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HBR Article: The Elements of Value

What consumers truly value can be difficult to pin down and psychologically complicated. But universal building blocks of value do exist, creating opportunities for companies to improve their performance in existing markets or break into new markets. In the right combinations, the authors’ analysis shows, those elements will pay off in stronger customer loyalty, greater consumer willingness to try a particular brand, and sustained revenue growth.

Three decades of experience doing consumer research and observation for corporate clients led the authors—all with Bain & Company—to identify 30 “elements of value.” Their model traces its conceptual roots to Abraham Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs” and extends his insights by focusing on people as consumers: describing their behavior around products and services. They arrange the elements in a pyramid according to four kinds of needs, with “functional” at the bottom, followed by “emotional,” “life changing,” and then “social impact” at the peak.

The authors provide real-world examples to demonstrate how companies have used the elements to grow revenue, refine product design to better meet customers’ needs, identify where customers perceive strengths and weaknesses, and cross-sell services.

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