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Westside Toastmasters is located in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California

Climbing Down The Benefit Ladder

Let's take a step back to the traditional way of doing things.

A 'benefit ladder' is a diagram of the ordinary innovation process, beginning with the new formulation that R&D came up with and connecting it with the benefit to consumers. Benefit ladders were considered to be innovative 20-odd years ago, but they have led us to a point where we're grasping at straws to give brands an impact.

If you've never seen one, a benefit ladder is a diagram with three boxes, with arrows leading up from the bottom to the top. The idea is that you begin with the product in the bottom box, move up to the immediate, tangible benefit in the next box ('tastes great' or 'more absorbent' or 'less mess'), and then move up to a broader emotional benefit in the top box. Unfortunately, the top box always seemed to be 'be a better mom,' 'achieve world peace,' or 'have better (or more) sex.'

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Well, so far, I've managed to keep my kids in one piece as I've raised them, and which brand of paper towels I used doesn't seem to have mattered. The rungs at the top of the benefit ladder don't seem to be connected to the others, at least when you're climbing up from below. Getting to the top rung is a real stretch.

I have advised my clients to think about climbing downward. In the top box, put a consumer conflict that needs resolution: 'I want to have a clean house, but cleaning is a pain in the neck, it's messy, and it's no fun.' Then think about what is going to resolve this tension-what tangible attributes can a product have that address this conflict in more than one direction, in a fresh way? Then you move to the bottom box, and voilà, you have Swiffer, or Scrubbing Bubbles, or a wind- tunnel vacuum cleaner.


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