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Use Our Consumer Benefits Ladder To Focus Your Brand Message

Credit by Graham Robertson.

Marketers should be fixated 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. But it’s an important question as to your mindset of how you do your job. My challenge to you is to start thinking about your consumer and be their representative of your brand. The work gets better. You will see clearer paths to growth and start to create a brand that consumers love rather than just likes. When this happens, sales go up and the P&L spits out higher profitability. The more loved the brand, the more powerful position it occupies and the more profit it can generate from that source of power.

The Consumer Benefits Ladder

The consumer benefits ladder helps turn your brand’s features into consumer benefits. You should stop talking about what your brand does and start talking about what your consumer gets. The four steps to building a 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.

People buy benefits.

If you are a headache medicine that is fast, tell your consumer they can on with their day. And, if you are a mouthwash that is strong, talk about how you make your consumer’s mouth healthier. If you are in financial services, leave them feeling more knowledgeable about where their money goes, or in control over their financial health.

Turn your feature into a functional benefit by getting in the shoes of your consumer and ask “so what do I get?” Turn your functional benefit into an emotion benefit by asking “so how does that make me feel?”

Have you ever heard of a bad date “where all he did was talk about himself?” The same thing for a brand. The trick is to genuinely show you care. Show interest. Listen. Make them feel better about themselves.

Stop talking about you. Start talking about them.

Worksheet example

The best way to work the Consumer Benefits Ladder is to hold a brainstorming session with everyone who works on the brand so you can:

  • Leverage all the available research to brief the team, helping define the consumer target and get all the consumer insights and need states out.

  • List out all the features that your brand offers, and the brand assets it brings to the table. Make sure that these features are competitive advantages.

  • Find the rational benefit by putting yourself in the shoes of the consumer and seeing the brand features from their eyes: start asking yourself over and over “so if I’m the consumer, what do I get from that?”.Ask up to 5 times and push the answers into a richer zone.

  • Then find the emotional benefit by asking “so how does that make me feel?” As you did above, keep asking, and you’ll begin to see a deeper emotional space you can play in and own.

Put all the information of the group brainstorm into a Consumer Benefits Ladder Worksheet.

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