We are all individual but there are certain ways you can ‘group people together’.

One way is by analysing peoples ‘shared attributes’ to produce general classifications. These classifications can be very, very crude but can also be powerful and useful in an advertising context.

You may be most familiar with Socio-Economic Descriptiors, for example: working class, middle class etc. This method was based on the notion that someone’s occupation had a bearing on their purchasing habits. A number of years ago, when televisions were just coming out, only people earning a high salary would be able to afford one. So, advertisers would pitch them towards people in more professional jobs such as doctors and company administrators. These people, based on their jobs, had the social status of middle class or upper middle class thus the social grades of A and B. Even as I am typing these words I can see how dated this type of thinking is nowadays.

A classification method I am more familiar with is The Consumer Life Cycle because I have read a lot about it n books such as The Tipping Point (Gladwell, 2000). This method is based more on the notion of describing peoples behaviour in terms of how they adopt a new product or service. For example some people are very eager try out something new; some people will try it out once they see others doing so; some people will wait till it’s pretty mainstream; some people will wait until they absolutely have to. Seth Godin describes these groups really well in The Purple Cow:

“These are the people in a given market who like having something first. They may not even need the product; they just want it. Innovators are the folks who sit in the front row at a fashion show in Paris, go to Internet World, and read edgy trade journals.”

Early Adopters:
“Early adopters are the folks who can actually benefit from using a new product and are eager to maintain their edge over the rest of the population by seeking out new products and services” “Early Adopters create an environment there the early and late majority feel safe buying the new item”

Early & Late Majority:
“These consumers don’t necessarily yearn for a new product or service that can benefit them, but if enough of their peers try it and talk about it, these followers are likely to come along as well”

“Getting around to buying a cassette deck when the rest of us have moved on CDs”

(Godin, 2002,  p.28 – 29)

We discussed these groups in a recent lecture so I have some quick notes you can look at too:

The Consumer Life Cycle is often used to demonstrate how an ‘idea’ spreads through a population as well as a product or service. Here is a snap from my notebook on The Purple Cow which illustrates it in terms of a diffusion curve.

They grey bars indicate bulk of the sales. The second white line, between the Early Adopters and the Early Majority is crucial – it’s when your idea, product or service suddenly takes off and so do your sales. It’s so crucial that there are even of books written about it, in particular Crossing the Chasm by Geoff Moore.

Anyway. I want to talk about one classification method in particular:

Values and Lifestyles (VALS 2).

The notion of this one is that people are grouped together by their aspirations, their moral values, their interests in things like music or sports – apposed to their job or social status. For example three camping buffs will all be interested in the same things – regardless of their social status – say for example one was a student, one was a secretary and one was a lawyer. The student may not be able to afford the same tent or kit as the lawyer but he/she will be interested in it.

In marketing terms, it would be much easier to consider what type of people like to go camping rather than concentrating on professionals who go camping or students who go camping. How do people who go camping relate to the world around them? To the people around them? What do they hold precious? What is their moral (or ethical) stance?

These things are considered in the VALS 2 model; the basic categories of which are shown below:


My Advertising and Branding team (Team 5) and I got together to discuss the theory of VALS 2 we had been given (you have just read my interpretation of it above) and then apply it. We looked at fourteen different products/services; considering how we could change the message to make them appeal to some of categories of people in the VALS 2 basic model.

A savings account

Self actualisers:

  • Save up for a holiday with your friends or for family trips where you can spend quality time with them.


  • Save up for luxury items such a fancy new car or designer shoes. Have money in the bank ready for any new technology or things that come out.

Contented conformers:

  • It’s ‘the done thing’ to have money put by – financial security for the future. Saving is a sensible, normal thing to do.



  • It’s how your parents bought their first house which will become your family’s inheritance. It  becomes your home = security i.e won’t get out out by a landlord.


  • The aspiration of owning your own home. This is a new kind of mortgage; it’s different to all the others on the market because…


  • Become a ‘home-owner’, have a place to officially call your own = traditional set-up. Keep up with your friends who are at that age and starting to buy their own places.

Online grocery service


  • Lead the way with the modern way to shop. You can buy exclusive items that are only available online.


  • You can do your weekly shop without having to leave the house. It saves you getting caught up in the hustle and bustle of the shops.


  • Let your neighbours see you are in touch with the latest, modern ways. The supermarkets van will deliver direct to your door and your neighbours will see where you shop.


Self actualisers:

  • Show your concern for your country and fellow men. Vote for social changes that will enhance the lives of others.


  • Your opportunity to get a new government and a new way of doing things.


  • It’s your contribution to the country, it’s your right and obligation to vote. Everyone who cares about the country is doing it.


Self actualisers:

  • Show your concern for the planet – a new way to make a difference = reduce your carbon footprint. Encourage your family to do it too; share recycling tips with your friends; teach your children to be considerate to the environment.

Contented Conformers:

  • The council are asking everyone to do this, put your bins outside on these days and show your support along with everyone else.

Life-share service

Self actualisers:

  • It helps everyone get to work and get to know each other better in the process.

Esteem seekers:

  • A chance to show off your car, for your colleagues to see where you live and to tell them about yourself…



  • A place where you can be comfortable on your own, appreciate the art and reflect on things.

Esteem seekers:

  • You have the time and money to invest in cultural experiences. You can talk about it to people to show them you are cultured and intelligent.


  • A chance to explore history, see where things came from and understand where the values you have come from. Teach your children about the past in a a reserved, safe and educational environment.



  • A new high-speed service which lets you keep up with the latest news and accomplish things quicker.

Self actualisers:

  • It lets you keep up with loved ones who are living away from home and use social networking sites to share pictures and thoughts with your friends online.


  • You can keep in touch with the world without having to be too involved with it. You can pick and choose what you use it for.

Neighbourhood watch


  • Protect your family and neighbourhood alongside your neighbours showing that you value safety and being lawful.

Self actualisers:

  • Show your concern for your neighbourhood and come together to think about new ways to do it – a chance to give your input on how to change the way the neighbourhood is protected. Give your advice and your time to help others.

International flights


  • Be seen as a ‘jet-setter’ and visit those places your mentors talked about. Have new experiences and stories to share with others.

Self actualisers:

  • Meet new people and explore exciting new cultures. Reconnect with family and friends who have moved away.


  • Travel to exotic locations, undiscovered by tourism e.g non-traditional destinations and experience cultures far beyond your own.

Evening classes


  • Learn (or re-learn) old skills and crafts that you use to watch your parents or even grandparents do. Practice the lost arts amongst a quiet group of like-minded people and enjoy the learning process.


  • Invest in your personal development and brush up on the new software your colleagues are starting to use. Enjoy the ‘being back at school again’ feeling and gain a new qualification.

Self actualisers:

  • A chance to meet new friends and learn new things – do something out of the ordinary! You could even take your friends along and invest time learning together.

Local newspaper


  • Have a paper as part of your habitual routine. Be informed about what’s going on in your community from a proper source rather than partaking in gossip.


  • Keep in touch with the issues of your community without having to listen to idle chat. You can read it yourself and be informed of up-to-date occurrences.

Local radio station

Self actualisers:

  • Keep in touch with the local news and people that are relevant to you. You might hear about a local event that you could go to with your friends. You can telephone in and dedicate a song to your friend.


  • Memories of family crowding around the wireless, listen to the news and weather the way your parents use to do. Listen to mainstream music and general chatter.

My group also chose to look at a library


  • A quiet place you can be comfortable about being alone and reading the books you want to. A place where you can go to escape the world.


  • Take your children to the library just as your parents took you / visit the place you’ve been going to since you were a child. The books allow you to have the information in your hand – more reliable information than the internet.


  • Appear intelligent and show your ‘doing your research’ or are ‘well-read’ whilst showing your support for this great resource. Use the library to improve your knowledge and get that qualification or new job your after.

My Thoughts About The Exercise

When I first read about Values and Lifestyles I thought it sounded really good. From recent lectures and workshops I know that it is better to advertise a products benefits rather than it’s features. Show people what it does rather than how it works. I thought that VALS 2 would help you do this; advertise your product/services benefits in relation to that persons outlook on life.

I just was a little disappointed with some of the descriptions. I didn’t enjoy thinking about people in this way. Many of the things we were coming up with seemed exploitative? I do think we over-played some of the messages because we were not too sure about what we were doing. I also think we got carried away because the descriptions didn’t seem real. Whenever we talked about an ‘esteem seeker’ wanting to show off their possessions it felt like some fake Hollywood character. Of course the exercise we were doing was purely fictitious but there is some reality in it. Were I to actually do this ‘for real’ I would need to read up on it a whole lot more. My lecturer suggested a discussion by Arthur Asa Berger in his book Ads, Fads and Consumer Culture. I would also try replacing the names with persona’s; this might help humanise (I think that’s the right word) the categories more. I would also want to look at and practice other kinds of classification methods as well.


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