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1978

VALS™ market research

SRI designed the Values and Lifestyles™ (VALS) program, a novel market research tool for determining the motivations behind consumer purchasing decisions. Offered today by SRI spin-off company Strategic Business Insights, VALS is still used by top advertising agencies and consumer product marketers worldwide.

The original VALS, launched by SRI in 1978, was a response to SRI studies of the fragmentation of U.S. society in the 1960s and the implications of those changes. The 1960s was also when the advertising industry was transforming to integrated marketing. Advertising visionaries encouraged SRI to extend its work into a marketing tool. SRI’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. 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.”

As consumer attitudes evolved, VALS needed to predict consumer behavior using a more enduring platform. A team from SRI, 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 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.

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