only a slight majority (52%) remaining optimistic.

Course Corrector, our own research initiative into behavioural shifts in Australia as a result of COVID-19, had almost identical results in relation to our personal finances, with 51% feeling optimistic and 43% pessimistic.

Along with this heightened emotional divide, it showed how our attitudes to money were reflected in our behaviour with 48% of Aussies reigning in their spending due to COVID-19.  

So, where does that leave marketers?

Inside the mind of the optimists and pessimists

Science has uncovered distinct differences in how optimists and pessimists think.

Optimists are confident they can change or control elements of their lives, and therefore believe they are less likely to fall into negative situations.

Pessimists, on the other hand, believe they’re more likely to encounter negative events and tend to feel less in control of their own wellbeing, which can lead to health-damaging behaviours.

For an example of how these differences impact the consumers decision-making process, imagine you’ve booked a holiday to Fiji (I know, I’m dreaming here, so you’ll need to literally use your imagination).  

An optimist might say to themselves: “I can’t wait to go to Fiji. I’ve been before, it’s relatively safe and I’m relatively responsible. Travel insurance seems like a waste of money; I’ll look after all my things, I’m unlikely to get sick because I’m double-vaxxed and I’ve never missed a flight or had one cancelled”.

Whereas a pessimist might think: “I’m feeling nervy for our holiday to Fiji. Gosh, things never go to plan, do they? Remember last year? COVID? I really need to look at every policy in detail and make sure we’re covered for absolutely everything that could go wrong”.

Neither mindset is good or bad. In fact, pessimism in this case could pay off for the consumer. For an insurance brand in this example, different tactics will need to be considered to capture both mindsets.

How to appeal to both mindsets  

To make sure your marketing resonates with both optimists and pessimists, first start by interrogating your value proposition. Does it exclude either mindset? Consider the formula below when road-testing your value proposition.

Let’s continue with the insurance category example here.

An insurance brand naturally appeals to the risk-averse pessimist. It’s a meaningful consumer truth. If that insurance has high perceived value to the customer (if it’s at the right price), then you’ve succeeded at appealing to the pessimist.

To appeal to the optimist, however, the brand will need a little something extra. Superior utility. It will need to exceed category expectations and deliver a benefit that gives an optimist a reason to care about insurance

Budget Direct provides a great example. Its car insurance doesn’t just help you save hundreds, it gives you a hire car so you don’t have to go without while your car is repaired or replaced. It delivers a superior utility.

Next, stress test your creative expression. How might you dial up loss aversion to motivate the pessimist? How might you appeal to the optimists ‘bias’ for the self?

Budget Direct appeals to both mindsets perfectly in their car insurance campaign ‘insurance solved’, which shows a driver exclaiming “it wasn’t my fault” after a prang. This statement appeals to both mindsets. For the optimist, it appeals to their belief that they’re in control – so of course it was an accident and not their fault. Whereas for the pessimist, it’s a reminder that things are often out of their control and that bad things can happen.

Thirdly, consider how you segment your audiences. Is there an opportunity to segment by mindset? And if so, how might that impact what message you deliver to your audiences, and when? How can you revise your media strategy to capitalise on both types of consumers?

With the optimism-pessimism divide splitting Australians into two, roughly equal halves, these are all important considerations brands. Failing to address both mindsets could mean neglecting half the market and losing customers as a result.

But that might just be the pessimist in me talking.

Written by

Lucy Batchelor
Lucy Batchelor

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