How to use our consumer benefits ladder to focus your brand message

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

Our consumer benefits ladder is an effective tool for translating product features into functional benefits and emotional benefits. It forces you to stop talking about yourself, and start listening to your consumer. Instead of saying what you do, you should say what consumers will get or how consumers will feel. This seems to be the simplest lesson great marketers do, and the rest of marketers miss out on.

I always ask Marketers: “Do you represent your brand to your consumer or do you represent your consumer to the brand?” It is an important question as to your mindset for how you do your job. My challenge to you is to start thinking about your consumer and be their representative of your brand. I would expect the work gets better. You will see clearer paths to growth and start to create a brand that consumers love rather than just likes it. 

Our consumer benefits ladder helps focus on connecting with consumers

The more loved your brand, the more powerful it becomes and the more profit the brand can generate from that source of power. When consumers become more emotionally connected to a brand, the sales go up and the P&L spits out higher profitability. 

  1. To use our consumer benefits ladder, the first step is to define your ideal consumer target profile outlining their needs, while adding insights that helps tell their story.  
  2. Then, list out as many product features that give you an advantage over your competition.
  3. Next, to figure out the functional benefits, for each feature on your list, assume you are the consumer and ask, “So, what do I get from that?”
  4. Finally, to figure out the emotional benefits, look back to the functional benefits and ask, “So, how does that make me feel?” As you did with step 3, ask the question as many times to get more in-depth solutions in the emotional space.

Functional consumer benefits cheat sheet

To help marketers figure out their options, I created a functional benefit cheat sheet with 9 functional zones and expanded the list to over fifty options for functional benefits. As you look through our cheat sheet, gravitate to the three functional zones you believe will fit the needs of your consumers and where your brand will have a competitive advantage. Then, use with the words around those zones. Feel free to layer in any creative language based on specific category words or specific consumer words and phrases they use.  

Emotional consumer benefits cheat sheet

Next, use our emotional cheat sheet with 40 different emotional benefits. These zones include optimism, freedom, be noticed, be liked, comfort, be myself, be in control, and knowledge. Use the words within each zone to provide added context.

Build your brand around consumer benefit clusters

As you dig into the consumer benefits ladder, start by looking at the two cheat sheets and narrow down to potential clusters of the functional and emotional benefits. Match what consumers want and what your brand does best. Take three of the zones from each cheat sheet and add 2-3 support words per zone to create a cluster.

For each cluster, use the words to inspire a brainstorm of specific benefit statements that fit your brand, using the specific brand, consumer or category words.

For Gray’s Cookies, a fictional cookie brand that combines great taste and low calories, I have chosen to build around functional clusters, such as healthy, sensory and experiences, and emotional clusters such as control, knowledge, and optimism. 

Below you can see how those clusters help our brainstorming of specfic benefit statements.

Avoid Ph-at Words!

Never use vague words that mean so many things, that they mean nothing at all. I call these Ph-at words. Ph-at words include nice, interesting or quality. When you define your brand positioning, the specific words you choose must matter to your consumers. Your brand positioning statement should leave zero room for interpretation. 

Translating the work from the clusters into a winning positioning statement

Read our story on how to put your brand positioning statement together

To read about claims, click on this story below

Build your marketing skills with our post on How to write a Brand Concept

brand concept

One of the most important skills marketers need to know is the fundamentals of writing a brand concept. Read our step-by-step process for how to create a brand concept that brings your brand to life. Learn how to lay out the brand concept with the brand idea, consumer insights, main message, support points and call-to-action. 

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  • To start, we will challenge you with questions that get you to think differently about your brand strategy.
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