In the VALS survey, I was categorized first as an Innovator, and secondarily as an Experiencer. The first categorization was not a surprise. I love BMWs (stick shift, always), sparkling water and Wired - in that order. I also felt this categorization reflected my purchasing habits. While I don't necessarily buy many things, I'm more likely to spend a lot of money when I do buy something. Quality over quantity.
I have to admit I was a little surprised by the Experiencer categorization, though. While I enjoy new things, I'm definitely not much of a risk-taker. I also really dislike Red Bull. Give me a regular cup of coffee, any day. I felt as though the questions and I misunderstood each other - they asked me whether I liked new and exciting experiences, without realizing that what I see as new and exciting is an initiative I proposed at work, not a crazy all-nighter.
While I understand that these kinds of categorization can be helpful and important tools for advertisers - and can encompass, certainly, parts of personalities - I think they are a perfect example of the simplification that marketing to groups necessarily requires. Innovator describes my personality in some ways, but Experiencer does not. Personally, I resent being so arbitrarily thrown into a category or box - and think even those categories were arbitrarily drawn up by people with different values and ideas of how values correlate. For example, I deeply value my family and would have probably been more suited for the Achievers category than Experiencer. But I wasn't even considered for the Achievers because I'm not a very religious person. The marketing algorithm passed by a huge part of my personality, because I didn't fit with their idea that to value my family, I must be religious.
Everyone is an Innovator, Experiencer, Achiever, Thinker, or Survivor on different days, at different points in their life, and on different issues. We can only hope that as marketing evolves it will learn to divide consumers by their individuality and differences - not their one-size-fits-all similarities.