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, say what consumers 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. 

Focus on connecting with consumers

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

Consumer Benefits Ladder

  1. Define your ideal consumer target profile with need states, consumer insights, and the consumer enemy.  
  2. Brainstorm all possible brand features. Focus on those features you believe give your brand a competitive advantage.
  3. Move up to the functional benefits by putting yourself in the shoes of the consumer. For each feature on your list, ask, “So, what do I get from that?” Challenge yourself to come up with better benefits by asking the question up until you move into a richer zone.
  4. Then move up to the emotional benefits. Look at each functional benefit and ask, “So, how does that make me feel?” As you did in step 3, keep asking the question until you see a more in-depth emotional space you can win with and own.

Avoid Ph-at Words!

Ph-at Words are the vague words that mean so many things, these words start to mean nothing at all. The best examples I have are 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. 

Functional consumer benefits

To help brand leaders, I have created a functional benefit cheat sheet with nine functional zones and expanded the list to over 50 potential functional benefits. As you look through the list, gravitate to the three functional zones you think will fit the needs of your consumers and where your brand can do it better than competitors. Use with the words around those zones, then layer in your creative language based on specific category words or specific consumer words and phrases they use.

Emotional Consumer Benefits

Below you will find a list of 40 potential emotional benefits. As a brand, you want to own one emotional space in the consumer’s heart as much as you own a rational space in the consumer’s mind. Use our cheat sheet to dig deeper on emotions with eight emotional consumer benefits zones. 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

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.

Find the winning positioning statements

Looking at our positioning Venn diagram we use, I have created a 2×2 grid to help sort through the potential benefits to find the winners, according to which are most motivating to consumers and most ownable for your brand. 

You will see the same four zones from the Venn diagram are now on the consumer benefits sort grid, including the winning, losing, risky, and dumb zone.

  • With Gray’s Cookies, you can see the “guilt-free” consumer benefit is highly motivating and highly ownable for the brand, landing in the winning zone.
  • On the other hand, the consumer benefit of “new favorite cookie” is highly motivating but already owned by the major power players, so it falls into the losing zone. 
  • The “feel more confident” benefit falls into the risky zone. The benefit of “more comfort in choices” is neither motivating nor ownable, so it falls into the dumb zone.

Click to expand

Get our brand positioning presentation

  • The PowerPoint file includes formatted blank slides with key marketing definitions where you can insert your own business review.
  • Include slides for target profile, brand positioning statement, brand idea, brand concept, brand values, brand story, brand credo, and a creative brief.
  • Everything is organized and ready for your input.

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