Benefit laddering: of exaggeration and credibility in advertising

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‘Benefit laddering’ is a common technique used in advertising, especially when it comes to creative ideas. Simply put, it is stretching a feature or benefit of the product at hand to such an exaggerated extent that it sticks in the consumer’s mind. So a simple idea like ‘makes you feel beautiful’ may get laddered as ‘makes you feel beautiful’ –> so heads will turn –> so men will have crick in their necks —> so all the men in town will have spondylitis. And that exactly was an idea for an old ad for Jai soap. The trick is in asking the ‘so what?’ question about the core benefit until the creative team hits upon an idea. The process isn’t fool proof  – sometimes, the central idea gets stretched so far that it may become incredulous or worse still, predictable to the viewer. Most of the ads which use this benefit laddering trick fall in this category – either predictable (strength that leads to victory in a cricket match or sporting event, attracting the opposite sex etc.) or unbelievable. Some brands have used exactly such ‘predictable’ endings to add a twist – like in this classic ad for Chiclets.

The key to success in this approach is achieving a balance between the central feature (which is being exaggerated) and the stretched idea (ABC happens because of the brand’s XYZ feature). The gap between the two shouldn’t be so stretched or tenuous that the viewer mocks at the brand. And as with most advertising ideas, a twist in the tale helps. A great example of such a balance is this Japanese ad for Ajinomoto Stadium.

Agency: Dentsu

What I loved about the ad was the laddering of the benefit, the scripting (the setup was riveting) and the unexpected twist in the end – the Aha! moment that brings a smile to your face.

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