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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 partners, who responded to an SRI International survey in 1980.
The main dimensions of the VALS framework are primary motivation (the horizontal dimension) and resources (the vertical 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:
- Consumers driven by knowledge and principles are motivated primarily by . These consumers include groups called Thinkers and Believers.
- Consumers driven by demonstrating success to their peers are motivated primarily by achievement. These consumers include groups referred to as Achievers and Strivers.
- Consumers driven by a desire for social or physical activity, variety, and risk taking are motivated primarily by self-expression. These consumers include the groups known as Experiencers and Makers.
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.