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.