About VALS™

Understanding customers is critical to marketing. VALS strengthens demographic characterizations by explaining the deeper psychological drivers of consumer behavior.

VALS is a consulting and consumer research service. VALS consulting provides clients with tailored marketing strategies for targeting, positioning, and communications—real-world, real-time, actionable strategies. Consumer surveys and focus groups inform our work.

VALS Benefits:

  • Gain a fresh perspective by getting "into the heads" of your customers.
  • Create richly textured consumer profiles or personas.
  • Understand the distinct communications styles of your best targets.

Ongoing training and reports strengthen persona knowledge and provide your team with a common language.

Current research focuses on how consumers around the world make decisions about their lives.

The VALS Story

VALS pioneered the quest for greater consumer understanding.

The original VALS, which SRI International launched in 1978, was based on work by noted consumer futurist Arnold Mitchell, who wanted to explain the fragmentation of U.S. society in the 1960s and the economic and societal implications of these changes. The 1960s was also the time when the advertising industry was transforming to have an integrated marketing focus. Advertising visionaries encouraged Mitchell to enhance and extend his work into a marketing tool. Mitchell's pioneering method of applying psychographics to business management and marketing research enabled marketers to use VALS as a way—beyond demographics—to think of consumers. Nine American Lifestyles, Mitchell's 1983 best-selling book, and the adoption of VALS by leading marketers led Advertising Age to cite VALS as "one of the ten top market research breakthroughs of the 1980s."

VALS evolved to explain the relationship between psychology and consumer behavior.

As consumer attitudes evolved in the late 1980s, the VALS ability to predict consumer behavior on the basis of attitudes and lifestyles weakened. Recognizing that the basis of the system needed to move to a more enduring platform to remain relevant, a team from SRI International, Stanford University, and the University of California, Berkley, determined that psychological traits are more stable than societal trends and shared values and beliefs to explain and predict consumer behavior.

Following a two-year development and validation effort, a new VALS launched in 1989. Still grounded in the philosophy that psychological traits and demographics are more powerful than demographics alone, VALS now uses psychology to describe the dynamics underlying consumer preferences and choices. VALS incorporates a resource dimension because a consumer's resources constrain or enhance the consumer's ability to express himself or herself in the marketplace.

VALS identifies the psychological motivations that predict consumer differences.

VALS uses proprietary psychometric technology to measure concepts that—researchers have proved empirically—correlate with consumer behavior. The inherent stability of VALS 20 years after its development is testimony to the theories of the development team.