Stock cubes don’t need ladders

step ladder and hay bail

Meeting a stock cube brand manager at a kids party BBQ recently I was reminded of the distorted outlook seen in many occupying that position.

Whilst the burgers charred on the griddle, he made small talk about work. The conversation quickly reminded me of frequent battles experienced trying to persuade corporate brand managers that contrary to the expectations of many, their products aren’t as interesting as they might believe. Unlike his, our next meal does not rest on increased volumes of stock cubes flying off the supermarket shelves. Stock cubes are a small and insignificant part in most people’s lives: and rightly they should be.

The need to remind brand managers of this should be not under-estimated. The recent fascination with laddering seemingly requested in any circumstance is a good example of this.

Laddering is a systematic exploration of the links between basic product / service attributes and the meanings, feelings and association they impart. The theory is higher-order emotional benefits and values have more motivational power than the direct benefits and attributes and are more important than the latter (Bystedt et. al., 2003).

Kelly’s theory rests on the assumption that people are actively engaged in making sense of and extending their experience.

Laddering is not a bad idea to understand underlying beliefs driving behaviour, at a personal level it can be effective. But it shouldn’t be stretched to suggest there is a conscious emotional back drop to every purchase that can be used as a framework for all.

Often people don’t have rational emotional feelings about stock cubes, products or brands in general. Most purchases are insignificant. We need to remember this. The focus should be on the person before the product. Understanding the person is the foundation for positioning. No amount of laddering work can help a product if it doesn’t solve a need. Without this; it’s a dud.