Core values drive consumer behavior

The holy grail for many marketers would be to hold the key to understanding consumer behavior. In fact, most market research is designed to understand consumer attitudes towards products/brands and the potential subsequent purchasing behavior that could arise from those attitudes.

Okazaki and Mueller (2007) propose that before marketers attempt to understand attitude or behaviors, they should first determine the core values that are the basis of the attitudes; Okazaki et al note that “values may be one of the most power explanations of, and influences on, consumer behavior.”

Okazaki et al. discuss the two main value classification system in use today: Rokeach‘s inventory of values and Kahle and Timmer’s list of values (LOV).

Rokeach (1973) determined that there were two levels of values: terminal and instrumental.

  • Terminal – these values define end states, e.g. the end goal for the consumer. These could be a comfortable life, an exciting life, a sense of accomplishment, a world at peace, equality, or family security.
  • Instrumental – these values are modes of conduct or behaviors that help a consumer achieve the desired end state. These traits could include being ambitious, broad-minded, capable, cheerful, or courageous.

It should be noted that terminal values “serve as motivators to develop instrumental values.”

Kahle and Timmer (1983) developed LOV, which is similar to, but simpler than, Rokeach’s inventory of values. The nine values include: a sense of belonging, excitement, fun and enjoyment in life, warm relationships with others, self-fulfillment, being well respected, a sense of accomplishment, security, and self respect.

From a marketer’s perspective, it is critical to understand that core values not only drive attitudes (which then drives buying behavior), but that many people will have multiple core values, e.g. sense of belonging and security. The key to developing effective marketing strategies is to understand how to position your brand’s image to resonate with particular “bundles” of core values.


Okazaki, S. and Mueller, B. (2007). “Cross-cultural advertising research: where we have been and where we need to go.” International Marketing Review. 24 (5), pp. 499-518.


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