Understanding Consumer Decision Making: The Means-End Approach to Marketing and Advertising Strategy

By Thomas J. Reynolds; Jerry C. Olson | Go to book overview

II
USING LADDERING METHODS TO IDENTIFY
MEANS-END CHAINS

SECTION OVERVIEW

The laddering interview is the preferred method for identifying consumers' means-end chains. Basically, laddering is a semistructured qualitative method in which respondents describe, freely in their own words, why something is important to them. The qualitative nature of laddering derives from the open-ended response format, the freedom of respondents to respond to questions in their own words, and of course, the necessity for researchers to interpret the meaning of those responses. Unlike some qualitative methods, however, the laddering interview has a definite structure that derives from the ordering of the questions and the use of standard probing questions to gain additional responses. Interviewers have a definite agenda to follow and the questioning flows similarly for each interview. In these senses, then, laddering is considered a structured qualitative method.

The basic laddering interview has two key steps or processes. First, the interviewer must identify the key choice criteria that consumers claim to use in making a purchase choice from among a considered set of alternatives (perhaps several different brands). Second, the interviewer seeks to learn why those choice criteria are important, salient, or relevant to the consumer. This is done by asking a series of simple “why” questions (“Why is it important to you that your bank is located on the way to work?”).

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