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Shifting Values, Shifting Business

By Molly Baker

According to behavioral science, the set of beliefs that a consumer holds about the world is a key influencer of consumer behavior.

The latest McKinsey article, “Understanding and shaping consumer behavior in the next normal” talks about how consumer beliefs and behaviors are changing fast and to keep up with—and perhaps even influence—those changes, companies must leverage deep consumer insights.

“Beliefs are psychological—so deeply rooted that they prevent consumers from logically evaluating alternatives and thus perpetuate existing habits and routines. Companies that attempt to motivate behavioral change by ignoring or challenging consumers’ beliefs are fighting an uphill battle.” 1

The article shared that new experiences have caused people to change their beliefs about a wide range of everyday activities from grocery shopping, to exercising, to socializing. When consumers are surprised and delighted by new experiences even long-held beliefs can change, making consumers more willing to repeat the behavior, even when the trigger (in this case, the COVID-19 pandemic) is no longer present.

In other words, this is a unique moment in time during which companies can reinforce and shape behavioral shifts to position their products and brands better for the next normal.

For example, approximately 15 percent of US consumers tried grocery delivery for the first time during the COVID-19 crisis. Among those first-timers, more than 80 percent say they were satisfied with the ease and safety of the experience; 70 percent even found it enjoyable. And 40 percent intend to continue getting their groceries delivered after the crisis, suggesting that they’ve jettisoned any previously held beliefs about grocery delivery being unreliable or inconvenient; instead, they’ve been surprised and delighted by the benefits of delivery. New experiences changed their beliefs, but the elevation of the core human value of safety initiated the new behavior.

Top-Ranked Values By Generation

MNI Targeted Media, GfK MRI

Safety values/beliefs are shifting. 

COVID-19 and social injustices have redefined what people believe about what it means to be safe. While previous views are still valid, safety is at an all-time high and constantly changing. The COVID-19 crisis and changing behaviors have been provoked by the need to stay safe.

Values determine behavior and are always shifting.

Understanding the bigger shift in values gains us insight into human behavior. Every day it is our practice to review current stories and reactions to the socio-cultural, political, economic, environmental, and technological conversations to identify the underlying values and personality that is associated with that shift. We apply this knowledge to brands, finding the shared values held between a brand and the people it serves. Revealing this deeper understanding of what values the brand is conveying to what values people are believing enables us to create a strategy that is anchored in a core value and resonates with the people it serves.

Reviewing values in the context of a business, and how people are experiencing the world around them, enables us to ultimately build stories that connect with people.

The McKinsey article continues to talk about 5 things brands can do with these changes:

  • Reinforce positive new beliefs.
  • Shape emerging habits with new offerings.
  • Sustain new habits, using contextual cues.
  • Align messages to consumer mindsets.
  • Analyze consumer beliefs and behaviors at a granular level

But before a brand can do anything, it has to be able to clearly identify what values are shifting and, even more importantly, the personality it is evoking.

Values convey a certain characteristic in people and in brands. If values are shifting, we must consider how the brand is going to respond. There is a certain tonality associated with values that we must be aware of. This is important because to convey a value in an authentic way, a brand must be able to understand its impact on the brand’s voice in the market.

The brand doesn’t want to sound like a poser, or worse, a liar.


The Archetype Wheel

Grounded in Jungian Psychology

We believe brands are like people.

Brands that share the same values with consumers can influence their behavior in a way that’s true. Those values lead to strategic choices for the brand and business to anchor themselves in an authentic way so that they can reach out to consumers and engage with them both emotionally and rationally. To better understand if your brand can relate and convey the new values in an authentic way ask yourself a few questions:

  • Do we know the values that are driving people’s behavior?
  • Can we leverage the value and character traits in an authentic, genuine way? Will it make our place in the market more distinct?
  • What personality traits are resonating with people today?
  • What does our brand’s behavior convey to people today?
  • Is our brand’s personality, purpose, and promise relevant to people today? How are we emotionally connecting in these changing times?

Shared Values

Once values are known, and you are confident that the brand can genuinely align them with its vision and mission, you can make some strategic choices that are authentic to your brand and the people it serves.

At the end of the day, we move products by moving people. 

1 McKinsey and the Yale Center for Customer Insights, was written by Tamara Charm, Ravi Dhar, Stacey Haas, Jennie Liu, Nathan Novemsky, and Warren Teichner

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