Brand laddering: moving up expectations

Brand laddering is about getting results. First used in the 1980s, this concept helps brands move beyond the practice of marketing products by features. This brings in differentiation, distinctiveness, and lays things out to build a better connection with consumers. Think of the brand ladder as a three-rung ladder with specific brand qualities at each rung.


Attributes go on the first rung. Take Colgate toothpaste as an example. Here fluoride acts as the attribute. For a laptop brand, attributes can be memory capacity, processor speed and screen dimension.

Functional benefits

On the second rung, you find the functional benefits. Those are usually based on a product attribute that provides some functional utility to the consumer. An example is Head & Shoulders shampoo, where anti-dandruff is the benefit. Ariel laundry detergent is for superior stain removal. The attribute and the functional benefit are somewhat connected, meaning that for our Colgate toothpaste containing fluoride, tooth decay prevention is the functional benefit.

Emotional benefits

The top rung is where emotional benefits are found. This helps associate the brand with a positive feeling – like excitement, trust, or happiness. With ads rooted in nostalgia and family values, Patek Philippe luxury watches definitely play on that level. Colgate ads would point to the confidence that comes with having healthy teeth.

This helps associate the brand with a positive feeling.

Moving up the brand ladder is the ultimate goal. The earlier a brand is able to establish a strong emotional connection, the more likely it is to lead to customer loyalty and higher profits. If you ask us, packaging is the perfect platform for brand laddering. Since we opened up ARD 33 years ago, we’ve worked on thousands of packaging artworks across multiple industries. With a coherent mix of verbal, symbolic, and visual cues, packaging artwork manages to create brand laddering all in one place.

Let’s work on a packaging design that gets results. Get in touch with us today.

Text credits: ARD / agi

Images credits: Patek Philippe

Let's work on packaging design that gets results.
Get in touch!

Get in touch!