Hierarchy of Effects Theory

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Definition: Hierarchy of Effects Theory

The hierarchy of effects model is a model which tells advertisers to make an advertisement in such a way that the customer goes through all these six stages namely awareness, knowledge, liking, preference, conviction and purchase. It is created by Robert J Lavidge and Gary A Steiner in 1961, this model suggests six steps to consumer buying behaviour.


1. Awareness: 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 Coolgate 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.


2. Knowledge: 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 Coolgate brand will try figure out what unique features and benefits you are offering over any other brand like Colgate and Oral-B.


3. Liking: 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 Coolgate brush but might not like the colour of it, or might feel that this brush is for the elderly. As the marketing manager of Coolgate, you have to make sure that these features, that leave emotional impact, are taken care of properly in the marketing communication program.


4. Preference: 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 Coolgate 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 Coolgate 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 Coolgate brush?


5. Conviction: 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.


6. 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.


Lavidge and Steiner further grouped these six stages into three main stages of consumer behaviour:

1. Cognitive

2. Affective

3. Conative


1. Cognitive: Also called the “thinking” stage, this is where the consumer gathers knowledge about the product and becomes aware of it. This can be said to be a rational step where pros and cons, product specifications etc. of a product are evaluated.

2. Affective: Also called the “feeling” stage is when the consumer starts developing a liking for the product, and may even develop strong positive (or negative) feelings toward it.

3. Conative: This is the “behaviour” stage of the process. This is when the consumer, after weighing the pros and cons, and deciding his/her preference actually buys the product.


The model is named so because of the fact that the buying process is a step by step process where the number of people willing to participate at each level keeps decreasing. Say you started with 10 people who are aware of your brand; 5 people who considered buying it and only 2 of those 10 actually bought the product.


The hierarchy of effects model is a model which tells advertisers to make an advertisement in such a way that the customer goes through all these six stages namely awareness, knowledge, liking, preference, conviction and purchase.

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