Yesterday it was a delight to catch up with Pat Dade. Pat is director of Cultural Dynamics, a strategy and marketing consultancy that uses Values Modes. Back in the 1960’s, Pat was a spy for the US military. Personally I think he’s still a spy, but in 2023 it seems to be more acceptable to call it audience insight or consumer research.
Pat and his team at Cultural Dynamics are different from what, in my mind, is typical insight or research work, because they don’t look at people’s behaviours, e.g. what they do, what they buy and how they spend their time to inform what they might do next, buy next or how they might spend their time in the future.
They go deeper than that.
They focus on understanding what drives people’s behaviour. They unpick why people do things, buy things and spend their time in the way they do. They are fundamentally about understanding the nature of human nature and how it can change over time for individuals, organisations and even whole nations. They unpick what makes human beings tick and what drives us. And this is all influenced by our core values.
Values = deeply held subconscious biases and heuristics which are hard to talk about.
I’m sure you know a lot about your customers, supporters and clients; age, gender, demographic, buying habits, etc. You might know what makes them happy, what keeps them awake at night and what they care about in order that you can engage with them with relevant communications that interest them, and provide products and services that meet their needs. But do you understand why they do what they do?
Why does giving to their local charity make them happy? Why is it important they buy the premium brand product? Why does getting on public transport make them anxious?
When you understand people’s values you go deeper than the behaviour you can see. You are delving into someone’s deeply held subconscious biases. You are starting to understand people’s motivations, the stuff that they don’t talk about in a survey, a questionnaire or even an interview.
Everyone wants to be happy and there are different versions of happy.
Our values are core to being human, often when we’re asked questions about values people come up with things like, honesty, happiness or kindness. Those are not values. Those are virtues. They are the things we want. Values are WHY we want them.
And if you can understand why people do what they do, then you can understand why they are behaving in a particular way and then you can communicate with them in a way that appeals to them.
What are values modes?
Values modes echo Maslow’s hierarchy of needs from the 1930’s, in that when basic needs (for example, safety, security and belonging) are met your values mode might (or might not) shift in order to fulfil a new set of needs.
Settlers, Prospectors and Pioneers
The three fundamental values modes are described as settlers, prospectors and pioneers.
Settlers We are all born settlers. Our core values, the things we need to be happy and fulfilled are safety, security and belonging. We want to fit in. We want to be accepted. It’s all about us, as individuals feeling safe.
‘Give me my four walls and routines so I know where I am. It’s Friday tomorrow, we’re having fish.’ A settler
Prospectors When the needs of safety, security and belonging are satisfied some people may shift to being a prospector. Prospectors are high performing, looking for opportunities, and want esteem from others. They want people to tell them that they’re cool.
‘I just got a new chandelier for the hallway – it’s right on trend. It’s Friday tomorrow we’re going to the new bar in town – it’s the place to be seen!’ A prospector
Pioneers When you’ve satisfied your needs as a prospector some people start to feel lost. Esteem from others is not enough and you start to look for a bigger purpose. Pioneers want to feel that they are contributing to a purpose bigger than them.
‘I’ve just rigged up the water butt to keep the garden watered when we’re away. It’s Friday tomorrow, I volunteer for a couple of hours in my local community.’ A pioneer
If you know the values mode of your audience then you can communicate with them in a way that speaks to their values. For example, if you were a solar panel salesperson (just pretend) and your job was to get people to buy into solar power as a concept and buy a solar panel to put on the roof of their house, you’d communicate in different ways to different values modes to get the results you want. For example;
- You’d emphasise how the solar power would lower electricity bills for settlers.
- You’d emphasise how it’s fashionable and on trend (some neighbours already have them) to prospectors.
- You’d emphasise the bigger picture and how solar energy can help to protect the planet to pioneers.
Everyone has values. We all have different values and they can shift. They are buried deep in our subconscious and don’t change easily. Some people never change because they don’t satisfy their basic needs. World events can have an impact on values, for example in a war, pandemic or cost of living crisis, values might shift as people return to the need to feel safe and secure.
It’s important to note that there’s no judgment regarding what values mode you or anyone else is. It’s not a case that you transition to something ‘better’, or that you’re ‘stuck’. We all just have the values mode we have. And understanding them can give you a different lens on how you communicate with just about everyone.
It’s way more complex than just settlers, prospectors and pioneers. There are over 128 different values personas but the three above are the basics to get you started.
How do I find out my values mode?
Over the last 30 years the team at Cultural Dynamics has developed a diagnostic questions tool so you can find out your values mode Here’s your link. Take two minutes to answer the quick questions and you’ll get sent a report with your values modes. Would love to know whether the descriptor you get resonates. Do share in the comments.