Laddering technique as an in-depth



This work is based on an interview conducted using the Laddering technique. (Gutman, 1982, cited in Reynolds and Gutman, 1988) describes the Laddering technique as an in-depth, one-on-one interview technique used to understand how consumers relate product attributes to self. The aim of this study is to elicit product attributes, consequences and values from the respondent and show the relationship among them. The conclusion discusses the findings of the study in relation to marketing. The respondent is a 23-year old male student from London. The Laddering interview was analysed using the Mean-End Chain analysis by constructing a Hierarchical Value Map.


Interviewer: Could you list at least four characteristics of clothes that would make you buy them.

Respondent: For the polo tops it would be the colour. Like I said I like bright, I don't like dull colours. When it comes to polos, I like them bright. So first of all, when I'm selecting a polo top it would be based on the colour. If I see like a red or blue or something like that, then I'll go for that. And then secondly also, you have to look at the quality as well. You want something that's...gonna last. You know, you don't want something that's gonna start ripping after two...or three weeks so you're looking for the quality as well. Well, you can tell by just feeling it if it's a good quality. And, well, sometimes to an extent based on if you're seeing, you know, adverts on television about that particular item of clothing, for example, you know, like say they've done like a few adverts saying this the latest thing for young people then based on that I might go and buy it as well. So, yeah I think these are the main characteristics that make me choose my clothing.

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Interviewer: You mentioned colour. So why is colour important to you?

Respondent: Because at the moment the more colourful you are, it's...colour is used to determine, you know, like somebody's personality. It's mostly younger people who go for colourful, you know, bright things whereas older people want to be more reserved, they go for like, you know, kind of like brown, grey or black so that they're not really...noticed but younger people want to be noticed so they wear like really bright and colourful...things so that's...why I go for it.

Interviewer: Why do you equate personality to colour?

Respondent: It's just the way society is at the moment. If you're young and vibrant then you stand out from the crowd and, I mean as you see most people wear, you know, things that make them blend in, like I said, like grey and black and you just blend into the crowd and you look like...every other person. But if you wear something bright, you know, red, pink, and then you stand out and people, I mean...if you want to stand out, that have...a vibrant personality.

Interviewer: Why do you want to stand out from the crowd?

Respondent: It's just, I mean you know...when you dress up...sometimes you're not just dressing up for other're doing it for yourself. You want to feel good about yourself...You want to know that you look good. So if you dress up like everybody else, no one, I mean, sometimes you also want to be noticed as well I said if you just dress up to blend in with everybody else then no one's gonna really notice you until you wear something that distinguishes you...from these people.

Interviewer: Why would people noticing you be important to you?

Respondent: It's not really of high importance but it's just to make me feel good about myself, you know, you also get comments from people saying, oh yeah, “that top is really nice” or “those jeans are really nice” and you feel good about yourself, just to look good and then get this comments from's not really of high importance but it's something you like to hear from time to time.



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The Hierarchical Value Map (HVM) in this study differs a little from the format recommended by Gengler et al, (Gengler et al, 1995 cited in Wagner, 2007) which shows the frequency of each element in addition to the number of the relevant cognitive relationships and structural connections among the cognitive elements. Due to the limitation of sample size, the HVM in this study focuses on indicating the relationships that exist among the cognitive elements- attributes, consequences and values.

In Laddering, attributes refer to the distinct features of products that are offered to consumers. The consequences refer to the direct or indirect outcomes associated with the attributes (Wagner, 2007). For the purpose of this study, the attribute is colour of clothing. (Vinson et al 1977 cited in Wagner, 2007) describes values as cognitive elements that influence behaviour.

From the Hierarchical Value Map (HVM), it can be seen that the respondent shops for clothes based on colour. Colour is important to him because it defines his personality and also provides him with recognition from his peers. Recognition, in turn, leads to a feeling of well-being or satisfaction which he values. Recognition also creates opportunity for positive feedback from his friends. The provision of positive feedback from friends is also directly related to the feeling of well-being which, as has been mentioned, constitutes his value. The interview extracts and the HVM show that the respondent is concerned about the impression he makes in the minds of people. He desires the spotlight and will be willing to pay more for products that help him to attain his value.


The data derived from the respondent's HVM provides useful information for marketers. The HVM would be an invaluable tool for classifying the respondent into certain target segments. This segmentation would enable the marketers to target the respondent with the appropriate products thus shifting from a mass marketing approach to a target marketing approach.

The HVM is also an important tool for choosing an advertising strategy (Reynolds and Gutman, 1988). Using the information on the HVM constructed in this study, marketers would be able to understand the driving forces that influence the respondent's buying patterns and the type of products he prefers. With this information, they would be able to develop suitable advertisements with which to communicate their product offerings to the respondent.


The Laddering interview technique is a useful tool for deriving the values that shape the shopping habits of consumers. In the hands of an expert, it can elicit values from consumers which they never had knowledge of. By responding continuously to the interviewer's questions, the consumer unwittingly discloses his values, and in the processes conveys to the interviewer his preferences in relation to product offerings. Thus, the consumer plays an important role in the design and development of new product offerings which results in the creation of added value for both the consumer and the marketing organisation- the consumer receives products that satisfy his values while the organisation benefits in the form of customer loyalty and profit.


Malhotra, Naresh (2007) Marketing Research: an Applied Orientation Fifth Edition London: Pearson International

Malhotra, Naresh and David Birks (2007) Marketing Research: An Applied Approach Third European Edition, Harlow: Prentice Hall

Reynolds, J. Thomas and Gutman Jonathan (1988) ‘Laddering Theory, Method, Analysis, and Interpretation' Journal of Advertising Research.

Wagner, Tillmann (2007) ‘Shopping motivation revised: a means-end chain analytical perspective' International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management 35 (7) pp569-582