Professor Kevin Lane Keller defines Laddering as follows
"Brand Laddering involves progression from attributes to benefits to more abstract values or motivations. Laddering involves repeatedly asking what the implication of an attribute or benefit is for the customer."
According to Keller, failure of laddering up sometimes reduce the strategic alternatives available to the brand. Keller also suggests that there is a means-end chain which takes the following structure :
Attribute ( descriptive features) lead to benefits ( meaning attached to attributes) which leads to values ( enduring personal goals and motivations).
The concept of laddering has its application in positioning of the product. When the brand is launched, the focus will be more on attributes and benefits. But once these basic functionality has been established in the mind of the consumers, the brand has to deepen the meanings associated with the brand.
For example, Dove's campaign has transcended from the basic functionality of the product to " Celebrating real beauty ". Nike is all about Athletic Performance . An Indian example would be Raymonds which has transcended the basic functionality of apparels to a more deeper meaning of " A Complete Man ".
Laddering is not always easy. The task for the marketer is to first have a clear understanding of the brand's core values. Also laddering will work only if the consumers are convinced and satisfied with the basic functionality of the brand.
The advantage of laddering is that the brand will breakfree from the product restrictions. That gives lot of flexibility to the brand manager. Flexibility in extending the brand aswellas in communicating.
Strategic Brand Management by Kevin Lane Keller