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How to write memorable Key Messaging Part Three: Universal Human Values

There are ten basic human drivers across the world that are so powerful, yet so different between groups and cultures, they actually affect rates of entrepreneurship (Liñán and Fernandez-Serrano showed they account for 60% of the difference in GPD variance per capita in EU countries).

The theory of Universal Human Values has been around for a while and goes roughly like this:

There are ten basic values (in the original theory) that all humans in all cultures subscribe to. The level of importance changes across groups and cultures. They fall into four areas:

Openness to change

  • Self-direction: free choice, exploration, growth
  • Stimulation: excitement, newness, challenge


  • Hedonism: pleasure and gratification for the self
  • Achievement: personal success in the framework of the relevant society
  • Power: status, control and dominance over people and resource


  • Security: safety, stability of relationships, self
  • Conformity: fit within social norms, exercise restraint, belonging to group
  • Tradition: commitment and respect of customs and ideas of culture, family, religion

Self- transcendence

  • Benevolence: helping and bettering society and your own group
  • Universalism: understanding and protection of all people and nature


Values are one of the most powerful drivers of consumer behaviour. When faced with a choice, where values align in one option and not the other value matching transcends other drivers. Use the list above to tap into one of the Universal Human Values. Specifically – the values that are most important in the context of the group and the moment in time.

Some of these values conflict with each other, for example self-direction v. conformity. Take care not to mix it up between them.

Show me

Here are a few classic ad campaigns that we’ve tried to attach to the values above:

Dove – Real Beauty

Demonstrated that only 4% of women around the world considered themselves attractive by having an FBI sketch artist draw them from their own description, and then from the description of others.

Values: achievement, benevolence.

Budweiser – Wasssuppp

Had half the world answering the phone with the catchphrase. Great example of portability too!

Values: conformity, hedonism.

Orange -The future’s bright, the future’s Orange

Erstwhile groundbreaking mobile telco Orange had a habit of blanketing cities with billboards that simply had that slogan on, before replacing it with a picture of a handset a few weeks later.

Values: benevolence, security.

McDonald’s – Our Food, Your Questions

McDonald’s did a very brave campaign where they gave clear and presumably honest answers to questions from consumers about their food, having suffered greatly at the hands of the internet rumour mill.

Values: universalism.

Slack – Yeah, we tried Slack

A short, sitcom-style ad interviewing a company that didn’t realise they had a communications problem.

Values: conformity.

Time to test

Look at your own Key Messaging and ask yourself if you’re appealing to or conflicting with one of the Universal Human Values.

Or call us and we’ll help you figure it out.

PS Dove Real Beauty, it’s a beaut:

How to write memorable Key Messaging - Universal Human Values - picture of interlinking circles making a human face

No pulp, just juice:

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