Seven Values Strategies

This blog is a follow-up to 48 Campaign Strategies and Management Parameters for Campaign Direction.

There is no hard and fast distinction between ‘values strategies’ and other campaign or communication strategies.  Just understanding values, how they apply at a personal or group level and what makes for a good campaign strategy, is not an alternative to other tools and ideas.  On the other hand there are some insights that you simply don’t get without values.

  1. x3 Values Matching

The default use of values insight for many campaigns.  This is a ‘Something for Everyone’ strategy, suitable for instances where it is necessary to try and engage a whole population or group.   Any campaign which purports to address a wide ‘public’ is ostensibly trying to reach all three main Maslow Groups (Settler, Prospector, Pioneer), whether the campaigners are aware of them or not.

Here’s an example on engaging the public in marine environments, based on detailed audience research*, another on designing pubs, and a heuristic for ‘narratives’.

The simplest process of applying this involves deciding on a specific behaviour that needs to happen in the course of the campaign, and then creating three versions of it, in terms of activity, channel, messenger, context and benefits.  It is much easier and more effective to create three bespoke opportunities than one.

[* In more detail at pp 303-10 in How to Win Campaigns: Communications for Change].

  1. x1 LCD Cross Values Appeal

This applies if for some reason the brief is to have one activity or opportunity that has to ‘work for everyone’, which in practice means as many different sorts of people as possible.  (If you don’t actually need broad values support you can make do with a much narrower engagement, typically people-like-you but many campaigns by cause groups are limited by only really engaging Pioneers).

So in this case there is only one ‘proposition’, based on the ‘Lowest Common Denominator’: one that is at least accepted if not enthusiastically embraced, by all the three Maslow Groups.

The marine example cited in #1 shows what would have worked best for the three values groups separately but also the chosen solution which worked best for all three.

If you lack any basis for deciding this (ie research giving you insight or a lot of experience with values and audiences in your country) the default should be to make it a proposition that works for Settlers, as Prospectors and Pioneers have previously both been Settlers.

If you have commissioned or can access national values surveys, you can also identify things that are not very values segmented.  For example in the UK it would include the appeal of animal charities and being a parent.  So by default, making propositions about animals, or children, or even better animals and children, is going to reach across values groups (= ‘mainstream’).

  1. The Mexican Wave

This utilises the basic cultural or social dynamics of change across values groups (which is why CDSM, the values company whose model I use, is called Cultural Dynamics Strategy and Marketing).

Real social change involving doing or creating something genuinely new and different (as opposed to a new project that does something ‘tried and tested’ elsewhere) always starts with the Pioneers.  This arises by default because the Pioneers are not as concerned as the Prospectors about taking social risks and being seen to fail, and, because they are not change-averse like the Settlers.

Not all new Pioneer experiments spread: most die out and don’t even attract much Pioneer support but those which look ‘successful’ and approved of, will be noticed by Prospectors.  So long as they become available to them in ways that do not carry a lot of Pioneer values-baggage that requires Prospectors to ‘become a different person’ (“not me”), they may be taken up by Prospectors.  This invariably happens between the Transcender Pioneer Values Mode and the Prospector Now People, and works by emulation.

The Now People act as the behaviour or idea gateway to the rest of the Prospectors, who want to be like Now People (the most confident Prospectors and the definers of what is ‘fashionable’), and they are much better ‘messengers’ for other Prospectors than the Pioneers.  So the change-baton can get passed on, often by the behaviour being endorsed by a ‘mainstream’ brand.

If Pioneers plus Prospectors together constitute a majority (which in almost every country studied in recent years now is the case), any widespread behaviour they espouse, starts to look ‘normal’.  At that point is converted into a social norm and Settlers adopt it (norming), as they have a great desire to be ‘normal’.  Premature attempts to get Settlers to adopt a change however will fail unless enforced by authority through rules.

This also means that Settlers are the last to change and that both they and Prospectors will adopt behaviours they previously rejected and argued against.  You do not need to try and change the people’s values (impractical for large groups in terms of creating life experiences to do that by meeting unmet needs and otherwise an attempt at brainwashing), only to make the behaviour attractive in values terms.

So by a process of emulation and norming, change can spread around the values map from Pioneers to Prospectors to Settlers.  Good examples seen in many countries are the spread of environmental behaviours such as use of renewable energy, and recycling.

Because this happens without people changing values, it is like a Mexican Wave in a stadium which spreads without people leaving their seats.

  1. The Locomotive

This appears similar to the previous strategy but is crucially different because it relies on the power of a leadership group rather than attempting to enlist the rest of society.

The locomotive in question is normally the Pioneers or a subset of them, as the people most willing to ‘stand up for’ or promote something seen as unusual, weird, baffling, controversial or otherwise ‘difficult’ but for reasons the proponents usually see as altruistic: ‘good for society’.    So it’s a Pioneer-led, Pioneer-dominated x1 Group campaign strategy, even if the proponents think it is ‘open to all’.

In many societies there are enough Pioneers to create a big enough recruitment pool to create and sustain large campaigns of this sort but it has self-evident limitations.   For instance if it does not also engage or spread to Prospectors and Settlers, in most democracies politicians will see it as a subset of ‘the usual suspects’.  Unlike a campaign group, politicians cannot usually ignore the majority or large parts of society, as the majority also have votes.

This strategy is unconsciously adopted by many campaigns which act a vanguards or pressure groups for social reform and innovation (eg new sexually defined rights).   The default organising principle for this strategy is to identify the group most likely to run with your issue, build it and then devote energies to that and work your way out to other groups, using affinities.

Those which become politically-correct in ways which mean insisting on others adopting their reasons (values) as the price of admission (‘true belief’, ‘real reasons’), are unlikely to do more than persist.   Those which define their chosen issue or proposition in terms which polarise against the values of others, are likely to fail if they antagonize other groups and cannot over-power, out-manoeuvre or outweigh them.

  1. Reframing for Values Uplift

Values and frames are often confused but are two different things.   Values in the sense used here result from unmet psychological needs and manifest themselves as deeply and unconsciously held beliefs.  Frames are mental metaphors unconsciously used to recognize, categorize and process new information.  Nobody yet knows what the underlying brain processes really are or how they intersect but for practical purposes of campaign design, the first is about ‘rewards’ and the second about ‘understanding’ in the sense of recognition.

Reframing a proposition so that it better resonates with attitudes and beliefs driven by a particular values group can be an effective way of gaining wider support (as in #1).  But this has to be based on values insights from research, not guesswork in which people with one set of values try to second-guess what works for others.

For example:


  • Conducting formative qualitative research with people from different values groups to identify which frames work best for them


  • Building alliances with other groups which research shows have a strong appeal to different values groups, for example (see UK charity appeal values here). In this case the other charities or other affinity groups are likely to ‘bring their people with them’ in a way which will never be achieved by an organisation which stands for values at the other end of a values antagonism.  This may not involve a formal reframing process but groups will automatically frame any issue /action they support in ways that ‘work for them’, so long as you let them do so.

In short this involves doing the same thing (behaviour) for different reasons.

values antagonisms diagram

Some values antagonisms

  1. Unblock a Logjam

This application of values simply uses values insights to achieve ‘triangulation’, made famous by Dick Morris’s use of triangulation away from a left-right polarisation in Bill Clinton’s 1996 US Presidential campaign.    It is relevant when there is a values-driven stand-off that is going nowhere, and preventing or slowing change.

An environmental example is triangulating away from the power v Universalism axis on climate change issues.  Rather than to conduct a Pioneer (especially Concerned Ethical) [Universalism espousers] values battle with Golden Dreamers and Brave New World Settlers [Power espousers],  enlist the support of Now People Prospectors to rebalance opposition to action on climate from Golden Dreamer Prospectors.  This could for example involve making climate action about success and modernization, or simply fun, rather than an overt exercise in ethics.

Logjams can also arise when many sections of society do support the idea of ‘doing something’ about a problem but they violently disagree about why to do so because of different values.   In this situation, allowing or fostering more debate leads not to consensus finding but to disagreement and inaction.  The answer then is to find ways of removing such debate from the decision processes that enable change to take place.  Of course NGOs, politicians or others who are deeply committed to values such as self-expression, may find this inimical.

  1. VBCOP

VBCOP is a strategy formula based on observation of processes that do happen in societies but which are not usually organized deliberately.   It is a way of achieving change outcomes by generating opinions that can be applied (for instance) to politics, by first generating behaviours.

Politicians tend to give some weight to ‘public opinion’ and in many cases opinions are driven by what people do.  For example if most householders use gas to heat their homes or to cook with they are more likely to have a pro-gas opinion (“we couldn’t live without it” etc) than if they do not use gas.   This is based on the ‘consistency’ effect.

The behaviours which generate the opinions are very often driven by values, in other words many important behaviour differences are driven by unconscious values.  So in this case a strategy is planned in which relevant behaviours (B) are generated by matching offers or asks to values (V), and then because of (C) the consistency effect, the opinion is generated (O) which then needs capturing (eg with media evidence or polling) in order to apply it to polling (P).

For example, although I’ve not seen any such polling or use of it, it would be willing to bet that British people who do one or more of the following:  try various European foods, holiday in Europe, spend time with European friends, do business in Europe, are more likely than those who do less or none of these, to be ‘pro-European’ when it comes to voting the ‘remain’ in the Referendum.  Likewise people who vote regularly will be more likely than those who don’t, to agree that it is a way to make a difference, a good use of their time and effort and overall a good thing.

Time spent doing something of your own free will is an investment of behaviour.  It has much the same effect as economic investments: we tend to act to defend them.  The latter, campaigners easily recognize as a ‘vested interest’ but so too are behavioural investments.  It applies as much to things that appear intangible such as investing thousands of hours in helping defend human rights, as it does to earning money to buy a family refrigerator which has a utility function, a resale value and in some cases, is an object of esteem.  After all, if that wasn’t true then so many campaigns would just have been a waste of time wouldn’t they ?

More …

Is it easy applying values to strategy ?  Once you get used to it, ‘values’ is as easy as anything else.  The thing many campaign groups find hardest is converting their plan to influence an ‘issue’ into specific actionable offers or asks which involve behaviours that you can apply values to.   If you are interested in doing any training or working on applying values to a project, you can contact me at

For more background on values see my book What Makes People Tick: The Three Hidden Worlds of Settlers, Prospectors and Pioneers (available at this blog as well as Amazon etc), and this website for a short introduction and more on Settler, Prospector and Pioneer Values Modes.




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