Hierarchy of Effects Model

Hierarchy of Effects Model: History, Stages, and Strategies – A Comprehensive Analysis

Hierarchy of Effects Model: In the fast-paced and highly competitive world of advertising, marketers must understand how to effectively communicate their messages to target audiences. One framework that can help achieve this is the Hierarchy of Effects Model. This model proposes a series of psychological stages that consumers go through when exposed to an advertisement or marketing campaign. It outlines three key strategies that advertisers can employ to influence consumer behavior: cognitive, affective, and conative strategies.

History of Hierarchy of Effects Model

The Hierarchy of Effects Model in advertisement is a concept that has been utilized by marketers for many decades. This model helps understand the progression of consumer behavior, from being unaware of a product or brand to making a purchase decision. The history of this model dates back to the early 1900s when advertising researchers like E.K. Strong and John Dewey first discussed the idea of a psychological process that consumers go through when exposed to advertisements

In the early days, the model consisted of three basic stages: awareness, interest, and action. This model suggested that consumers needed to first become aware of a product or brand, then develop an interest in it, and finally take action by making a purchase. However, as the field of advertising and consumer behavior evolved, so did the hierarchy of effects model.

Over time, additional stages were added to the model to better reflect the complexities of consumer decision-making. These stages include knowledge, liking, preference, conviction, and purchase. This expanded model acknowledges that consumers often go through a more intricate thought process when making purchase decisions, including gathering information, forming preferences, and ultimately, developing conviction in their decisions.

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What are Message Strategies in the Hierarchy of Effects Model

Hierarchy of Effects Model
Hierarchy of Effects Model Criticisms

Cognitive Strategy: Grabbing Attention and Providing Information

The first stage in the Hierarchy of Effects Model is the cognitive stage. At this stage, the goal of the advertiser is to capture the audience’s attention and provide them with information about the product or service being advertised. This can be achieved through various means such as eye-catching visuals, attention-grabbing headlines, and compelling copywriting.

In this stage, the target audience is made aware of the product or service and begins to develop an understanding of its features, benefits, and value proposition. Advertisers often rely on rational appeals and factual information to convey this information. For example, an automobile advertisement may highlight the car’s fuel efficiency, advanced safety features, and cutting-edge technology.

Affective Strategy: Generating Emotions and Building Brand Connection

Once the audience has absorbed the information provided in the cognitive stage, they move on to the affective stage. Here, the advertiser aims to generate positive emotions and build a connection between the audience and the brand. This is done by appealing to the audience’s desires, aspirations, and values.

Advertisers often employ creative storytelling, emotional appeals, and relatable characters to evoke emotions in consumers. By creating an emotional bond with the audience, advertisers can foster brand loyalty and increase the likelihood of consumers favorably evaluating the advertised product or service.

Conative Strategy: Driving Action and Encouraging Purchase

The final stage in the Hierarchy of Effects Model is the conative stage, also known as the behavioral stage. At this stage, the advertiser’s objective is to drive action and encourage consumers to make a purchase or engage in a desired behavior. The goal is to convert the positive attitudes and emotional connections generated in the previous stages into actual behavior.

To achieve this, advertisers often employ persuasive techniques such as limited-time offers, discounts, testimonials from satisfied customers, and strong calls to action. By creating a sense of urgency, providing incentives, and making it easy for consumers to take the desired action, advertisers can effectively influence consumer behavior and drive conversions.

The Power of Integration

While the Hierarchy of Effects Model suggests a linear sequence of stages, in reality, the process is often non-linear, with consumers moving back and forth between stages. Moreover, the effectiveness of the model is enhanced when multiple strategies are integrated into the advertising campaign. For example, combining cognitive elements with affective appeals can create a powerful and memorable advertisement that resonates with the target audience.

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What are the Various Stages in the Hierarchy of Effects of Model


The first stage of the Hierarchy of Effects model is awareness. This means creating brand awareness among potential customers. Successful advertisements strive to cut through the noise and grab the attention of the audience. Whether it’s through catchy slogans, compelling visuals, or impactful storytelling, the goal is to make consumers aware of the brand and its products or services.


Once consumers are aware of a brand, the next stage is to provide them with relevant information and knowledge. Advertisements should highlight the unique selling propositions (USPs) of the product or service, emphasizing the benefits and features that set it apart from competitors. By providing information, marketers can help consumers form favorable opinions and increase their understanding of the brand.


After acquiring knowledge about a brand, consumers enter the liking stage. This stage focuses on building positive associations and emotional connections with the brand. Advertisements can achieve this by incorporating elements that consumers can relate to or by using storytelling techniques that resonate with their values and aspirations. Creating likability helps in fostering customer loyalty and sets the stage for purchase intent.


The preference stage is where consumers start to demonstrate a clear bias towards a particular brand or product. Advertisements should aim to influence consumers to consider the brand as their top choice when making a purchase decision. This can be achieved by emphasizing key differentiators and highlighting previous customer experiences or testimonials to reinforce the brand’s reputation.


Building on the preference stage, marketers aim to convert brand preference into conviction. Conviction refers to the consumer’s strong belief that the brand is the best choice. Advertisements should focus on addressing any doubts or concerns consumers may have and provide compelling evidence to support their claims. This could involve presenting scientific data, customer reviews, or endorsements from trusted authorities in the industry.


The final stage of the Hierarchy of Effects model is the action stage. This is where consumers make their purchasing decision and take action. Marketers need to provide clear and compelling calls-to-action in their advertisements, guiding consumers

to take the desired action, whether it is making a purchase, signing up for a service, or subscribing to a newsletter. Incentives or limited-time offers can also be effective in driving immediate actions.

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Criticisms to Hierarchy of Effects Model

Hierarchy of Effects Model
Hierarchy of Effects Model Criticisms


One of the main criticisms of the Hierarchy of Effects model is that it oversimplifies the complex nature of consumer behavior. The model suggests a linear progression from awareness, to knowledge, to liking, to preference, and ultimately to purchase. However, in reality, consumers may not follow this exact sequence. Their decision-making process may include multiple factors and steps influenced by external influences, personal preferences, and situational factors.

Limited Focus on Emotional Responses

The Hierarchy of Effects model primarily focuses on cognitive processes, neglecting the importance of emotional responses in advertising. Emotional appeals play a significant role in influencing consumer behavior, and by ignoring them, the model fails to capture the complete picture. Emotional connections created through advertising can have a significant impact on consumers’ purchase decisions, but this aspect is not adequately addressed in the model.

Lack of Consideration for Post-Purchase Behavior

Another criticism of the Hierarchy of Effects model is its limited focus on the post-purchase behavior of consumers. The model emphasizes the purchase as the final stage, ignoring the importance of post-purchase satisfaction and loyalty. In reality, consumer behavior does not end with the purchase; it involves ongoing evaluation and future purchase decisions based on previous experiences. Ignoring this aspect weakens the model’s ability to provide a comprehensive understanding of consumer behavior.

Inadequate Reflection of Consumer Decision-Making Processes

The Hierarchy of Effects model assumes a rational decision-making process, where consumers gather information, evaluate alternatives, and make logical choices. However, the reality is that consumers are not always rational decision-makers. Emotions, social influences, and personal biases often play a significant role in shaping consumer behavior. Therefore, the model fails to fully capture the complexity and variability of consumer decision-making.

Cultural and Contextual Differences

The Hierarchy of Effects model does not account for cultural and contextual differences in consumer behavior. Consumer responses to advertising messages can vary significantly based on cultural norms, values, and societal influences. The model’s standardized approach overlooks the importance of tailoring advertising strategies to specific markets and target audiences, which can limit its applicability in diverse cultural contexts

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