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Marketing with a Means-End Chain

You can use a means-end chains to develop more effective marketing messages for your product or service. A means-end chain is essentially an analytical tool that marketers use to better understand the buyer behavior of a target market. The “chain” of your product or service is divided by 1) attributes, 2) benefits and 3) values.

Smart LogoLet’s use the quirky Smart car as an example. Its small size is a physical attribute that is linked to benefits of both spacial efficiency and fuel efficiency as it handles easily in dense traffic and reduces CO2 emissions. Smart car drivers are seen as sensible and eco-friendly–psychosocial benefits of owning a Smart car. These consequences are linked to valued end states of preserving the environment and social recognition.

You may not be selling Smart cars. That’s okay because a means-end chain can be built around any product or service. However, some products don’t reach valued end states like the Smart car. Consumers probably don’t read newspapers, for example, to achieve self-actualization or to stave off world hunger. They may simply do it to for the benefit of staying informed. But that doesn’t matter; your marketing message should ideally target the highest level of abstraction towards consumers’ valued end states. In case of Smart cars, advertisements show how Smart car owners make a positive impact on their environment.

So what’s the point? As part of the development of your marketing plan you must ask, “what do my customers really value?” or “What do they really want out of life?” Whether its inner peace, social recognition, preserving the environment, self-esteem, or happiness and self-fulfillment, creating a marketing campaign that revolves around what matters most to your customers–their values–is an effective way to communicate your value proposition.


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