Hierarchy of effects
This is a marketing model designed to demonstrate how a consumer transitions from being unaware of a brand, to forming attitudes and understanding of that brand, to ultimately becoming an end customer.
There are many versions of this hierarchy of effects model found in textbooks, but let’s start with a very basic three-step model of hierarchy of effects.
You can see, the concept of hierarchy of effects is quite simple – the consumer is initially unaware of the brand – over time they gain some awareness of the brand, which may then build into an understanding of the brand (attitudes and beliefs), and then may finally result in some sort of purchase behavior.
It is referred to as a hierarchy because it is a ladder system – starting at the bottom with awareness and building towards becoming a loyal customer at the top.
As already mentioned, most marketing textbooks will have a slightly different approach to the steps in the hierarchy of effects model, but they essentially explain the same concept of taking the target market through various stages of initially thought and then onto some form of purchase or referral action.
The Kotler approach to hierarchy of effects
One of the more common textbooks in the marketing field is by Philip Kotler, and his approach to the hierarchy of effects model is as follows:
The first stage is simple awareness – where the consumer has now heard of the brand, but still has very limited understanding of the brand.
The second stage is knowledge – where the consumer is generally aware of what the brand is/does – e.g. the consumer may know that the brand that it is a type of laundry detergent suitable for tough stains.
This is followed by the liking stage – the word ‘liking’ should NOT be confused with an emotional attachment – in this case, liking refers to the consumer seeing some positive benefits associated with the brand. For example, “it is convenient”, “it seems like a good product”, “it’s a healthy product” and so on.
Preference is the fourth stage of the hierarchy of effect model. This occurs when the consumer sees the overall brand/product as a suitable option for a future purchase. That is, the product enters the consumer’s evoked (consideration) set of brands.
The next stage is conviction. In this stage the consumer’s attitude further forms from preference to a ‘decision’ to purchase the brand in the future. As an example, the consumer may think, “I will try that brand next time”.
The final stop on the hierarchy of effects is purchase. Obviously this is where the consumer buys the brand/product for the first time (which is usually referred to as a ‘trial purchase’.)