Advertising Age cited VALS ™ as “one of the top market research breakthroughs of the 1980s.” The cover story for Quirk’s April 1989 issue, “Segmentation study determines Greyhound ridership,” peaked my interest because Greyhound had used psychographics in their study, and I was curious how it might apply to my client, Lane Transit District. SRI International pioneered the VALS ™ (“Values, Attitudes and Lifestyles”) methodology that drew heavily on the work of a sociologist and psychologist. VALS ™ used statistics to categorize consumers into one of nine lifestyle groups: survivors (4%), sustainers (7%), belongers (35%), emulators (9%), achievers (22%), I-am-me (5%), experiential (7%), societally conscious (9%), and integrated (2%).
I found it interesting that the market research director for Greyhound at the time felt that VALS was skewed towards income levels that were probably higher than the normal Greyhound passenger; 70% of Greyhound passengers had household incomes below $25,000. This prompted Greyhound to design their own psychographic profile specifically for their passengers. The resulting research segmented passengers into five groups, and confirmed to Greyhound their passengers were unique from those using other modes of transportation.
There are several tools available for marketers and researchers who want to use similar segmentation data today. One free tool is Nielsen MyBestSegments.
MyBestSegments ZIP Code Look-up lets you view your neighborhood’s household segments within any ZIP Code. Typically, a ZIP Code has over a dozen segments present, but the free version only shows the top five along with a descriptive snapshot about each segment’s characteristics. MyBestSegments offers three different segmentation systems: Nielsen PRIZM, Nielsen P$YCLE, and Nielsen ConneXions:
- PRIZM® defines every U.S. household in terms of 66 demographically and behaviorally distinct types, or “segments,” to help marketers discern those consumers’ likes, dislikes, lifestyles, and purchase behaviors.
- P$YCLE® is a segmentation system that evaluates consumers using demographic factors that have the greatest effect on financial behaviors, such as: income, age, presence of children, home ownership, and Nielsen’s proprietary measure of Income Producing Assets (IPA). There are seven Nielsen Income Producing Assets (IPA) descriptors: Millionaires, Elite, High, Above average, Moderate, Below average, and Low. The result is a total of 58 P$YCLE segments, within 12 P$YCLE Lifestage Groups, each with distinct usage patterns for financial and investment products and services.
- ConneXions® is a segmentation system that integrates consumer behavior and usage of technology, voice, video, and data services with demographics and lifestyle characteristics. Specific to the ConneXions segmentation system, there are four Nielsen “Technodoption” classes: High-Tech, Mid-Tech, Low-Tech, and No-Tech.
To illustrate these three segmentation systems, I used the office zip code, 97401. General demographics about the 97401 ZIP code are also included.