Using VALS To Find Your Audience

VALS is a marketing tool used to predict consumer behavior based on their philosophical beliefs, mechanical and intellectual curiosity, among other things. VALS stands for ‘Values and Lifestyles and is a series of questions to help define target audiences. The audiences are divided into nine lifestyle types: innovators, thinkers, achievers, emulators, achievers, strivers, experiencers, makers, and survivors. Each type is thought to behave and consume differently.

To any business who is seeking to find more details about their audience, there are several ways you can apply the VALS methodology of which we will explain here.

Using VALS methods in customer surveys

One method of using the VALS methodology to determine the direction a business should take is to survey your market and customers. If you can convince enough of your target market to complete a VALS survey, you can then use the data to determine how strong your customers lean toward their wants and spending behaviors. If your customers are primarily innovators or thinkers, they will consume quite differently than someone who is maker or survivor. With this data, you can then determine if your brand should take a new direction. A brand like Nike likely applied a similar strategy when determining their buying audience was more in line with a younger, more socially conscious customer base than the survivor, for example.

Using VALS to create a product


Another method of applying VALS methodology to a marketing strategy is in product creation. If you seek to attract a certain audience, you can use VALS as the basis for brand and product creation. You then can reverse engineer the results. If you want to attract an innovator or thinker and are in the tech industry, you would want to create products and market them like how Apple runs its company. However, if you are wanting to attract a maker or survivor, you would want to go more along the lines of practicality and functionality rather than design and high-end features.

Personally, I find VALS to be fairly limiting, as most people do not fit into clearly defined categories and are more likely complex beings that make a variety of statistically irrational decisions. So, while VALS may be an excellent tool for a broad market, people should be careful to not assume these results fully define the consumer audience, again, as the Nike Kaepernick ad also did.

I took the test and it said I am primarily a maker and second an experiencer. While this is true, the results seem to be almost like a sort of astrology for marketers. Just vague enough to apply no matter what. Because while these apply to me, I can also say pretty much all the types apply to me to some extent and generalizing a mass market in this way can be misleading. In conclusion, I would say that while VALS is a good source for brand identity and for targeting audiences, it is far from a universal perfect targeting system that you can blanketly expect any audience to believe in.

How To Get Your Emails Opened

How often has this happened to you? You send out email after email, waiting to see the requests coming in. You send out a sale. Nothing. You send out a coupon. Nothing. You start to try tricks to get them to open the email with a catchy subject. Nothing.

Your emails are going straight to junk mail. Do you know why? If this is your problem, it is because you are pitching to people you don’t even know. People don’t waste time reading pitches. If they need your service, they will look for your service. You are offering them nothing of value.
Promotional sales emails rarely get read or even opened. In fact, most go straight to the junk mail filter.

Do you want to get your emails read?

The first thing to remember is it is not all about you. You are asking people to read your email, you have to give them a reason. You can’t expect people to want to spend their limited time every day reading your sales pitch along with the other 180 per day they get. I checked my email inbox, it is 5:21 pm, and I have received 177 emails since I went to bed last night, no doubt at least 150 of them are sales pitches. You have to give them a reason to open your email. Of my 177 emails(plus about 10 I did not delete or read from yesterday) I will read about ¼ of them. I will read my actual real email, and I will open about 10-20 sales pitches knowing they are sales pitches.

Which sales pitches, you ask?

The ones who offer me something of value bundled in with the pitch. Give me a tip on how to boost my engagement, and I will read your sales pitch along with your advice.

Now your customer may not care about engagement. Say you are a car dealer. You would then show me ways to save money on fuel efficiency, then pitch a better MPG car. I will read that. You may make me realize it is time for a new vehicle while trying to get better mileage. Or a doctors office. Will your child not eat veggies? Wow, here is an email about how to get kids to eat vegetables! And now that you mention it, it may be time to schedule a checkup.

Next, get rid of the flashy space wasters. You do not need all that high graphics eye-catching attraction inside an email. It is annoying and bulky. You are not trying to attract attention, the email is already open. But, you may get flagged as being potentially unsafe if there is too much code in the email.

Go easy on the pitch, Soft sell here. Offer some value, throw in a special offer of the month. But, in general, you want your effective email copy to let the reader decide they may want to contact you without you asking for it. Go easy on the links. One per page is fine unless you are linking some helpful news articles or something similar.


Test test test. Take these tips, try them out, mix and match and look for what works best. There is no one size fits all, you want to continually try out new ideas and see what works and what doesn’t. The goal is to keep what works, discard what doesn’t. In a few months, you will have a lean, mean, email marketing machine.

The Same Ol’ Digital Marketing Trends? Not So Much…

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It is that time of year when everyone is repeating the same blog post about 2019 trends. Yes, Stories and video will grow, AI and bots will increase, blah blah blah, as we continue with a slight rewording of 1000 other December blog posts. The end.

That was easy enough. Now to fill the space with something interesting we will be doing for 2019 that we see as important.


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In early 2018, Mark Zuckerberg made a series of posts about community and Facebook. Facebooks announcement caused the businesses of the internet to collectively get upset because Facebook was going to take away their audience! Oh man, I heard it all, “Facebook hates making money!”  “Facebook is personally out to get me and wants to put my Shopify store out of business!” “It is all a plot to make us buy more ads!” While the last may partially be true, I thought it was entertaining seeing people making grand claims of Mark Zuckerberg waking up in the morning and setting off on his life’s goal of destroying that one Shopify store with $30,000 a year in revenue for no reason at all other than being evil. The fact that this store sold weapons, pornography and drug paraphernalia had nothing to do with it, of course.

Facebook is going back to its roots, the dorm room goal of Facebook of connecting the world. Of relationships, not sales and news. People are abandoning Facebook and Twitter for other platforms more personal, with more friends and family and not an endless stream of ads both paid and organic. And I couldn’t be happier.

The 2019 trends for Zilker is to embrace and join this mission with Zuck. If there is one thing social media has done in society is increase depression, sadness, and even anger and violence! As a marketer and as decent human beings, this concerns us at Zilker. So a trend you will see from us in 2019, in addition to common sense following the industry, we are on a mission to deliver more positive, family-friendly and helpful relevant content to our client’s audiences every day.

Your happiness matters to your customers and us matter to us. At Zilker, our goal is not to merely sell and make your customers buy. Our job and responsibility as human beings are to help create happiness with your customers. Families and friends are important to us, they are essential to you, and they are critical to your clients.  

When you use Zilker Marketing, this is our promise to you. That we will not only care about money, we care about you and your relationships. We care about your customers’ connections. Now, in this season of families and relationships, but also depression and materialism, we are affirming our commitment to you. You matter to us. Your customers matter to us. We hope you all know this and want to make sure you have a fantastic holiday season this year. Call your mother, bury a grudge, do something to make yourself happy and do something to make someone close to you happy. Most of all, please take care of yourself and enjoy this holiday season because you are amazing and you deserve it.