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

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

read the map and interpret its meanings, brand positioning discussions can lead to more actionable conclusions.


SUMMARY

Brand positioning generally requires in-depth understanding of the consumer's decision-making process. Means-end theory through laddering provides a useful tool to fully explore the consumer's psyche in terms of brand choice criteria. But laddering, like any tool, relies on the craftspeople who use it. In this chapter, we provide useful guidance for designing and implementing laddering research that will yield actionable results for management.

We propose that laddering research begin by answering four key questions: Who are the relevant customers or consumers to be interviewed? What are the customers' relevant behaviors? What are the relevant contexts of the behavior? What are the competitive choice alternatives? Answers to these questions frame the research design including selecting methods to elicit distinctions, selecting the sample, and writing and piloting the research instrument. Interviews based on the laddering techniques described here can provide meaningful and accurate ladders and CDMs that, in turn, form the basis for managerial understanding and action. In sum, laddering is a tool that can help managers gain a clearer picture of consumer decision making so they can think more effectively about their brand positioning challenges.


REFERENCES

Gengler, C., & Reynolds, T. J. (1995). Consumer understanding and advertising strategy: Analysis and strategic translation of laddering data. Journal of Advertising Research, 35, 19–33.

Gutman, J., & Reynolds, T. J. (1979). An investigation of the levels of cognitive abstraction utilized by consumers in product differentiation. In J. Eighmey (Ed.), Attitude research under the sun (pp. 128–152). Chicago: American Marketing Association.

Gutman, J. (1982). A means-end chain model based on consumer categorization processes. Journal of Marketing, 46(2), 60–72.

Olson, J. C., & Reynolds, T. J. (1983). Understanding consumer's cognitive structures: Implications for advertising strategy. In L. Percy & A. Woodside (Eds.), Advertising and consumer psychology, Vol. 1 (pp. 77–90). Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.

Peter, J. P., & Olson, J. C. (1999). Consumer behavior and marketing strategy. Burr Ridge, IL: Richard D. Irwin, Inc.

Reynolds, T. J. (1988). The impact of higher order elements on preference: The basic precepts and findings of means-end theory. Proceedings of American Marketing Educator's Conference, San Diego, CA.

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