The hierarchy-of-effects model was created by Robert J. Lavidge and Gary A. Steiner in their 1961 article. A Model for Predictive Measurements of Advertising Effectiveness. The hierarchy of effects theory is a model of how advertising influences a consumers decision to purchase or not purchase a product or service. The hierarchy represents the progression of learning and decision making of a consumer experiences as a result of advertising. A hierarchy of effects model is used to set up a structured series of advertising message objectives for a particular product, with the goal of building upon each successive objective until a sale is ultimately made. The objectives of advertising are awareness, knowledge, liking, preference, conviction and purchase. The hierarchy of effects theory is an advanced advertising strategy that it approaches the sale of a good through well developed, persuasive advertising messages designed to build brand awareness over time. While an immediate purchase would be preferred, companies using this strategy expect consumer’s to need a longer decision making process. The goal of advertisers is to guide a potential customer through all six stages of the hierarchy.
The behaviors associated with the hierarchy of effects theory can be boiled down to "think," "feel" and "do," or cognitive, affective and conative behaviors.
Hierarchy-of-Effects Theory Stages
The awareness and knowledge (or cognitive) stages are when a consumer is informed about a product or service, and how they process the information they have been given. For advertisers, it is essential to key brand information in this stage in a useful and easily understood fashion that compels the prospective customer to learn more and make a connection with a product.
This is the most crucial step and the starting point for purchase. Brands must make sure that the consumer is aware of the presence of your brand in a particular product segment.
For example, if Tina wants to buy a toothbrush, and you as the marketing manager of Colgate wants her to buy your brand’s toothbrush, you have to make sure that you advertise well so that she is aware of the existence of such a brand for toothbrushes.
This is where your product will be evaluated against other brands by the consumer. Make sure enough (positive) knowledge is available about your product through the internet, retail stores and the product package itself.
For example, now Tina, aware that there is a Colgate brand will try figure out what unique features and benefits you are offering over any other brand like Colgate and Oral-B
The liking and preference (or affective) stages are when customers form feelings about a brand, so it is not a time when an advertiser should focus on a product, its positive attributes or technical abilities. Instead, advertisers should attempt to appeal to a consumer’s values, emotions, self-esteem or lifestyle.
This is where the consumer builds a liking to your product. This is where your product is being considered for its emotional benefits; be sure to make them prominent. For example, now Tina has evaluated the pros & cons of buying a Colgate brush but might not like the colour of it, or might feel that this brush is for the elderly. As the marketing manager of Colgate, you have to make sure that these features, that leave emotional impact, are taken care of properly in the marketing communication program.
By this time consumer may be convinced to try out your product, but may like other brands of toothbrush too. So what is it that will make her prefer Colgate over the other brands? These points of differentiations or unique selling points need to be highlighted to make sure that the consumer likes your brand more than the others in her consideration list. For example, Tina now may be actually considering buying a Colgate toothbrush. But is she thinking that she’ll buy it to try it only or is she thinking that the next buy will also be a Colgate brush?
The conviction and purchase (or conative) stages focuse on actions. It is when an advertiser attempts to compel a potential customer to act on the information they have learned and emotional connection they have formed with a brand by completing a purchase. It may involve the conversion of doubts about a product or service into an action. In these stages advertisers should attempt to convince potential customers that they need a product or service, possibly by offering a test drive or sample item. Advertisers should also build a level of trust with them by focusing on the quality, usefulness and popularity of a product or service.
This is the stage where the doubt in consumers’ minds about buying the product of your brand needs to be converted into action. Marketers can aid in this step by giving out free samples, test drives etc. This step should also decide if the consumer will stick to your brand i.e. actually buy your brand, or switch after testing the sample. For example, Tina tried the brush you gave her for a month and then when time came to buy one, she bought an Oral-B one. Make sure that doesn’t happen and that trial builds loyalty. Incorporate such unique features in your brand that will encourage purchase.
The last and the most crucial stage of the consumer buying cycle is the purchase. You need to make sure that purchase experience is easy and perhaps even enjoyable for the consumer. Some of the ways to encourage purchase is by keeping simple and multiple paying options, making the product available easily, easy to understand usage instructions, offers etc. For example, now that Tina has decided to buy your brand after trying it out for a month, make sure she knows where to buy it from and how she can pay. You may also give her a tube of toothpaste free to delight her. The main aim of this tool that serves as a marketing communication tool is to encourage consumers to go through the six steps that end in purchase of product. It is not necessary that consumers always go through all the six steps but the aim is to land a purchase. This model is the base of so many customer behavioral models in marketing and advertising.