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  • Paul Laver

Embracing Evolving UK Values: Unlocking Brand Resonance

Updated: Dec 11, 2023

In a world of flux caused by the flock of black swans that has descended upon us, huge increasing pressures have been put on folks’ discretionary spend... spend of time, attention and money as we pursue the elusive elixir for happiness.

BUT there’s one underlying human constant, even in tough times such as these, that seems to facilitate our best lives: if we spend our time, attention and money on living life by our values.

Recent research by One Minute to Midnight has unveiled a profound connection between living one's values and happiness among the UK population, replicating many studies (often our own) that have gone before.

I am happy with my life

But on our recent adventure into the Human Values of the UK (The Heartbeat - the Pilot Edition) we found some even more powerful stuff for brands... let’s explore! Want a Higher Purpose? Help people be happy by enabling them to lead a values led life!

Let’s start with the premise that individuals who feel aligned with their values report higher levels of happiness. This can open the door to a world where brands can play a role in higher purpose, beyond sticking on the latest sustainability badge, contributing positively to the world by making people happier. This can be real and authentic, natural not forced so long as we play with the right values in the right way for our audience and in a way that’s relevant and true to our product, service and our brand.

Now this may be on a subconscious level with folks being naturally drawn to brands that feel right to them...

But, and this is where it gets super interesting, there is evidence that this can be as a consequence of mindful choices taken by conscious consumers. Our research shows those in the younger generations actively seek out brands that align to their values and make positive choices on a values level.

I actively look for brands that align with my values

With this in mind it is crucial for brands to understand what is going on at a values level in our society. And in the UK a change of almost seismic proportions has been afoot...

All change please...

In general, folks’ values are semi-permanent. Many remain the same through life, although there is some movement over time as one gets older. Similarly, the values of a culture tend to be pretty stable but they do change in accordance with what’s going on around the world. Over the past seven years, when we started looking at Human Values globally here at One Minute to Midnight, we have seen a notable shift in the values of folks in Britain.

Ranking of the importance of values (top 1 box)

As we can see, Universalism (desire to play a role in creating a just, fair world, with a dash of environmentalism) has been consistent and stands tall as the no.1 value across all social demographics. However, and perhaps rather dispiriting for those who champion progress and productivity, Achievement have been on the wane being knocked out of the park by Conformity which have been on the rise these past 7 years.

Ok well that’s fine then, the world is changing and we should start mirroring this change. Let’s start creating lots of social, environmental, conformist and safe narratives around our brands to enable people to live life by their values and to make them happy... as some cultural commentators might have us believe. Or perhaps not. If only the values world was as simple as that, but it is much more nuanced!

Tyranny is the Absence of Nuance

The problem with this type of not uncommon thinking is that it fails to acknowledge the subtlety of values that is crucial to their understanding and appropriate leveraging. Brands might be tempted to ride the wave of these shifting values, crafting content and services that echo the zeitgeist. But caution is the watchword – authenticity is paramount. Audiences can sense inauthenticity, and if brands stray from their core identity, the peril of things like perceptions of greenwashing looms large.

Furthermore, focusing solely on society’s shared values risks oversimplification. Not every brand needs to save the world, and not every consumer resonates with the same universal themes. Meaningful connections require an understanding of the nuances that distinguish one audience from another.

Here there are many dynamics to consider, but let’s just take a couple for now from our recent pilot for The Heartbeat :

  • Different generations have different values stories

  • Certain categories over index with people with certain types of values

Different generations have different values stories

Amid the tapestry of generational values, an intriguing mix of differences and similarities comes to light. If we take a snapshot of each Generation's top 5 values we can identify some interesting themes:

  • Universalism remains a core value across generations

  • Benevolence is superseded by Security amongst our oldest generation

  • Likewise Hedonism becomes less of a focus for older generations

  • Conformity begins to creep up among Millennials and becoming more important among 40+  

Understanding these nuances in distinct priorities and value combinations is crucial for brands aiming to craft meaningful messaging and connections that extend beyond surface-level understanding. One size does not fit all!

Certain categories over index with people with certain types of values

When we begin to look at values stories across different categories it becomes even more important that brands don’t just focus solely on the UK’s top values, but instead embrace the nuances.

When we zoom in on certain categories, we can see that they over index with people who prioritise certain values which (spoiler alert) are actually far from the shared mainstream values of Universalism, Benevolence, Security!

Let’s just take 3 categories to explore – quite distinct passions but find similar values most important:

*% is difference between people into each passion vs. total population

By recognising that certain categories attract individuals with values divergent from the commonly acknowledged mainstream values like Universalism, Benevolence, and Security, brands can tailor their strategies to authentically connect with these unique audiences.

So what does this all mean...

The message is clear: brands that embrace the nuances – whether in a generation or a category – uncover opportunities to connect on a deeper level. As we navigate this landscape, let us heed the wisdom that "tyranny is the absence of nuance." In understanding the intricacies of values, brands can not only make a difference but also enrich lives in ways that resonate personally and universally.

In this evolving saga of values, the role of brands is not just to be observers but active participants, crafting narratives that intertwine seamlessly with the diverse and dynamic values of our cultures. It's a journey that requires finesse, authenticity, and a keen appreciation for the subtle symphony of values that makes each individual, each generation, each category and each brand challenge unique. The key to brands attaining the profound purpose they all desire, lies in empowering their audiences to live in accordance with their values through genuine brand engagement.

If your brand needs help identifying and living its higher purpose, why not reach out to One Minute to Midnight, The Human Understanding Company.

Paul Laver, Co-Founder of One Minute to Midnight

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