Laddering in Practice

Our point of departure is the consideration (or assumption, or theory) that people do things and buy things because these things have positive consequences for the buyer and make a positive contribution to their personal convictions and set of values.

Traditionally applied attitude and image research has not been able to provide information on the connection between product or brand characteristics and the consumer's personal set of values.

This is where laddering comes into play. In laddering, attention is paid to the chain which arises - beginning with a selected characteristic and proceeding on to consequences which are associated with that characteristic, and extending to the value which is represented by the characteristic. In this way it is possible to highlight whether and to what extent a brand corresponds to a consumer's personal set of values.

Currently, laddering techniques are not widely used in European market research. In order to give the reader a brief and simple example of laddering, please see below for an illustration of how to establish the link between brands/products and the personal set of values which are related back to them.

Let us imagine that we are analyzing beer brands and the meaning of bottle sizes.

Interviewer: You said that there is a difference between a half pint and a pint bottle. Which do you prefer?

Befragter: I always buy half pint bottles.

Interviewer: What is the advantage of a half pint bottle?

Befragter: I just buy them out of habit

Interviewer: And why do you normally not buy pint bottles?

Befragter: It is too much at once and it gets warm before I can finish it. Then I have to pour the rest down the drain.

Interviewer: And how do you feel when you have to pour it down the drain?

Befragter: It irritates me because I am wasting my money.

Interviewer: How important is your money?

Befragter: look after the household budget and I'm responsible for money being spent in the right way.

Excerpt from Laddering Theory, Method, Analysis and Interpretation by T. J. Reynolds and J. Guttman.

Here it is apparent how a chain made of product attributes (size) and consequences ("too much," "gets warm," "have to pour the rest down the drain") leads to the consumer's personal value set (responsibility).

The excerpt above is naturally the viewpoint of only one respondent. In the course of an entire exploration however, in compiling the statements of all interviewees a differentiated image of the connection between the product and the consumer's personal set of values can be established.

© 2018 Hoffmann & Forcher