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How Values Affect the Voting Process and Customer Brand Loyalty

J. Walker Smith

The decision on who will be president is largely being driven by voters’ values. The same can be said for customers’ brand loyalty.

This year’s political primary season reminds us of the basic, indeed fundamental, importance of social values when it comes to understanding consumers. We have long overlooked them in favor of things like digital technologies, niche needs or real-time micro-moments to structure and calibrate our understanding of what motivates people. But the successes of Donald Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders have put social values back in play.

There was a time when social values were front and center. The confluence of post-World War II prosperity and the coming of age of baby boomers made the 1960s and 1970s a time of enormous change in social values. Marketers had to look beyond business categories and retail channels to connect with consumers around social values.

Last year, Daniel Yankelovich , namesake of the famous research firm, published his memoir, Wicked Problems, Workable Solutions. In it, he recounts the work he did for clients like the Institute of Life Insurance, Fortune magazine, CBS News and the JDR 3rd Fund. All of it focused on the commercial implications and corporate responsibilities tied up in the swirling shifts of social values at that time—marriage and family, women’s roles, work ethic, nature and the environment, authority and rules and self-expression. Yankelovich began a service to track the emergence of new views about these values, dubbed the “New Values.” Whatever else brands might do, they first had to find a way to connect with these new social values or be left behind.

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J. Walker Smith

J. Walker Smith is chief knowledge officer for brand and marketing at Kantar Consulting and co-author of four books, including Rocking the Ages. Follow him on Twitter at @jwalkersmith.​