Image management

Date of publication: September 1, 1988


Author: Jeanne Steward


The laddering technique is specifically designed to understand the way in which product images are constructed. The technique involves establishing the link between product attributes, their consequences for the consumer and the personal values attached to those consequences. Understanding such linkages aids the development of actionable advertising strategy. The process is best suited to segment specific attitudes and values, giving an understanding of consumer orientations within a particular market cell. It is especially of use when applied to infrequently purchased goods and services where imagery is often complex and the product itself has more intrinsic worth. Each approach to the consumer takes a concrete product attribute as a starting point, but the path from attribute to consequence to end value is strewn with more abstract and indirect product benefits. During the period of May 1986 to May 1987 a series of 75 depth interviews with drivers of cars in the four major segments of the UK car market were carried out for a major car manufacturer. The objectives of this research programme were threefold: a) to test the usefulness of the laddering technique; b) to establish attribute, consequence, value linkages in order to aid image management and develop strategy; c) to examine differences between the segments at the emotional as well as rational level. The technique proved to be extremely valuable, providing an understanding of product imagery which is constructed by the consumer and not the analyst and which can be presented in a structured form. This paper refers to the theoretical background to laddering, but primarily concentrates on the operation of the technique and its practical value in the development and management of product imagery.

Jeanne Steward


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