At Nine we create content that is inspired by culture, and in turn we believe our content inspires culture. This phenomenon is explored further in the Powered by Nine Cultural Conversation series. Our latest addition explores the rise of echo chambers in Australia and their impact on society, media and brands.

Choose any of the big topics facing Australia today – climate change, racial inequalities or COVID-19 – and venture online. What you’ll find is groups of Australians living in completely different worlds, populated with different voices of truth and different facts. These are what are known as echo chambers.

Echo chambers are places where Australians are conditioned to disbelieve and tune out others with an opposing point of view. The conditioning of distrust in echo chambers is a result of the people inside, but also of the technology we cannot see. Today, polarising belief groups form on issues that are central to Australia, not knowing the real impact technology is having on their beliefs. But is technology the problem, or are we? And is technology what is needed to fix a divided Australia, or is it humanity? Powered by Nine explored these questions in, “Hello, Can You Hear You?” and unpacked the role media and brands must play in an Australia divided by echo chambers.

Discover some of the findings below.

The Project

At the end of 2019 Powered by Nine began working with Fifty5Five to develop a study into echo chambers, their impact and what that means for brands. ​

We started with reading – a lot of reading – to understanding existing academic and cultural rhetoric around echo chambers.​

Next we held a series of “conflict groups” – bringing together Australians from opposing sides of big issues – including vaccination, climate change, and progressive/conservative news consumption. ​

The findings from these groups were further explored and validated via quantitative research with a nationally representative sample and with marketers. ​

Here’s some of the headline findings across 3 key themes.

How has COVID-19 impacted values, attitudes & behaviours in regards to Christmas 2020?

What is more / less important to Australians this year?

And what does this all means for brands?

THEME ONE:

In tribes we've trusted

For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. ​We can’t help it, we have an innate need to belong. ​One of our most powerful survival mechanics is to be part of a tribe, to contribute to and take from a group of like-minded people.

Tribes thrive, today and in the past, because being in one feels good. ​9 in 10 Australians identify being inside their tribe as a good feeling. The core tenets we derive from being in our tribes is validation, a sense of belonging and the freedom to express as ourselves.

Meeting outsiders of your tribe is often a negative experience. Rationally, Australians want to break out of their echo chambers – 8 in 10 say debating different points of view is essential for Australia to have a positive future. ​But emotionally, we avoid doing this.

THEME TWO:

In echo chambers, we now trust, but at what cost?

If there was a poster child for an echo chamber, Donald Trump would be it.

Trump systematically manipulates who his tribe trusts. Anything thing that doesn’t align to his beliefs is branded ‘fake news’ and his followers have been conditioned to believe the source is to be dismissed and distrusted as it doesn’t share in their ideological interest. ​

But how many people, who may exist outside of the Trump echo chamber, automatically dismiss and distrust whatever he says? Give him an on-going metaphorical eye roll? Yes, what he says can be crazy, but what about the times when he does stay on script – when he shares crucial news or information? What do we automatically throw out with the bathwater and never even realise we’ve missed? This is the core issue with echo chambers. ​

Progress comes when we illuminate more nuanced points of view rather than the binary. What is revealed is we have more in common than our adherence to echo chambers allows us to think​.

What the vaccination echo chamber group came to realise through their nuanced discussion was that their viewpoints are born from the same desire – to do what’s best for their children. The all want to do the same thing; they’ve just landed in different places on how to do that.

THEME THREE:

Mass media the place where echo chamers meet

With the fragmentation of media, we have also seen the fragmentation of something else – the voice of truth. ​Today, 67% of Australians find there is an increasing amount of conflicting information on the issues they feel they need to know about. ​We are turning to different places; we are hearing different voices of truth.

With social media one of little trust for Australians.

But there is a place in today’s fragmented media landscape that Australians trust more than others… it is the place where our echo chambers meet, where people with differing points of view share in the same content.

THEME FOUR:

Fortune favours the brands with a POV

Australians respect someone with a point of view more than someone without one. In fact, 74% of Australians have more respect for someone who has a point of view.

Issue and purpose based marketing is here to stay. Brands that get it right are viewed as; Modern/having integrity/being more outward-looking and therefore easier to connect with.​

Brands that lack a point of view are considered to be: representing an old school way of thinking – focused on looking inward towards themselves and more interested in profit than their customers.

As we’ve seen, as people we are moving further and further apart, but we can lower our voices, change our tones, take steps towards one another – brands can have a point of view but say it in a way that’s inclusive and respectful – mass media presents the platform where respectful conversations can happen.

Want to dive deeper into the world of Echo Chambers and discover how your brand can unite Australia across the big issues? Register for a full presentation of Hello? Can you hear you.