||This article needs attention from an expert in Psychology. (October 2008)|
VALS ("Values and Lifestyles") is a proprietary research methodology used for psychographic market segmentation. Market segmentation is designed to guide companies in tailoring their products and services in order to appeal to the people most likely to purchase them.
VALS was developed in 1978 by social scientist and consumer futurist Arnold Mitchell and his colleagues at SRI International. It was immediately embraced by advertising agencies and is currently offered as a product of SRI's consulting services division. VALS draws heavily on the work of Harvard sociologist David Riesman and psychologist Abraham Maslow.
Mitchell used statistics to identify attitudinal and demographic questions that helped categorize adult American consumers into one of nine lifestyle types: survivors (4%), sustainers (7%), belongers (35%), emulators (9%), achievers (22%), I-am-me (5%), experiential (7%), societally conscious (9%), and integrated (2%). The questions were weighted using data developed from a sample of 1,635 Americans and their significant others, who responded to an SRI International survey in 1980.
The main dimensions of the VALS framework are resources (the vertical dimension) and primary motivation (the horizontal dimension). The vertical dimension segments people based on the degree to which they are innovative and have resources such as income, education, self-confidence, intelligence, leadership skills, and energy. The horizontal dimension represents primary motivations and includes three distinct types:
At the top of the rectangle are the Innovators, who have such high resources that they could have any of the three primary motivations. At the bottom of the rectangle are the Survivors, who live complacently and within their means without a strong primary motivation of the types listed above. The VALS Framework gives more details about each of the groups.
Researchers faced some problems with the VALS method, and in response, SRI developed the VALS2 programme in 1978; additionally, SRI significantly revised it in 1989. VALS2 places less emphasis on activities and interests and more on a psychological base to tap relatively enduring attitudes and values. The VALS2 program has two dimensions. The first dimension, Self-orientation, determines the type of goals and behaviours that individuals will pursue, and refers to patterns of attitudes and activities which help individuals reinforce, sustain, or modify their social self-image. This is a fundamental human need.
The second dimension, Resources, reflects the ability of individuals to pursue their dominant self-orientation and includes full-range of physical, psychological, demographic, and material means such as self-confidence, interpersonal skills, inventiveness, intelligence, eagerness to buy, money, position, education, etc. According to VALS 2, a consumer purchases certain products and services because the individual is a specific type of person. The purchase is believed to reflect a consumer's lifestyle, which is a function of self-orientation and resources.
Psychographic segmentation has been criticized by well-known public opinion analyst and social scientist Daniel Yankelovich, who says psychographics are "very weak" at predicting people's purchases, making it a "very poor" tool for corporate decision-makers.
The VALS Framework has also been criticized as too culturally specific for international use.
The following types correspond to VALS segments of US adults based on two concepts for understanding consumers: primary motivation and resources.
There is little to no evidence of the use of this framework on a wide basis by any other industry other than the ad industry as indicated by SRI on what little it shares on its website (go to the SRI website for more info).