How do how VALS, Maslow, and memes work in marketing

When we look at marketing, we usually start with market segments. Market segments are generally defined in terms of the different customer bases and how they work. To reach these customers, we use different channels (paths). For example:

Note here that for the indirect channels there are two customers involved. First you have to sell the buyer for the channel, then you have to sell the customer to get them to go to those stores and buy it, of get them to buy it when they see it in those stores.

From market segment to memes

Now that we know the market segments, we have to figure out how to convince the buyer(s) to make the purchases. We do this by translating what we know about the market segments into messaging. This is a process requiring creativity and trial and error, but can be greatly aided by some science and psychology.

VALS assessment

A VALS (Values and Lifestyles) assessment is one way to identify the characteristics and buying habits of these decision-makers. This technique is based on research originally performed in the 1970s at SRI International, it uses the results of demographic studies to identify attitude information about buyers. It has been updated over time and location with further studies to provide relatively up to date information. Here is an example output of a VALS assessment from one of our systems:

Starting with this information, you can identify specifics about the particular buyers and industry you are involved in based on the expertise of your team. Suppose we identify that a few of them are not really right for our specific niche and channel. These are removed from the list.

Maslow's hierarchy and emotional buying

For those of us who assert we are rational people, those who know we are not, generally find out how to motivate us emotionally to get us over the action threshold. Just as the VALS assessment can tell us some characteristics of potential buyers, Maslow's hierarchy can give us some insight as to what sorts of messaging might work.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs asserts, in essence, that physiological needs come first, and after that come safety, love and belonging, and self esteem. These are deficiency needs, things that are important if you don't have them met. Assuming they are met, you then have cognitive needs, aesthetic needs, self-actualization, and transcendence.

Depending on what needs are filled by your offering, you select them and add the details for those needs related to motivations for buying. For example, again based on the two of these, here is an output:

Here is an example of a sentence fragment that might reasonably describe the relevant factors in the buying decision (as an example) for the specific offering at issue:

Note that for any specific offering, only specific factors will reasonably apply. If I am selling low cost socks, it seems unlikely that the emotional appeal will come from "Believe science and R&D are credible" unless I have some study that shows a reason it is better than the alternatives. Similarly, social stability is a hard argument to make for buying these low cost socks as opposed to any other socks.

Now the memes

You might notice that the results offer a variety of guidance, but somehow this has to be turned into messaging - things used to communicate to the buyer to get them over the action threshold. As an intermediate step to the messaging we like to create some memes. So what is a meme? An emerging version of the definition has to do with something interesting that spreads as a mental virus through social media. But this term really starts in the 1976 with Richard Dawkins' book "The Selfish Gene".

The idea here is to identify the underlying ideas, styles, and usages that will express the desired emotion to motivate the buyer to exceed the action threshold and buy the offering. For low cost socks, the target customer is likely to relate more to these buying factors:

Note that in picking out the relevant component parts, I have started to turn them into ideas. (e.g., best price, no mistake, you need it and can get it). As you develop more of these memes for your target audience, you start to take into account brand and related issues (e.g., the dollar store has a brand appropriate to these socks) which helps you select target customers that you can them focus more clearly on.

From memes to messaging

Imagining that I now have a good set of memes, the next step is to turn the memes into the messages. For example, and taken liberally from existing advertising, if the meme is low cost and it's going to the dollar store, "3 pairs for a dollar" is a specific expression of the memes that can be quite persuasive. If you want to make it higher class, you might go to something like "fashionable footwear at an affordable price", and so forth.

As these approaches develop, you might note that you sell black socks. "Black tie, Black socks" (almost sounds like the class act of the dollar store). Your packaging and branding might then also reflect this meme, as your socks have a label what shows a black tie on a white shirt, and your brand might include such an image.

In the late 1990s, we developed a product called "White Glove Linux", a counter to "Red Hat Linux". The idea was that our version was clean, simple, and secure. You can imagine how the interplay might work with branding of socks. Also note that white is associated with cleanliness in some social circles, and you might play off the medical/health meme for white socks.

A call to action

This mini-exercise is clearly only the start in terms of how you use VALS, Maslow, and memes in marketing. If you want to start to apply them in a more systematic way and get access to tools and experts, you should start by presenting at the next...

Go To Angel

In summary

Nothing happens till someone sells something. Present and let us help you get something started!

Copyright(c) Fred Cohen, 2022 - All Rights Reserved