Underlying motivation: The bridge over troubled waters

Underlying motivation: The bridge over troubled waters

At Shelton Group, we’ve long said there’s no one-size-fits-all message. We tell clients, “You need to pick an audience and go hard after that audience with a value proposition and messaging that aligns with their values and drivers.”

To that end, in this year’s Eco Pulse study, we did more probing than in years past to understand the core values within each of our four consumer segments.

We tested an abbreviated version of a values instrument developed in the 1990s by Hebrew University social psychologist Shalom H. Schwartz. His research explored how the values held by individuals affect their behavioral orientations and choices.

Our version helped us understand what drives or limits sustainable behaviors. We were looking, really, to get sharper about how to craft value propositions for each segment.

But what we found is more common ground than we expected.

Skeptics and Actives are very different in terms of specific guiding values.

Skeptics are more aligned with values of honesty, freedom, self-discipline, politeness and wealth, whereas Actives align with values of protecting the environment, social justice, helping others, equality and creativity.

So the specifics are different, but one of the over-arching themes of those values is, surprisingly, the same.

Broadly, they are both motivated by a desire, in Schwartz’s words, to “transcend selfish concerns and promote the welfare of others … ”

Thus, a broader message that promotes “doing the right thing” or “being a good steward” or appealing to a sense of personal responsibility could work for both of these very different, politically opposed groups.

The challenge lies in supporting that broad message.

Actives will need to hear how their “doing the right thing” helps the environment or makes an impact in the world at large, while Skeptics will want to hear how their “doing the right thing” will help ensure that they can still go hunting and fishing with their grandkids.

If you have a product or CSR claim that needs to appeal to these disparate groups, start with the common ground to draw them both in. Build a bridge based on common values of transcendence and then break down your media buy and direct marketing so you can shape the specific story to each of their specific values.

That’s as close to a “one-size-fits-all” message as you’ll get in the sustainability space.


Posted on

August 21, 2013

About the Author

Suzanne Shelton

Where Suzanne sees opportunity, you can bet results will follow. Drawing on her extensive knowledge of both the advertising world and the energy and environment arena, Suzanne provides unparalleled strategic insights to our clients and to audiences around North America. Suzanne is a guest columnist in multiple publications and websites, such as GreenBiz, and she speaks at around 20 conferences a year, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and Green Build.

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