Traditional demographics are less relevant than they once were
Societies around the world are changing. No longer are individual life paths constrained by the limitations of background or stage of life. Increasingly, we have greater freedom to be who we are.

For marketers, recognising the evolution of culture and its impact on how we know people is critical. While it's easy to view target audiences as one monolith group, the reality is that every group is a collection of people who each have their own unique, diverse and wide-ranging motivations, choices and circumstances.  

While we have historically relied on a demographic understanding of people to make decisions, these aren’t always fit for purpose. Society and people’s lives have changed to the point where traditional demographics no longer describe people in meaningful ways.

Two popular solutions for this have been to use personas or to group by generational difference. Both these approaches, however, are limited. While personas have helped us realise that we are marketing to real people. They also leave too much open to personal interpretation and representative bias. Grouping by generational differences isn't as strong as we think. A study by BBH Labs, for instance, showed that group cohesion among Orangina drinkers was 4.5 versus Gen Z at 0.2. A fizzy orange drink creating more common characteristics than a generation is telling us something we should listen to.
An alternative approach: MindSets
By studying people's overarching orientation to life, we have created a solution for cognitive profiling: MindSets.

MindSets groups individuals by what they believe, their interests and the kind of things that motivate them. The concept of MindSets refers to our mental operating systems – the lens through which people see any issue, information choice or behavioural decision.

Unlike traditional methods, such as knowing people by age, gender, generation or life stage, grouping audiences by MindSets helps us understand people's different experiences, interests and perspectives.

They allow us to look at the whole as well as the nuances – the real individuals who make up a population. For marketers, knowing an audience in this way showcases different arguments, messages and voices that audiences are open to hearing.
The research
Since 2018, we have surveyed over 300,000 New Zealanders and 10,000 Australians. We conduct this continuously monitor the data.

Using simple survey questions, we ask people to position themselves across four dimensions:

- 01 Traditional or progressive approach to life
- 02 Aspirational or content outlook on life
- 03 Mainstream or unique tastes
- 04 Community or individual/family focus

Our research identifies ten distinct groups against these four dimensions. Groups who share opinions and beliefs, interests, tastes, cultural alignments and ways of receiving and evaluating information. The results create the matrix you see below.

The framework highlights that, whichever group you are in, your internal operating system will be different from at least 80 per cent of the population.

Over time, we have found that the size and composition of the MindSets segments have barely shifted, indicating the group cohesion is high and predictive.
The Sentinels

​Sentinels have a traditional view of life with a keen focus on themselves and their immediate family. This focus, coupled with the fact that they are more content with their position in life, means they are less concerned with getting ahead materially.

For Sentinels, life is about taking it easy. It's about ticking along rather than stretching yourself. Progress is about spending time with family, paying the bills and getting food on the table.

This group likes to think they know what's right or wrong and have a strong moral compass. ​Their inward focus doesn’t mean that they are ignorant of bigger issues. such as climate change, but they are not at the leading edge – they’re not as willing to sacrifice what they've got for the greater good.

Sentinels are financially comfortable, and money isn't an issue for them. They have everything where it needs to be and own their own mortgage-free home.

The Pillars

Pillars think that being part of a wider community with common values is special. Their tastes are pretty close to what they see in the broader community. ​

The Pillars are content and feel that the hard work is behind them now – they can relax more and spend time doing the things they want to do. This group is more likely to rely on the tried and trusted, to go with what they know, they’re unlikely to take risks. ​

This group is financially comfortable, and money isn't an issue for them. Pillars feel they have everything where it needs to be and they own their own mortgage-free home – just in time for retirement. ​

Pillars go along with what the majority think or do however, they are open to breaking the rules because they believe that (sometimes) they know better! This group is not overly worried about the future or the environment, but they are happy to do their part to contribute to the world around them.​

The Caretakers

Caretakers believe that it's very important to keep the best of the traditional way of life. This means helping out in the community, looking after the environment, being frugal and making the most of what you've got at hand. Caretakers know that these views make them a bit unique, but they've been this way for a long time and are happy where they are.

This group are content with where things are at in their life and feel that they can now just relax. They are comfortable with their financial position, likely owning a mortgage-free home, and are now working on how to make the most out of things for the future.

Caretakers are generally tertiary educated and likely studied abroad. Their work over the years has been good and often being self-employed has given them freedom. This group looks forward to spending more time with friends and family, they generally know what's right and what’s wrong and don't just go along with what the majority think or do.​

The Strivers

Strivers place a lot of importance on what they think people used to value – hard work, looking after yourself and not sticking your neck out. Traditional values are important to them, as is looking after themselves and their family. This group follows what they see around them in mainstream society but want to get ahead in life and believe there's more to go after. ​

This group wants to enjoy my life and tends to live for today, but they also know that they need to plan for the future at some stage. Strivers feel like there's more progress for them to make and they are optimistic for the future. However, there are present struggles – they are often financially uncomfortable and can struggle to get by. They use credit to help them get the big-ticket items that they aspire to own. ​

Strivers want to live in a city that makes them feel safe and provides opportunities for everyone to lead healthy, meaningful lives but don't feel they have much say in what's going on.

The Nurturers

Nurturers think a focus on the broader community and the traditional mainstream values used to hold them together is essential. They want to get ahead in life.​

This group feel like they are making moderate to high progress in their life but could be making more. They are busy and don't take a lot of time out, they are not complacent and are looking to move forward. Nurturers work hard as they are not as comfortable financially as they would like to be – saving money is a driver for them.

Nurturers believe they can make a difference to the environment and believe that businesses and the government can too. However, Nurturers don't believe others are currently doing all they can to make a difference in areas such as climate change.

The Builders

Builders see themselves as having traditional values however, they are not stuck in the past. They are aspirational and like to follow their own tastes rather than what’s mainstream. ​

This group wants to enjoy life and tends to live for today, but they also know that they need to plan for the future at some stage. They don't feel like they have made as much progress in their life as they should have by now, but they are optimistic about the future. Builders feel like they are starting to settle down and know that they have some big decisions to make – like buying a house or starting a family.

To achieve their goals, Builders know they need to have some sort of a financial plan. They feel quite uncomfortable financially and often find it a struggle to get by. This group works mainly in secondary industries which doesn't provide as much income as they feel they need. ​

Builders want to live in a city that makes them feel safe, but they don't feel they have much say in what's going on around them as they aren’t likely to be enrolled to vote.​

The Thrivers

Thrivers see themselves as the new normal. The world has moved on a bit and their progressive values are now mainstream.

This group is content with their position in life. ​They feel that the hard work is behind them – they can relax and spend more time doing the things that they want to do. Thrivers have a good system in place to manage their finances. Now, they are working on how to make the most out of my financial position for the future. ​

Thrivers generally go with what the majority think or do and also like to think they know what's right or wrong. They aren’t rule breakers and tend to think that society respects the law. ​They are very family-driven – this defines their progress in life.

The largest concerns this group has in life are health, financial position and looking after family and happiness. Thrivers generally own their own home, typically without a mortgage, and have often invested in residential property. They generally have a tertiary education.

The Mavericks

Mavericks are leading the way. They think they have different tastes to the mainstream and see themselves as quite progressive.​

Mavericks feel quite sorted and settled, both in life and financially, and they are enjoying their current lifestyle. Now, this group is looking ahead and thinking about the longer-term decisions. They feel that most of the hard work is behind them, so they can relax more and spend time doing the things that they want to do. ​

This group genuinely thinks that they care more than most and that they are less self-involved. They would love to live somewhere that promotes local culture and allows them to live a relaxed lifestyle. They are well-educated (mostly at the tertiary level).

The Climbers

Climbers want to get ahead in life and desire the traditional signifiers of wealth – the nice house in the fancy suburb and the European car. However, they see the world's values moving on and agree that they are progressive.​

This group feels like they are starting to settle down and know that they have some big decisions to make, like buying a house or starting a family. As a result, they know they need to have a financial plan of some sort if they want to achieve their goals – but this will not be at the expense of living life to the fullest. Financially, they are pretty comfortable – money isn’t a huge issue and they get by day to day. ​

Climbers are hard-working. They are driven by saving money and making the world around them a better place. This drive means they have to get smarter with their money if they want to get ahead and be successful! Climbers are very willing to take risks and are usually the first to try new things to be ahead of the curve. Overall, they are optimistic about the future.


Challengers see themselves differently. They are progressive and different from the mainstream. Challengers want to get ahead, they believe there's more to do and achieve in the world by doing it their way.​

This group wants to enjoy their life and tends to live for today. They value experiences rather than physical items – partly because of where they are in life but also because of what they place value on in life. ​

Challengers are seeing progress markers in life, both big and small, but they also feel the need to keep seeing them. They are not content resting on their laurels – they believe the world is a better place with them in it and there needs to be more people like them. Often money is an issue, particularly for the younger Challengers who are more likely to rent. ​

The life of this group is driven by opportunity. They are largely healthy, without any long-term health conditions and have used their tertiary education to work in white-collar industries. This group is typically younger (under 44), middle income and a voter.​​