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Elements of Value Pyramid - The Secret Formula to Building Magnetic Products/Services

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

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The Elements of Value model identifies 30 fundamental values that influence purchasing behavior. These elements are those hidden desires your customers crave but won't say out loud.

What drives your customers, and how can you make sure you're creating real impact? When exploring a brand's foundation during brand development and brand positioning, we often rely on the Elements of Value Pyramid to uncover the core stuff that motivates your audience, influences their buying choices, and provides meaningful impact in their lives.

The pyramid is based on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and was developed by Eric Almquist, John Senior, and Nicolas Bloch of the marketing analysis firm Bain & Company. The Elements of Value model identifies 30 fundamental values that influence purchasing behavior. These elements are those hidden desires your customers crave but won't say out loud.

Understanding your customers' core motivations is key to successful product positioning and brand strategy. The Elements of Value provide a blueprint to authentically satisfy your customers' needs and fuel their growth. By meeting your customers where they're at, you can elevate your tribe and make the greatest impact. It's important to remember that the value you provide is not just about the product itself, but how it meets the deeper needs and desires of your customers.

In this article, I'll explain the four element categories so you can evaluate whether your B2C product/service is aligning with what people intrinsically want and determine the impact your business genuinely has. The Elements of Value will also give your brand a vocabulary to describe its perceived value and a roadmap to identify exactly what your audience seeks based on their persona and your brand archetype.

The pyramid of Elements of Value is divided into four distinct sections according to the type of value it provides.

The Elements of Value Pyramid

A Powerful Tool in Brand Development

The Elements of Value Pyramid: A Powerful Tool for Brand Development
Functional Elements

The Functional Elements are the foundation of the pyramid. These elements offer practical advantages that increase convenience, reduce pain points, and provide appealing variety or aesthetic value for customers. For example, they provide benefits like time-saving, increased efficacy, and quality. These pragmatic elements form the foundation of value for any B2C product or service. While other elements higher in the pyramid create differentiation, the Functional Elements are table stakes that all businesses must deliver on to satisfy customers' basic needs and expectations.

Functional Elements of Value are:

  1. Saves Time - Enables tasks to be completed faster, giving time back.

  2. Simplifies - Makes processes/actions easier to understand and perform.

  3. Makes Money- Helps earn, save, or otherwise gain monetary value.

  4. Reduces Risk - Diminishes uncertainty, doubt, threats, or hazards.

  5. Organizes - Structures things in an orderly, coherent way.

  6. Integrates - Combines activities, processes, or data into one unified system.

  7. Connects - Links people, information, or things together.

  8. Reduces Effort - Decreases the amount of work and energy required.

  9. Avoids Hassles - Removes obstacles, difficulties, and annoyances from experiences.

  10. Reduces Cost - Lowers the amount of money required to purchase or operate.

  11. Quality - Meets high standards and provides excellence.

  12. Variety - Offers diversity, options, and versatility of selection.

  13. Sensory Appeal - Provides pleasant and attractive visual, audio, and tactile experiences.

  14. Informs - Shares useful insights, advice, or knowledge.

Actionable Tip: Assess your current offerings to ensure you deliver on these Functional Elements. Enhance product features or services to address any gaps and meet customers' expectations for value.

Emotional Elements

It's worth noting that the Emotional Elements are intentionally positioned in the center for a reason. Their purpose is to evoke emotions such as reducing stress, enhancing confidence, and cultivating a sense of belonging. When we connect with these elements on an emotional level, it empowers our tribe and community to improve their own lives and relationships. Here's a tip: Assessing your brand's persona and archetype can help determine which Emotional Elements you are best positioned to deliver on.

Emotional Elements of Value are:

  1. Reduces Anxiety - Alleviates feelings of stress, worry, tension, and anxiety through the use of the product/service.

  2. Rewards Me - Provides a sense of achievement, winning, and being rewarded through the use of the product/service.

  3. Nostalgia - Evokes feelings of nostalgic connection to good memories from the past.

  4. Design Aesthetics - Features attractive and appealing visual design aesthetics that customers find pleasing.

  5. Status/Badge Value - Conveys status, prestige, or a sense of belonging by owning or engaging with the product or service.

  6. Wellness - Promotes a general sense of mental and/or physical well-being.

  7. Therapeutic Value - Provides stress/anxiety relief, comfort, calmness, and an overall therapeutic effect.

  8. Fun/Entertainment - Creates feelings of fun, amusement, excitement, and entertainment.

  9. Attractiveness - Enhances beauty, sex appeal, and outer/inner attractiveness.

  10. Provides Access - Grants access to otherwise restricted or exclusive people, places, information, or platforms.

Actionable Tip: Understand your brand's persona and archetype to identify which Emotional Elements align with your identity. Leverage these elements in your brand messaging and experiences to foster a deeper emotional connection with your audience.

Life Changing Elements

Closer to the top of the pyramid are the Life-Changing Elements. These rare and empowering value elements motivate people to reach their full potential. They can spark the drive for self-improvement, fuel ambition and passion in your customers, and help them achieve lifelong dreams. By facilitating meaningful growth in people's lives, you create an unbreakable bond. Life-Changing Elements are challenging to incorporate authentically, but the brands that do so foster devotion on a whole new level. When you provide a sense of hope, direction, and capability, you enable your customers to become the best versions of themselves.

Life Changing Elements of Value are:

  1. Provides Hope - Generates optimism, positivity, and belief that a desired outcome is possible.

  2. Self Actualization - Enables realizing one's full potential and seeking personal growth.

  3. Motivation - Energizes and propels people to take action and persist toward goals.

  4. Heirloom - Creates something meaningful to pass down through generations.

  5. Affiliation/Belonging - Fulfills the human need for community, relationships, and acceptance.

Actionable Tip: Consider how your products or services can empower transformation in your customers' lives. Focus on delivering value that goes beyond immediate needs and fosters personal growth and fulfillment.

Social Impact Elements

At the very top are the Social Impact Elements which align brands with purposes greater than profits. This is where business intersects with doing good - championing sustainability, giving back to the community, and pursuing social responsibility. When your brand lives and breathes this kind of purpose, you attract a community that shares your worldview.

Social Impact Elements of Value are:

  1. Self-Transcendence -Provides help, resources, and benefits to other people or society more broadly through socially/environmentally conscious initiatives.

Actionable Tip: Integrate social impact initiatives into your brand strategy. Showcase your brand's purpose-driven efforts to attract a community that shares your values and supports your mission.

As you shape your business's brand strategy and brand marketing, the Elements of Value help assess where you currently deliver value and identify new ways to enhance the rarer but more powerful elements near the top.

Delivering the right mix of functional, emotional, and life-changing value tuned to your audience is the key to creating something more meaningful and stickier than your competitors. The pyramid gives you a map to building value that ladder up - from practical benefits to life-changing transformations.

Small Business Examples: Leveraging the Elements of Value for Effective Brand Marketing.

Wondering how to use these Elements of Value to help your small business?

When it comes to delivering value, small businesses have some unique advantages over large corporations. Let's look at some of the top value elements in each category that small businesses are well-positioned to provide customers:

Functional Value Examples

  • Saves time - A pet grooming service that handles pickup and drop-off saves time.

  • Reduces Effort - A house cleaning service reduces the effort of tidying up. Assembly services at local furniture stores reduce effort.

  • Organizes - Local gyms that help track progress over time or accounting firms that organize finances provide organization value.

  • Avoids Hassles - A mechanic who handles car maintenance avoids vehicle hassles. Accountants handle tax hassles.

  • Quality - Handmade and customizable products like crafted furniture or tailored clothes guarantee quality.

  • Sensory Appeal - A chocolatier offering artisanal truffles provides sensory appeal through taste. Florists create visually appealing arrangements.

  • Informs - Bakeries educating customers on ingredients or a real estate agent who informs home buyers on neighborhoods, pricing, and more.

Emotional Value Examples

  • Nostalgia - A locally-owned soda shop serving classic ice cream flavors and retro decor taps into nostalgic memories. An antique store selling charming vintage items evokes nostalgia.

  • Reduces anxiety - Small financial advisor firms providing personalized guidance reduce money anxiety. Vets who patiently address pet owner concerns reduce pet anxiety.

  • Therapeutic Value - A family counseling practice providing a peaceful atmosphere to work through challenges has therapeutic value. Massage therapists create therapeutic relaxation.

  • Status/Badge Value - Customers gain local VIP status through loyalty programs at a neighborhood coffee shop or boutique. Having a popular stylist at a small salon provides prestige.

  • Fun/Entertainment - Themed nights like trivia or open mic at a bar/pub entertain patrons. An eccentric local theater group sparks fun.

Life Changing Value Examples

  • Self-actualization - Small cooking schools, art studios, and coaching practices help customers gain skills.

  • Provides hope - Local nonprofit organizations and community programs bring hope by addressing needs.

  • Motivates - Personal trainers motivate clients to achieve fitness goals. Business mentors motivate entrepreneurs to succeed.

  • Affiliation/Belonging - Customers feel part of a community at cafes, bars, salons, and gyms that they regularly visit. Warm service builds familiarity.

Social Impact Value Examples

  • Self-Transcendence - Sustainable practices like a farm using solar energy or salon choosing green products shows social responsibility.

As you can see, small businesses are primed to tap into these value elements based on their services, products, and close community connections because they can deliver value on a very real and human level. The beauty of small business is, unlike mega-corporations, your agility allows you to take advantage of these elements in genuine ways that meaningfully connect with customers. You have the products, services, and community connections to tap into motivations - even unspoken ones - through every customer touchpoint. Reframing your marketing around these values is key. When you realign your marketing to highlight these values, you attract kindred spirits. Meet their core desires, and they will reward you with their loyalty. The Elements of Value offer valuable insights to help identify a business's impact and contribution to society.

Practical Applications of the Elements of Value

Now that you understand the Elements of Value Pyramid, it's time to apply it. Start by auditing your current offerings - do you deliver on the elements your ideal customers intrinsically care about? Find ways to better align with their motivations. Then, reorient your brand messaging and experiences to spotlight those key elements. Track how accentuating specific values impacts conversion and satisfaction. Regularly survey customers to refine strategies. When your tribe feels understood and empowered through your brand, you build unshakeable loyalty. Master these elements, and your marketing will magnetically attract the people you’re meant to serve.

In today's highly competitive business environment, meeting customers' needs and expectations is not enough. To provide more valuable services and products to customers, you can utilize the Elements of Value Pyramid to identify gaps in your products and services and add more meaningful value to your customers. Whether it's creating a sense of community or a feeling of accomplishment, these value elements can help businesses build strong customer relationships and make a meaningful impact in the world.

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Are you interested in creating a powerful brand for your small business? Check out my Brand Explorer Workshops, where we'll collaborate to develop a clear foundation for your brand's identity.


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