Defining the Audience, Part 2 (Values)
I just sat through a brainstorm where the sponsors unloaded volume after volume of tree-killing reports – each bursting at the seams with statistical data about their audiences. But among all this PowerPoint plethora, there was not a shred of information about the audience's values.
Understanding the primary audience's values are extremely helpful in idea generation: they are the ultimate tools to connect your product or service to your key audiences. While advertising has always used values as an integral part of its campaigns, most people in communications rarely consider them – that is, if they have any notion of what they are.
By definition: Values are deeply rooted principles or standards which are universally accepted among the target audience, and which explicitly guide what they believe, their attitude toward a specific topic, and ultimately, how they behave. They are created in all of us by a wide-ranging number of influences during our lifetime, such as (and certainly not limited to) family, culture, society, race, gender, education and socio-economic background. Because they are so ingrained in our psyche, they are – not surprisingly – the most powerful of motivators.
While values are unique to the individual, there are also 'universal values,' which Sir Isaiah Berlin defined as “values that a great many human beings in the vast majority of places and situations, at almost all times, do in fact hold in common, whether consciously and explicitly or as expressed in their behaviour.”
With a trace of irony, there is no agreement on a universal values list. Shalom Schwartz developed the first list of universal values at the University of Michigan in the 1980s. Since then, others have expanded the list to more than 100 values, others to as few as 15. I generally consult a list of 22 values – originally developed by Wirthlin International.
So why are values – more so, universal values – important to creativity?
Universal values are helpful when trying to define an audience by its attitudes or behaviour, specifically to identify what values they may use or tap into when making a decision about a subject, issue, product or service. If you can somehow translate the persuasive value into the idea, it makes the idea that much more compelling and engaging for the audiences.
For example, if you look back to my post, you’ll see that team is identified – through focus groups – that our primary audience connected to premium wines through two primary values. The dominant value was “accomplishment” – that is, “the wine I serve says everything about me.” The sub-dominant value was “belonging and acceptance,” – that is, “I want to be seen as knowledgeable, so I can impress my friends.”
These values helped us create ideas, they helped to set the tone and style for the campaign, and we used wording in the campaign messages which leveraged these themes to reinforce them to our audiences.
The only way to determine another’s person value is to ask them directly or, less so, indirectly. A focus group is probably the most common method in business, although there are many other effective methods such as questionnaires, surveys, voting and polling.
What you should never do is assume.