Australians are usually an optimistic bunch, but COVID has changed things. Lucy Batchelor (main photo), senior strategist at The Works, part of Capgemini, says marketers need to recognise the optimism-pessimism divide and act accordingly…
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 per cent) 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 per cent feeling optimistic and 43 per cent pessimistic.
Along with this heightened emotional divide, it showed how our attitudes to money were reflected in our behaviour with 48 per cent 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.
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 marketing resonates with both optimists and pessimists, first start by interrogating the value proposition. Does it exclude either mindset?
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 consumers save hundreds, it offers a hire car so customers don’t have to go without while the car is repaired or replaced. It delivers a superior utility.
Next, stress test the creative expression. How might loss aversion be dialled up 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 to segment audiences. Is there an opportunity to segment by mindset? And if so, how might that impact what message is delivered to them, and when? How can a media strategy be revised 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.
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