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Laddering is a type of probing which is based around the idea that values determine the benefits that we seek, which in turn determines which features we seek when buying products: Values -> Benefits sought -> Features


Moderator: Why do you like Lemon Ruski?

Jenny: I like it because it’s less alcoholic than having a straight spirit

Moderator: What makes that important to you?

Jenny: It stops me getting too drunk and tired

Moderator: What benefit does this provide to you?

Jenny: Otherwise I might look like a slag – it’s important to appear sophisticated

Moderator: Sophisticated?

Jenny: Well ... I like to impress others. It’s good for my self-esteem and it’s important to have the respect of your friends

Hierarchical value map

A key output that can be created by laddering is a hiearchical value map. The example shown below is from the wine cooler market (the precursor to today’s alcopop and RTD markets).[1] The basic idea behind such research is that consumers’ demand for particular products is driven by their basic value system. We start from the bottom of the ladder, which lists the product features of the products, link these to benefits which are, in turn, linked to values.



  1. Reynolds and Gutman (1981): “Laddering Theory, Method, Analysis, and Interpretation” in Journal of Advertising Research Vol. 26(1), p. 19.