To be truly effective at brand marketing we need to understand which concrete features and functional benefits of our brand (as well as the brand as a whole) evoke feelings most strongly and which do so without simultaneously creating emotional anti-benefits (aversive feelings).
This is not a new concept. “Laddering” is a term used to refer to a technique wherein a focus group moderator begins with a specific product feature and continues to ask the respondent ‘what is good about that’ until a specific emotional benefit that supports the respondent’s self esteem is unearthed. The essential concept is that every functional benefit or feature which is sought after, is sought after for an emotional reason.
Even a completed price based benefit (e.g. ‘costs less’) is understood to be emotionally motivated because people in different categories may desire that benefit for different reasons. (Saving money in the automobile category may be found to lead to ‘I am safe’ or ‘I am financially secure’ whereas saving money on a package of gum may more likely lead to ‘I feel wise’ or ‘I am a smart shopper’). Even brand choices can be ‘laddered on’ to determine the key emotional benefits which are associated with them. One limitation of laddering however, is that in reality there are MANY emotional benefits associated with each product or service feature (laddering tends to assume just one). To craft an effective marketing strategy we wish to know the extent to which each product feature supports EACH of the desired emotional benefits in the human spectrum. (We also need to know where the competition is in this emotional terrain, what the multivariate emotional field looks like — what SETS of product features are most associated with desired emotions or desired SETS of emotions)
It’s also essential to realize that the importance order of emotional benefits varies by product or service category. For example while “feeling like an attractive person” might be an important value for most people, there are only certain product categories that can provide features that support that benefit. “Feeling Attractive” might be a significant motivating emotion for eye-wear, fashion, deodorant, or automobiles, because each of these categories have features that are perceived as supporting attractiveness. However, it probably isn’t an important emotional benefit for personal computers, stock brokerages, or long distance calling plans because there are no features that directly link to that feeling. The specific order of importance of emotional benefits varies by category. The differing product/service features in each category are each capable of supporting a different set of feelings. You need to know which feelings your category supports, and which particular concrete features of your product are most closely associated with those feelings.
Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Dr. Sharon Livingston, President, The Livingston Group
The Blake Project Can Help: The Emotional Connection Workshop