The VALS classification system places consumers with abundant resources—psychological, physical, and material means and capacities—near the top of the chart and those with minimal resources near the bottom. The chart segments consumers by their basis for decision making: ideals, achievement, or self-expression. The boxes intersect to indicate that some categories may be considered together. For instance, a marketer may categorize Thinkers and Believers together.
The VALS system seeks to explain why and how consumers make purchase decisions.
•Ideals-motivated groups. Consumers motivated by ideals are guided by knowledge and principles. Thinkers are mature, reflective, and well-educated people who value order, knowledge, and responsibility. They are practical consumers and deliberate information-seekers who value durability and functionality in products over styling and newness. Believers, with fewer resources, are conservative, conventional people with concrete beliefs based on traditional, established codes: family, religion, community, and the nation. They choose familiar products and brands, favor American-made products, and are generally brand loyal.
•Achievement-motivated groups. Consumers motivated by achievement look for products and services that demonstrate success to their peers or to a peer group they aspire to. Achievers have a busy, goal-directed lifestyle and a deep commitment to career and family. Image is important to them. They favor established, prestige products and services and are interested in time-saving devices given their hectic schedules. Strivers are trendy, fun-loving, and less self-confident than Achievers. They also have lower levels of education and household income. Money defines success for them. They favor stylish products and are as impulsive as their financial circumstances permit.
•Self-expression-motivated groups. Consumers motivated by self-expression desire social or physical activity, variety, and risk. Experiencers are young, enthusiastic, and impulsive consumers who become excited about new possibilities but are equally quick to cool. They savor the new, the offbeat, and the risky. Their energy finds an outlet in exercise, sports, outdoor recreation, and social activities. Much of their income is spent on fashion items, entertainment, and socializing and particularly on looking good and having the latest things.Makers, with fewer resources, express themselves and experience the world by working on it—raising children or fixing a car. They are practical people who have constructive skills, value self-sufficiency, and are unimpressed by material possessions except those with a practical or functional purpose.
•High- and low-resource groups. Two segments stand apart. Innovators are successful, sophisticated, take-charge people with high self-esteem and abundant resources of all kinds. Image is important to them, not as evidence of power or status, but as an expression of cultivated tastes, independence, and character. They are receptive to new ideas and technologies. Their lives are characterized by variety. Survivors, with the least resources of any segment, focus on meeting basic needs (safety and security) rather than fulfilling desires. They represent a modest market for most products and services and are loyal to favorite brands, especially if they can be purchased at a discount.
Each of these segments exhibits unique media preferences. Experiencers and Strivers are the most likely to visit Internet chat rooms. Innovators, Thinkers, and Achievers tend to read business and news magazines such as Fortune and Time. Makers read automotive magazines. Believers are the heaviest readers of Reader’s Digest. GeoVALS™ estimates the percentage of each VALS group by zip code.