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Using laddering to understand and leverage a brand’s equity Brian Wansink

The author Brian Wansink is Founder and Director of the Food and Brand Lab and Jointly Appointed Professor of Marketing, Advertising and Agricultural and Consumer Economics at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, Illinois, USA. Keywords Brand equity, Leverage, Research Abstract Understanding a brand’s equity is difficult for researchers. Building on means-end theory, describes a method ± laddering ± which has proven useful in uncovering insights related to the source and the nature of a brand’s equity. Through laddering interviews, a meaningful ``mental map’’ can be developed that visually links a brand’s attributes, the benefits or consequences of using it, and the personal values it satisfies. An analysis of 1,200 laddering interviews indicates that a combination of only seven basic values are at the core of most brand purchases. A number of illustrations of laddering insights and their implications for the marketing mix are given to show how laddering can help marketers understand and revitalize brand equity. Electronic access The Emerald Research Register for this journal is available at http://www.emeraldinsight.com/researchregister The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at http://www.emeraldinsight.com/1352-2752.htm

Defining a brand’s equity has been difficult for researchers. While we speak of equity in general terms, it is a consumer-specific concept that differs from consumer to consumer (Aaker, 1991). For this reason, many of the methods used to better understand brand equity - such a focus groups and surveys - have met with disappointing results. Building on means-end theory (Reynolds and Gutman, 1988; Gutman, 1982), we describe a method - laddering - which has proven useful in uncovering insights related to the source and the nature of a brand’s equity and why consumers buy what they buy (Wansink, 2000). Most methods that analyze brand equity focus on concrete product knowledge and not on how such attributes relate to important values for that consumer. One important component of a brand’s equity lies in the emotional associations that brand has for a particular person (Keller, 1996). While related to product attributes, these abstract associations can have a deeper and more profound impact on one’s relationship with objects such as brands (Bannister and Mair, 1968). Yet many methods used to gauge a brand’s equity can fail to tap in to the deeper reasons why a person attributes such equity to the brand. Even if this is a dying brand, understanding its core seed of equity can provide a starting point to revitalize it (Wansink, 1997). A laddering interview is similar to the classical picture of a psychologist interviewing a patient on a couch, revealing insights into their lives that are not apparent. The psychologist is trying to get to the root of the problem through questioning. Laddering serves the same function with the exception that the marketer is not searching for the root of a problem. Rather, he is trying to find the root reasons for the customer’s purchase of a particular product. In contrast to surveys - which trace or assess general consumer sentiment - laddering assesses deeper reasons why individual consumers buy. Aggregating these deep perceptions allows more profound, but still generalizable, insights to be uncovered. Thanks to Nina Chan for assistance in organizing this article. More details related to the techniques described in this article can be found at www.ConsumerPsychology.com and at www.MarketingClass.net

Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal Volume 6 . Number 2 . 2003 . pp. 111-118 # MCB UP Limited . ISSN 1352-2752 DOI 10.1108/13522750310470118

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Using laddering to understand and leverage a brand’s equity Brian Wansink

Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal Volume 6 . Number 2 . 2003 . 111-118

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