8th December 2020

Personal Identity Becoming More ‘Elastic’ According to New Mindshare Research

London, 8th December 2020: Identity is becoming ‘elastic’ according to new research from Mindshare, the agency network that is part of WPP.

Mindshare’s continuous consumer study ‘Mindreader’, which surveys 62,000 people in 47 markets around the world, asked consumers in 2017 and again in 2020 to attribute importance to different factors that form their identity, such as their own thoughts and ideas or their race or ethnicity or their popularity with other people.

It found that people are increasingly defining themselves in more fluid ways and giving rise to a generation with a sense of identity that is socially and culturally shared.

The study focused on two separate views of ‘self’: Personal Self-Identity, which is defined as a sense of one’s own psychological identity, traits, values and abilities and Social Self-Identity, which is defined as a sense of one’s identity based on your social interactions (not just social media, but all social interactions).

In 2017, only 20% of respondents considered ‘interactions and the reactions of others’ as an important factor in their identity but by 2020 this had risen to 62%. ‘My popularity with other people’, also rose sharply, with only 25% considering it an important factor in their identity in 2017 rising to 37% in 2020.

This rise is driven largely by digital acceleration and the impact of social media upon individual identity. The Finstagram cultural phenomena is an example of how digital platforms allow people to have total freedom on how they construct their identity and Facebook now has over 70 custom gender options. Mindshare’s latest data shows that this sense of ‘social self-identity’ is becoming more important as a factor in people’s overall identity.

The research finds that identities are intertwined, contextual, flexible, multidimensional and drive behaviour – how we behave in front of family members is not the same as when meeting with friends or when engaging online with strangers – and this elasticity in identity is becoming more important to us.

There has also been a significant rise in the importance that people place on their race or ethnic background as part of their identity. This factor rose from 27% of respondents in 2017 counting it as important to 47% in 2020 – with movements like Black Lives Matter providing global context for the rise.

In response to the overall shift towards elastic identities, brands are creating platforms and hosting spaces for communities to engage - adding features to emphasise people’s identities and helping to build communities and launch products that fulfil their sense of self. These ‘branded communities’ are becoming key to engaging with people's unique identities and enabling them to take actions on different purposes and initiatives, which in return creates more engagement and brand advocacy.

Mindreader Wave 8 (2017) and Wave 10 (2020):

% respondents who replied extremely important to my sense of who I am or very important to my sense of who I am.

Personal Self Identity20202017
My self-knowledge, my ideas about what kind of person I really am70%69%
My thoughts and ideas74%72%
My personal goals and hopes for the future70%69%
My race or ethnic background47%27%
My gender (sex, being a male or a female)57%54%
Social Self Definition20202017
My interactions and the reactions of others (social self)62%20%
My relationships with the people I feel close to71%70%
My popularity with other people37%25%
My feeling of pride in my country, being proud to be a citizen59%59%
Developing caring relationships with others64%64%
My attractiveness to other people44%47%

For more information please contact: greg.brooks@mindshareworld.com | +44(0)7826 869312

Mindshare Global
    Mindshare Global