When the FLIRT team sits down to brainstorm for an event or campaign, we try to understand every aspect of the project from the audience’s point of view. This process requires a lot of critical thinking and collaboration to arrive at the perfect conclusion.Laddering

But there’s a tool called laddering that event marketers can use to help make this process easier, or, at the very least, create a solid foundation for further exploration and brainstorming.

Laddering is an ethnographic interview technique that helps distill an object down to its core values. In event marketing, this could mean understanding what value a company’s national sales meeting has to the overall company culture.

You start with an attribute of the project, then determine the attribute’s benefit, then identify the goal the attribute meets and the need it fulfills, which leads to the value the attribute represents.

Here’s an example of what laddering looks like for a consumer object that can be easily applied to an event campaign or any other marketing project.

Example: What value might having a 60-inch LED TV represent to a suburban male?

Attribute: 60-inch LED screen

Benefit: A clear, bright picture

Goal: To watch TV at a high quality

Need: The need for achievement

Value: Success

By thinking through this exercise, you might recognize that suburban males are often at a place in their lives where they can afford this kind of TV, which meets their need for achievement. They are also in close proximity to others in the same position, which makes them feel obligated to keep up. The value expressed, then, is success because the TV’s attributes (bright, 60 inches, high quality) all allude to a higher-level valuation of what being successful looks like.

Using this consumer insight can then help inform the marketing strategy. Maybe marketers could create a campaign built on the idea of connecting the TV to success so that association is easily understood and remembered.

This process is a great way to build a foundation for any new campaign. It requires you to put yourself in the mind of the consumer, which can lead to better marketing insights that will make your customers feel like you understand what they need.

In event marketing, especially, building a theme requires event marketers to hit the right note that captures the spirit of the company and what the event means for the client. Maybe it’s the company logo, a company ritual or an annual awards show—whatever the attribute of the event is, it might lead you to the key value of the event that takes your theme to the heart of it all.