The 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.
Marketers should fixate on your consumer, not your brand.
I always ask Marketers: “Do you represent your brand to your consumer or do you represent your consumer to the brand?”
Yes, I get stunned looks of confusion when I ask that.
It’s 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. When consumers are emotionally connected to a brand, sales go up and the P&L spits out higher profitability. The more loved the brand, the more powerful it becomes and the more profit the brand can generate from that source of power.
Consumer Benefits Ladder
- Leverage all available research to define your ideal consumer target profile with need states, consumer insights, and the consumer enemy.
- Brainstorm all possible brand features. Focus on those features you believe give your brand a competitive advantage.
- 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.
- 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.
To help brand leaders, I have taken nine functional need state zones and expanded the list to over 50 potential functional benefits your brand can build around. As you look through the list, gravitate to the functional benefits you think will fit the needs of your consumers and where your brand can do it better than competitors. Start with the words on the cheat sheet below, then layer in your creative language based on specific category words or specific consumer words and phrases they use.
Below you will find a list of 40 potential emotional benefits. From my experience, marketers are better at finding the ideal rational benefits compared with how they work at finding the ideal emotional benefits for their brands. 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. When I push brand managers to get emotional, they struggle and opt for what they view as obvious emotions, even if they do not fit with their brand. I swear every brand manager thinks their brand should be the trusted, reliable, and likable. Use our cheat sheet to dig deeper on emotions.
The emotional benefits cheat sheet
I have used Hotspex research methodology to create an emotional cheat sheet with eight emotional consumer benefits zones, which 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 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. Concerning functional benefits, I have chosen to build around functional clusters, such as healthy, sensory and experiences, and emotional clusters such as control, knowledge, and optimism.
Consumer benefits ladder worksheet
Use the brainstorm to populate the consumer benefits ladder worksheet to focus your thoughts. Like any brainstorm, you will end up with more choices than you can use.
Find the winning positioning statements
Looking at the 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.
Here is the final brand positioning statement for Gray’s Cookies:
To read more on how to write a brand positioning statement
You will find this type of thinking is in my book, Beloved Brands
Learn how brand leaders should think, define, plan, execute and analyze
- You will find strategic thinking models and examples for each of the four strategic thinking methods, looking at core strength, competitive, consumer, and situational strategies.
- To define the brand, I will provide a tool for writing a brand positioning statement as well as a consumer profile and a consumer benefits ladder. I have created lists of potential functional and emotional benefits to kickstart your thinking on brand positioning. We explore the step-by-step process to come up with your brand idea and bring it all together with a tool for writing the ideal brand concept.
- For brand plans, I provide formats for a long-range brand strategy roadmap and the annual brand plan with definitions for each planning element. From there, I show how to build a brand execution plan that includes the creative brief, innovation process, and sales plan. I provide tools for how to create a brand calendar, and specific project plans.
- To grow your brand, I show how to make smart decisions on marketing execution around creative advertising and media choices. When it comes time for the analytics,
- I provide all the analytical tools you need to write a deep-dive business review, looking at the marketplace, consumer, channels, competitors and the brand. Write everything so that it is easy to follow and implement for your brand.