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Personal Buyer Behavior Characteristics
Dave Carlson - December 2, 2008

Prudent marketers try to understand their customers. “Psychographics is the science of using psychology and demographics to better understand consumers” (Kotler & Keller, 2009, p. 221). A popular psychographic classification system is the VALS framework presented by SRI Consulting Business Intelligence (Kotler & Keller, 2009). Those interested in experiencing the VALS survey may take the survey at http://www.sric-bi.com/VALS/presurvey.shtml.

Kotler and Keller (2009) explained that “the main dimensions VALS segmentation framework are consumer motivation (the horizontal dimension) and consumer resources (the vertical dimension)” (p. 221). The VALS segments are divided into two levels of resources, higher resources (e.g. personality traits such as energy, self-confidence, intellectualism, novelty seeking, innovativeness, impulsiveness, leadership, and vanity) and lower resources (others). The VALS segments are:

Four groups with higher resources:

  1. Innovators -- Successful, sophisticated, active, “take-charge” people with high self-esteem. Purchases often reflect cultivated tastes for relatively upscale, niche-oriented products and services.
  2. Thinkers -- Mature, satisfied, and reflective people who are motivated by ideals and who value order, knowledge, and responsibility. They seek durability, functionality, and value in products.
  3. Achievers -- Successful, goal-oriented people who focus on career and family. They favor premium products that demonstrate success to their peers.
  4. Experiencer -- Young, enthusiastic, impulsive people who seek variety and excitement. They spend a comparatively high proportion of income on fashion, entertainment, and socializing.

Four groups with lower resources:

  1. Believers -- Conservative, conventional, and traditional people with concrete beliefs. They prefer familiar, U.S. products and are loyal to established brands.
  2. Strivers -- Trendy and fun-loving people who are resource constrained. They favor stylish products that emulate the purchases of those with greater material wealth.
  3. Makers -- Practical, down-to-earth, self-sufficient people who like to work with their hands. They seek U.S.-made products with a practical or functional purpose.
  4. Survivors -- Elderly, passive people who are concerned about change. They are loyal to their favorite brands.

The VALS survey appears to be accurate. The author would have confidence planning a marketing campaign based upon consumer focus group results of the VALS survey.


Kotler, P. and Keller, K. L. (2009). Marketing management (13th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.


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