Premium Branding beyond purpose: emerging cognitive journeys
Laddering is a research technique, which enables hierarchical positioning of concepts in pre-defined clusters. Traditional brand and product benefits ladders, used to be built around three categories: technical, functional and emotional benefits. In other words, all product and brand offers were built around their ability to deliver on technical specs (e.g., the highest definition camera), functional proposition (e.g., double flash option to reduce red-eye effect) as well as emotional propositions (e.g., peace of mind that the daughter’s birthday pictures are going to look great). More specifically, the emotional ladder is the one that premium and luxury brands have traditionally leveraged to discriminate themselves from their competitors, while delivering – conventionally at the same time – on both the functional and technical clusters.
More recent approaches to brand laddering include further categories, such as transformational, cognitive as well as societal benefits. These incremental categories serve the purpose to put into context the deeper role that a premium and luxury brand needs to play in this changing landscape: many consumers expect brands to play a role in their personal journey, as well as, being linked with a higher purpose.
In a nutshell, evidence of the dematerialization of needs, stems, first and foremost, from the emerging focus of brands on establishing consumer bonds on non-traditional territories, just like in the case of purpose branding. Consumers are now demanding higher purposes from brands, such as more focus on sustainable business practices, more inclusive innovation, as well as cognitive platforms.
In addition to that, there is empirical evidence, from the transformation of the luxury industry itself. At its origin, luxury developed in four distinct – yet adjacent – domains: food, fashion, leisure and shelter – with mobility being a cross-platform of the last two. In this consumeristic sense, luxury was born around the notion of material possession and orchestrated leisure experiences. But in this era and age, one can observe the emergence of additional luxury domains: time, space and immersive sensorial experiences are taking over from the traditional luxury territories. On one end, millennials are more and more focused on the sensorial dimension, to the extent that the term Experience Economy has been coined to identify the craving for – and the collective consumption of – experiences. Main emergent drivers of the Experience Economy include: attending festivals, events and themed runs – in lieu of material possessions. These experiences become part of the consumers’ soul-searching journey, and therefore require connection at transformational and cognitive levels.
Extract from: The Future of Retail, 2018, “The Future Of”