Crowd of people crossing the road

Heralding a new age of values

Rebecca Grant of WPP’s BCW says that understanding consumers’ and businesses’ values is the key to superior audience engagement

“We are heralding a new age of values. BCW has always been an agency that moves people – that's our purpose. But this is the next chapter of how we deliver that for our clients,” says Grant. “We have pioneered research and developed tools that use the lens of human values as a way of driving engagement.”

And our values are powerful. They are formed in adolescence, and they remain relatively stable throughout our lives. “Even though there will be gentle shifts– based on life experience or world events – values remain stable. This is fascinating given that the world is so fast-moving and volatile,” says Grant. “It means brands can align their messages with the constancy of people's values, they can cut through the noise and deepen engagement.” 

From working premise to global research 

BCW commissioned global research – across 30 countries and 36,000 people – about consumers’ values and ended up with 32m data points. “We think it's the largest global database of values,” says Grant. “We used our database to identify seven values ‘archetypes’ which we’re using as a tool for audience segmentation.” 

Grant continues: “Through the values lens we can be more efficient and more effective with audience targeting.” 

All of this cuts through traditional ways of audience segmentation – age, gender, demographics and so on. “You only have to think about all the chatter around Gen Z to realise that we tend to default to treating generations as monoliths,” she says. “But we found there were four values archetypes just within Gen Z.” Clients who want to target this demographic will have much deeper segmentation to work with using a values approach. Plus it’s simple to work with clients’ own existing audience segmentation and include a values perspective on top. 

On top of that, BCW built a data analytics solution which essentially interrogates what's happening in terms of search data and news data, and identifies communications opportunities and links to BCW’s values archetypes. “This tool brings together the constant of values with opportunities created by the world in flux,” she says. “And we can use this as a more sophisticated audience engagement tool.” 

The research also uncovered insights that will help solve questions around engagement with very specific goods and services. For example, you could be forgiven for assuming that electric vehicles would be desired by people who are concerned for the environment. The research showed that electric vehicle purchase is driven by a desire for power and status – seemingly counter-intuitive but this is definitely there in the data.

“People who want a great experience, to have the latest technology, show that they are doing well – this is what is behind electric vehicle purchase,” says Grant. “If you want to influence purchase behaviour, you need to tap into these values. Our data allows us to do something truly different.” 

The research itself has taken 18 months to complete. And the data is robust. BCW has worked with two academics to verify the methodology and application of the findings. 

Enabling the data to sing 

The 32m data points allow BCW to understand audience values. The seven values archetypes enable targeting, and the analytics tool evaluates search data and news data. Pulling this all together enables BCW to understand where the opportunities lie for clients.  

“We can see what’s high in terms of people's interest, what they're searching for, and what’s low in terms of that need being met. Then our values approach informs our consultancy. The Age of Values Report is our thought leadership, and all this thinking is housed in BCW Movatory,” she says. 

BCW can also use this methodology to help clients understand their own employees better. “We can help clients understand their people's values and align their internal communications so that they can engage better with their people,” says Grant. 

The research is global. The report identifies values per region and per country. It also reveals any gap between governments and citizens – that is where citizens do not feel their governments share their values.

Grant believes this approach has the power to not only promote, but also protect businesses and brands “When campaigns do not achieve the best outcomes, often it is about a misalignment of values. We've always had to think through how different stakeholders will interpret messages, and whether those messages are authentic. This values data and tool will help BCW and all WPP agencies cut through and create true engagement.” 

A video recording of the launch event is also available. 

Rebecca Grant


published on

10 July 2023



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