Brand Laddering refers to the gradual change in focus that brands undergo over a period of time, in order to achieve a better connect with the customers. (This concept was coined by Prof. Kevin Lane Keller)
Take a look at the layout below of the symbolic ladder: the companies usually try to move up the ladder.
As can be seen here, the ladder has three sections, Attributes, Functional Benefits and Emotional Benefits. The concept is that over a period of time, the projected ‘use’ of the brand is varied along the ladder. A brand initially showcases attributes as the benefit, followed by functional benefits, finally leading up to emotional benefits.
Lets understand this with an example. Take up the booming market of laptops:
Initial promotion of laptops was in terms of the electronic ‘ingredients’. The promotion was on the RAM capacities and Processor speeds (basically about physical attributes)
Next on agenda were functional benefits. The promotion was about the ability to work faster, to store more data etc, i.e. the functionality was being projected.
Finally, companies like Acer have tried their hand with campaigns like ‘Life is busy, Acer makes it Easy‘. The company is trying to project a laptop as an integral tool to excellence in a stressful modern business life. A laptop is said to be a necessary part of life, a survival mechanism. (Notice that the functionality of a laptop is not particularly focussed upon, this campaign aims to form a bond with the consumer, projecting the product as a reliable friend)
This is how the graduation from attributes to emotional benefits occurs. This is a sort of ideal case scenario for any marketer, that the product is perceived to be an emotional requirement.
As soon as a product enters the ’emotional requirement’ bracket in consumer mindspace, it has a much better chance of retaining customer loyalty. This kind of loyalty will be difficult for any competitor to displace with functionality parameters. This is the primary aim of laddering : to form stronger bonds with the consumer, ensuring retention and preventing switching of brands.
For a lot of brands, attributes and functional benefits are merged together. It is the transcend into emotional connect which is a challenge.
Let us also consider some other Indian brands who have successfully been able to negotiate into the emotion space:
1. Maggi: with its ‘Me and Meri wali Maggi‘ campaign, they have reinforced Maggi’s role as a dependable snack, by associating it with sweet memories that people have of Maggi (this was turned into a pretty successful viral video campaign too)
2. Amul: Going back a bit in time, remember the ‘Amul: the Taste of India‘ campaign? It built the emotional bridges between consumers and the brand.
Hero Honda (desh ki dhadkan), Bajaj (Hamara Bajaj) are a few other notable ones.
So, effectively, the emotional benefit stage of the brand ladder implies that the brand is now projecting an emotional bond with the consumer as the reason to buy. (If you have been following my blog, it resonates with the rising trend of Marketing 3.0)
Brand Laddering, i.e. moving up the brand ladder is the ultimate goal over the life cycle that every brand follows. The earlier you are able to establish a strong emotion connect, the better it is for the brand.