In this complex cultural moment, keeping up with consumer behavior has never been more frustrating and exhausting. Marketers need every advantage to understand consumers’ changing attitudes and desires. But typical customer data doesn’t go deep enough to arm marketers with that kind of critical information. Consider the piles of data you have — is it enough to move the needle?
If not, perhaps the time has come to look at consumers in a different way, using consumer values as a tool. Gartner’s annual Consumer Values and Lifestyle Survey gives marketers an opportunity to understand what’s important to consumers and why. Consumer values can unlock those clues to the things you can’t always see in customer data: what consumers aspire to, what they want — the way they think about themselves without regard to actual behavior. Consumer values allow marketers to go deeper in understanding consumers while putting context around the data they already have.
Values Can Be Your Key to Success
Values are concepts, qualities and attributes that humans most associate with and that inform our attitudes, decision making and expectations for ourselves, others, institutions and brands. Simplified, values drive behavior. They provide a thematic understanding of what matters to consumers and why. Gartner’s Consumer Insights Research Team has been quantitatively tracking 93 values since 2010.
Marketers can take advantage of this values tool through three different lenses to help build brand strategy in line with consumer understanding:
- Top-10 values tell a lot about culture, as well as people who are motivated by the same drivers. They can provide foundational knowledge of a generation or a subsegment. All consumers have core values that drive behaviors every day. These are values instilled by influences and experiences growing up, where they live, big cultural events (Vietnam, the Civil Rights Movement, 9/11, the Great Recession, etc.). These experiences create the framework for permanent behavior, which is why top-10 values are very stable over time, and don’t change much unless there is a major personal disruption or cultural event. The top-10 values for the general U.S. population in 2019 are loyalty, honesty, equality, authenticity, courtesy, success, justice, responsibility, conscience and happiness.
- Momentum values (those moving up or down over time) can be an early warning system for changing attitudes, behaviors and life stages — helping marketers determine if their marketing message is relevant with the current cultural mood.
- Differentiating values are values ranked much higher for a subsegment when compared to another. They can be a sweet spot for marketers trying to target specific consumers, allowing them to get to the core of what makes a subsegment stand out from the rest of consumers. Differentiating values are like an internal psychological snapshot of what ultimately motivates target consumers.
Understanding consumer values can serve as your first line of defense in consumer strategy, messaging and the boardroom. They can give context to data points you already have but don’t know how to leverage. They can help you master where you fit in to the culture as a brand, and allow you to keep up with consumers today.