Are values an acquired taste?


While I enjoy a cup of coffee every day, I know that I need to drink water. Water sustains life, coffee is a substitute, albeit a fine one.

Growing up in my father’s house, tea was always the beverage of choice. Now I have to say, my first impression of a swig of coffee was bitter, harsh, strong. It wasn’t my “cup of tea.” But I soon learned that wooing my wife required daily conversation over coffee, bread and cheese. And I acquired a taste for it that continues with a daily morning cup with my wife. She liked it. I liked it at least I grew to like it.

If values are the core heart motivation that drives all our decisions and leads us to passion and vision, where do these values originate? Are there other “acquired” values that influence our decisions?

Some values are core, non-compromising if you will. Other values are ‘acquired tastes”. These are aspirational or “preferred” values that are secondary to the core values. These preferred values can be observed, learned and adopted. They can come and go over years, or with a location change for instance. These are values that can show up as a “preference” in color, style, hobby, interests to name a few.

“Preferred” values can be acquired many ways, and often through the influence of others. For example, we might take on the values of a famous sport personalities that we admire. We imagine ourselves with an exceptional golf swing or a great cycling performance, so we choose to adopt the values that we believe fueled that sports personality to greatness. We buy their shoes, their clothing line, their endorsed cars based on their testimonial. As a result, we can find ourselves adopting the values of great historical leaders, current celebrities, local heroes and even friends or acquaintances.

But some values, as Maslow has noted, are elemental to life. Safety and security, health and strength are foundational. Even more, philosophers, psychologists and sociologists have long recognized that there is an innate search for meaning that is equally if not more fundamental. Maslow’s “Self-actualization”, at the top of the hierarchy, promotes values based on aspiration, not fundamental purpose and meaning. A scan of history shows the drive for meaning is not dependent upon safety, in fact, martyrs throughout time have traded safety for meaning.

Values of meaning are at the core of life and at the core of every choice. Brand loyalty, like a lifetime of trust in a friend or family member, come from core values that connect between the two at the level of purpose and cause, life and meaning.

This is a deep language few advertisers and communicators understand, fewer still speak. As a result, the latest “buzz” campaign and the “hottest” ads too often skim the surface of connection and are frivolous and cheap. While they may create attention and awareness and a sales promotion bump for a week or so, they will never drive loyalty and advocacy.

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