What is this imaginary ladder?
The Brand Benefits Ladder is a tool used by marketers to methodologically translate product or service features into psychological benefits for the consumers. Another way to think of it is transforming functional value to emotional value. When using this ascension model, the goal is to follow the emotional process consumers follow when making product purchase decisions. Each step of the ladder evokes a different way to communicate benefits to the end user.
Introduced by Philip Kotler and Kevin Lane Keller, the traditional brand ladder included only three steps: product attributes, functional benefits of the products, and emotional benefits of using the product. The Boston Consulting Group added a fourth dimension to the model in 2011 – “Social benefits.”
In this article, I will explain the expanded 5 step version. I made some minor adjustments for easier understanding. Each step will be defined and explained, and examples will follow.
Each Step of the Ladder
The five steps of the Brand Benefits Ladder are as follows:
- Step 1 |Target Market – decide who your consumers are and what their attributes and habits are
- Step 2 | Product Features – factual statements about your product, such as what it can do, its dimensions and specs, etc.
- Step 3 | Functional benefits – What is the competitive advantage in the industry and what can the product accomplish
- Step 4 | Emotional & Social benefits – How does brand make the customer feel and how does the brand increase the stature of the customer socially
- Step 5 | Psychological benefits – When the customer feels self-growth
The difference between emotional and psychological benefits can be confusing, so note that psychological benefits are deeper and longer lasting than emotional and social benefits.
Here are two examples:
Social benefit: I feel more attractive vs.
Psychological benefit: I have higher self-esteem
Emotional benefit: I feel in control vs.
Psychological benefit : I have more freedom
How to Approach Each Step
Finding your target market and product features require research. You can find your target market by analyzing competitor markets and using internal and external data. Your product features should be factual descriptions and information about your product, including brand assets. Focus on the features that give you a competitive advantage.
Note: the last three step are more creative in nature and require empathy and perspective of the buyer.
Once you have you have your target market and your product features, you must determine your functional benefits. The question to ask yourself is, “What does your market get from that?” Be certain not to focus on talking about the brand, show your consumers that you genuinely care to solve their problems.
Once you have discovered the functional benefits, you must understand how those benefits make the consumer feel. The question to ask yourself is, “How do my consumers feel about these functional benefits?”
Discovering psychological benefits require both research and creativity. Psychological benefits tend to be benefits that leave lasting effects on the consumer compared to a temporary feeling. Another way to look at it is your consumer experience an eye opening feeling or strong dependence on your brand.
Once you have a stable ladder, you need to put it to use.
All marketing communications – print and digital – should have graphics and content that strategically evoke the emotional and psychological benefits to have the most compelling messaging
The brand benefits ladder should be applied to all 4 P’s (promotions, products, price, and placement)
The results of the brand benefits ladder should be measured against KPIs and tracked over time until the most effective emotions are tapped. Figure out what drives the consumers choice to purchase your product.
*Originate Ventures model encourages you to not only focus on the vertical growth of the ladder, but to also grow horizontally. Keep adding attributes/physical features to your product or service to grow both vertically and horizontally simultaneously.