Hierarchy of Effects Model

Another widely used model in marketing that attempts to explain consumer decision making process is called the Hierarchy of Effects Model. Originally conceived to explain how advertising affects consumer’s purchase decisions, the Hierarchy of Effects Model focuses on consumer learning that takes place as he/she processes information from the external world. Although different researchers developed slightly different models, the basic idea is the same: people experience a sequence of psychological stages before purchasing a product.

The origins of the Hierarchy of effects can be traced all the way back to 1898 and the hierarchy’s creator, a salesman named Elias St Elmo Lewis. Lewis believed that rather than simply closing a sale, an effective salesperson actually guided a buyer through a series of stages. He claimed that a proper salesman must ensure Attention, maintain Interest, create Desire and finally spur the customer to Action (purchase). In 1910, the Hierarchy of Effects showed up for the first time in print mentioning the hierarchy’s use for advertising gain. It showed up as an editorial in Printer’s Ink. The model was then expressed as Attention, Interest, Conviction, and Action. The article declared that any complete advertisement campaign must follow this model of persuasion. In 1961 Robert Lavidge and Gary Steiner published their seminal paper on the Hierarchy of Effects in the Journal of Marketing. In addition to supporting the AIDA model, they noted that consumers appeared to progress through cognitive (thinking), then affective
(feeling) and finally conative (intention/doing) stages.

Hierarchy of effects Model can be explained with the help of a pyramid. First the lower level objectives such as awareness, knowledge or comprehension are accomplished. Subsequent objectives may focus on moving prospects to higher levels in the pyramid to elicit desired behavioral responses such as associating feelings with the brand, trial, or regular use etc. it is easier to accomplish ad objectives located at the base of the pyramid than the ones towards the top. The percentage of prospective customers will decline as they move up the pyramid towards more action oriented objectives, such as regular brand use.

Stages of Hierarchy of Effects Model

  1. Awareness: If most of the target audience is unaware of the object, the communicator’s task is to build awareness, perhaps just name recognition, with simple messages repeating the product name. Consumers must become aware of the brand. This isn’t as straightforward as it seems. Capturing someone’s attention doesn’t mean they will notice the brand name. Thus, the brand name needs to be made focal to get consumers to become aware. Magazines are full of ads that will capture your attention, but you’ll have trouble easily seeing the brand name.
  2. Knowledge: The target audience might have product awareness but not know much more; hence this stage involves creating brand knowledge. This is where comprehension of the brand name and what it stands for become important. What are the brand’s specific appeals, its benefits? In what way is it different than competitor’s brands? Who is the target market? These are the types of questions that must be answered if consumers are to achieve the step of brand knowledge.
  3. Liking: If target members know the product, how do they feel about it? If the audience looks unfavorably towards the product to communicator has to find out why. If the unfavorable view is based on real problems, a communication campaigns alone cannot do the job. For product problem it is necessary to first fix the problem and only then can you communicate its renewed quality.
  4. Preference: The target audience might like the product but not prefer it to others. In this case, the communicator must try to build consumer preference by promoting quality, value, performance and other features. The communicator can check the campaigns success by measuring audience preference before and after the campaign.
  5. Conviction: A target audience might prefer a particular product but not develop a conviction about buying it. The communicator’s job is to build conviction among the target audience.
  6. Purchase: Finally, some members of the target audience might have conviction but not quite get around to making the purchase. They may wait for more information or plan to act later. The communicator must need these consumers to take the final step, perhaps by offering the product at a low price, offering a premium, or letting consumers tried out. This is where consumers make a move to actually search out information or purchase.

Thus Hierarchy of effects Model is thought to work and follow a certain sequence whereby the prospect is moved through a series of stages in succession from unawareness to the purchase of the product.

By now, you might have realized at least two points. One, it seems reasonable that not all the consumers are at the same stage. For example, you may be in the unawareness stage relative to Wrangler Jeans, but Lee may be in the preference stage. Two, it also seems reasonable that not all people at one stage move onto the next stage. For example, some consumers who have formed preference to Maggi Tomato Sauce may not form any conviction to buy the product. Furthermore, some people may need more time before moving onto the next stage than others.

The Hierarchy of effects Model is quite similar to the consumer information processing model because it also assumes that people are cognitively driven, thinking information processors. Controversy exists, of course, as to whether that is necessarily true. Some may claim that they often form liking and preference (emotional response or feeling) toward brands before developing cognitive judgment (knowledge or thinking) on them. Others argue that people form preference and knowledge simultaneously. Although each argument has its own support, the general model (cognition first, preference second) seems to be valid especially in relatively complex – or high-involvement – decision making situations (e.g., cars, computers), providing a conceptual framework for thinking about the sequence of events, which begins from the initial awareness to the final action (i.e., purchasing).