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The Identity mindset – the secret to a happy life?

Identity is a hot topic in 2016; identity fraud, ID cards, brand identity, gender fluidity, the list goes on. In some ways this is nothing new, but the digital age has made the issue more complex – and interesting – with consumers developing different online and offline identities, cultivated by the brands they follow and engage with, by the depth and breadth of modern fandom and by the opinions, language and stories they share with the wider world.

“Almost all (94%) 16-24 year olds feel it’s important to have a unique identity. Young people today are constructing their own identities more than ever before and conventional boundaries no longer apply.”

(Voxburner Youth Trends Report 2016)

Last week, researchers from Nottingham Trent University released the findings of a new survey into the key drivers of happiness. “They studied the extent to which almost 4,000 participants felt connected to certain groups, and then measured the impact this had upon their levels of happiness. The study – reported in the Journal of Happiness Studies – found that the more an individual identified with a particular group, the more happy they were with their life.”

Our own Mindsets study, in conjunction with YouGov, supports these findings,  with those who identify with the Identity mindset – the state of mind most closely associated with culture and belonging – being 31% more likely to be self-defined as “happy” than non-identifiers.

Perhaps what’s even more interesting however, is that they’re also much more likely to define themselves as being driven, sociable, optimistic, ambitious, passionate, upbeat and enthusiastic. Those who identify with the Identity mindset have a really positive outlook on life, driven by a confident aura of individuality, and supported by a close-knit social group that helps them to foster a strong sense of belonging.

Recent examples of brands engaging consumers within the Identity mindset include Coca Cola’s personalised bottles campaign (using a tiny piece of data – people’s 4oD sign-in name – to create a personalised TV ad for each viewer) and Nintendo and Vans creating custom Super Mario-designed sneakers (acknowledging the link between skate culture and gaming). Each of these examples acknowledges that customisation, personalisation and being different are admirable qualities for brands to engender in 2016.

Bestselling author and marketing guru Seth Godin says “…today, marketing is about engaging with the tribe and delivering products and services with stories that spread.”

‘Tribe’ is at times an overused word in marketing, but what Godin’s really referring to is an appreciation of the identity of your customers.

For consumers, for people, happiness is derived from a sense of belonging, identifying with a group of common goals, values and passions.

For brands, success requires a deep understanding of those ‘tribes’ in your customer base, and the characteristics that help to form their unique identities. Customers, consumers, brand ‘fans’ – whatever we call them – are not merely a reflection of a brand’s identity, and shouldn’t be viewed as such; instead view your audience as the identities that create your brand.


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