Climbing the brand ladder of success.

Brand positioning is the critical factor in determining the success of an organization. It goes beyond merely defining your brand identity and image. Strategically, brand positioning places the brand in the mind of its target audience, creating a space that differentiates a brand from its competitors.

Luckily for marketers, there are marketing tools that can help nail down your brand’s positioning, and one of the standouts is the brand ladder.

What’s all the buzz about the brand ladder? 

Developed by Professor Kevin Lane Keller, author of Strategic Brand Management, the brand ladder is one of the most commonly used and effective frameworks for enhancing your brand position; helping you understand and optimize your brand’s perception in your audience’s mind.

The brand ladder is about the benefits your brand offers to your audience. Picture it as a ladder, but instead of climbing up, delivering value to your customers at different levels.

From attributes and functional benefits at the base, you climb to emotional, transformational, and even societal benefits. It’s like a structured framework that lets you showcase what sets your brand apart. By precisely mapping out the different levels of your audience’s perception, from basic features to profound emotional connections, your brand can strategically cultivate your image and narrative.

A ladder propped up a disposable coffee cup illustrating the brand ladder.

Deconstructing the brand ladder.

Unique products or features

At the foundation of the brand ladder are attributes. This is the step where you showcase the unique features of your product or service that set your brand apart from competitors. These are tangible characteristics that fulfil the basic needs and wants of your target audience and stand as the foundation for your brand positioning.

Practical advantages

Next rung up, you address the functional benefits: the practical advantages your audience will receive from choosing your brand over another. By answering the audience’s question “What’s in it for me?” you position your brand as reliable.

Meaningful experience

Emotional benefits enhance your brand’s positioning by addressing the emotional needs and desires of your audience and answering the question “How does it make your audience feel?” Emotion drives action, so by evoking positive emotions, you create deeper connections with your audience and increase brand loyalty.

Personal growth

At the transformational benefit stage, you address how your brand contributes to your audience’s personal growth and self-improvement. Show them how your brand drives positive transformation in your audience members’ lives to establish a profound connection.

Social impact

The top and final rung of the brand ladder addresses societal benefits, where choosing your brand over another makes for a more significant impact on your audience’s lives.

To put it together and make it easier to understand, imagine Honest Agency is Honest Coffee Co. and look at an example of a brand ladder framework broken into the ladder steps, for example:

Shift the perspective, but don’t push it.

So, what is it that makes this marketing tool so effective? The brand ladder shifts the focus from what the brand offers to what the audience gains. An audience-centric approach lets you, as a marketer, align your messaging with your target audience’s needs, desires, and aspirations.

But while the brand ladder is effective for brand positioning, it carries risks when taken too far, so avoid promising more than your brand can deliver. With overpromising comes unrealistic expectations, which can lead to a gap between promises and actual experiences, and failure to deliver on perceived commitments.  

Balancing realistic benefits with authentic messaging is important to build a positive brand image, foster loyalty, and ensure long-term success in the competitive market.

So, when using the brand ladder to assist with building your brand positioning, stay true to your brand’s core values and identity to maintain a genuine connection with the audience.

It varies from brand to brand. 

Each brand is unique with its own set of characteristics, values, and target audiences. As a result, it’s only natural that the application of the brand ladder varies from brand to brand.

You must adjust your strategy to match the specific attributes of your brand, ensuring that the ladder’s rungs are well-defined and resonate with the distinct preferences and expectations of your specific target audience.

Or contact experts to do it for you!

At Honest, we work closely with brands going through big changes or cultural shifts to develop or refine their brand, so it resonates with your audience and helps you stand out in a crowded marketplace.

If your company or organization is undergoing a change, let’s chat about how we can help you meet your goals and develop your brand into one that sets your brand apart.

Bria Welch