Some advertising, such as an ad for the Super Bowl, provides a unique opportunity for advertisers to reach a broad cross-section of the world’s population across numerous demographic and personal characteristics. While most advertisers traditionally segment their audience based on demographics, a hidden opportunity lies in a less-talked-about but equally important psychographic characteristic: core values.
For 10 years, Zenzi—a research business my company acquired in December—has specialized in helping brands create deeper, values-based connections with their customers. Derived from extensive testing and grounded in well-established psychological theory and research, Zenzi has determined that these six value types best predict consumer behavior across a wide variety of domains.
Achievement Seekers: Live fast, work hard, aim high. These ambitious people are constantly striving for the best to live a luxurious lifestyle that redefines the concept.
Pleasure Seekers: For a good time, call these lively people. They always know where the party is, what the next trend will be and how to make an ordinary experience something exciting.
Freedom Seekers: To these independent and adventure-oriented people, life is but an open book in which to draw outside the lines, generate new and creative ideas and challenge conventions.
Purpose Seekers: The weight of the world is on the shoulders of these generous-spirited people, but they don’t mind at all. When they’re not finding ways to reduce waste, they’re helping out in their community or advocating online.
Tradition Seekers: There’s something to be said for the way things have always been done, and these family-oriented individuals find strength and meaning in carrying on the customs that fostered them.
Security Seekers: Some would call them homebodies, but these thoughtful and prepared people are more than the stereotype. Their trust is hard-earned, but their loyalty is unparalleled once acquired.
We evaluated the values content of this year’s Super Bowl ads to determine which of the six value types the ads appear to be targeting and how successful they were in reaching their target audience. Let’s look at two ads from two very different brands to see how they measure up.
Tried and true, Budweiser has been a mainstay American brand for decades. They’ve maintained their core audience over the years by speaking to Tradition Seekers: Rugged individualist types who love nostalgia, prefer the status quo, and favor brands with a longstanding history of integrity and simplicity. Budweiser’s Super Bowl ad doubled down on these values with an ad that reinforced the “can do” spirit of American culture, personified as always by a Budweiser Clydesdale.
The ad contains several elements that appeal directly to Tradition Seekers: A Clydesdale is beset by injury after attempting a daring stunt, then toughs out a long, solitary road to recovery and emerges stronger than ever through its internal resilience. Witnessed throughout by an All-American dog and capped off with a tagline emphasizing bravery and being “down but not out,” this commercial is the perfect appeal to Tradition Seekers in the age of the pandemic.
Conversely, Wallbox is a smart electric vehicle (EV) charging and energy-management provider. Being new to the expanding EV market, Wallbox is likely still trying to find its audience. This exploratory nature is reflected in its Super Bowl ad, which appears to be speaking to both Security and Purpose Seekers. Let’s break it down.
The ad portrays a man who becomes comically afraid of electricity after being struck by lightning, fearing the simplest of electric encounters such as light switches and guitar amplifiers.
The strategy of speaking to fear and “worst-case scenario” outcomes is commonly used in appeals to Security Seekers, who are fiercely protective of what they have and own. In the end, however, the man’s desire to save time and money (Security Seekers) and protect the environment (Purpose Seekers) overrides his fear of electricity. He then embraces Wallbox and, presumably, the concept of electric cars in general. It’s an interesting strategy that appears to be “easing” conservative Security Seekers into an emerging EV market that until recently has been mostly associated with Purpose Seekers, all summed up with the tagline “Embrace electricity.” If Security and Purpose Seekers are indeed the target for Wallbox, the company will hit its mark, as well.
It’s worth noting that, on a superficial level, many Super Bowl ads tend to have a similar tone—big, grand, often comedic or deeply profound, often celebrity-endorsed—but underneath the glossy exterior, they are speaking to very different core values. It’s important for brands to recognize how psychological factors such as values can influence an ad’s effectiveness, over and above the general tone of the ad. It’s also worth noting that Budweiser and Wallbox may not be consciously aware of targeting these values, but understanding your audience at the level of core values can provide a significant return on investment in achieving increased brand perception, affinity and purchase intent.