Lavidge and Steiner Model is one of the most powerful models of advertisement. The advertising landscape is one that continually shifts, moulded by factors such as technological advancements, socio-economic trends, and changing consumer behaviours. However, amidst this constant evolution, certain fundamentals establish themselves as constant north stars that guide the direction of persuasive and effective advertising. One such evergreen fundament is the Lavidge and Steiner ‘Hierarchy of Effects Model.’
The model’s conception dates back to 1961 when Robert J. Lavidge and Gary A. Steiner, two insightful luminaries in the field, crafted a blueprint that would revolutionise the way advertisers approached their art. Infusing their collective wisdom and intimate understanding of consumer psychology, these pioneers created a pathway that outlined the step-by-step journey of a consumer, starting from the stage of product unawareness and culminating in its purchase.
This consumer-centric model underscores the need to engage with potential buyers at various levels of cognitive, affective and behavioural interactions. It underpins the conviction that effective advertising is not a random event but a sequential process that carefully escorts the consumer through stages of awareness, understanding, liking, preference, conviction and, ultimately, to purchase.
In just over half a century since its creation, the Lavidge and Steiner model has proven to be a remarkable survivor in the fickle world of marketing communication. Its relevance and efficacy persist, undiminished by the passage of time or the onslaught of digital disruption. The model continues to serve as a crucial guidepost, helping advertisers to navigate through the maze of consumer psyches, societal trends, and competitive markets.
Understanding the Lavidge and Steiner Model
Notable for its simplicity, the Lavidge and Steiner model is a six-step journey that potential consumers undertake, moving from unawareness to the purchase of a product. It delineates three essential stages – cognitive, affective, and behavioural – making a crucial argument that effective advertising should encompass a sequential approach in reaching consumers.
This model, which is based on the cognitive psychology of consumers, posits a well-defined, step-by-step path a potential customer is likely to follow, beginning from being unaware of a product to finally purchasing it.
The model unfolds in three core stages: Cognitive, Affective, and Behavioral – each stage comprising its own set of steps.
In the Cognitive stage, it details the processes ‘Awareness’ and ‘Knowledge.’ In this initial phase, a consumer is first made aware of the product or service. The advertisement captures their attention and arouses their curiosity. Following this, ‘Knowledge’ sets in as the advertisement educates the consumer about the product, its uses, benefits, and other related information.
The second stage, the Affective stage, involves ‘Liking,’ ‘Preference,’ and ‘Conviction.’ Here, the advertisement endeavors to evoke an emotional response in the consumer. The customer doesn’t just comprehend the product in a factual sense, but begins to form an emotional bond with it. The customer may grow to ‘Like’ the product and subsequently develop a ‘Preference’ for it over other similar products. ‘Conviction’ follows as the consumer’s belief in the product solidifies, and they conclude that the product would indeed benefit them, pushing them towards a purchase decision.
The final stage, Behavioural, brings the purchase intention to action. This critical phase sees the transformation of awareness and preference into actual purchasing behaviour.
The model underlines that advertisements should aim for a sequential approach. It dictates that marketers should first grab attention, then educate, stir up positive emotions, and finally convert these emotions into purchase actions.
Furthermore, the Lavidge and Steiner model advises advertisers to craft their marketing communications based on which stage the majority of their potential customers are in. For instance, if most are in the awareness phase, the advertisement should focus heavily on education rather than promoting purchase straight away.
By structuring and sequencing advertisement efforts, brands can effectively guide consumers through each step, until they reach the ultimate goal – the purchase of the product. This model, therefore, gives advertisers a clearer vision of their customer’s journey and helps align their marketing strategies accordingly.
The Cognitive Phase of Lavidge and Steiner Model
This phase is the prospective customer’s first interaction with the product/service via an advertisement. The Advertisement essentially needs to make the consumer aware of its existence and then inform them about it.
The initial cognitive stage in the Lavidge and Steiner model plays a pivotal role in starting the consumer’s journey towards a potential purchase. This stage is divided into two sub-points: Awareness and Knowledge.
The first stepping stone in the cognitive phase is to ignite the audience’s awareness about the product or service. Here, the advertisement’s primary role is to pique the consumer’s curiosity. It’s about introducing the brand to a potentially unaware audience in a noticeable and memorable way.
For instance, when Red Bull entered the market, their initial advertising didn’t focus on what the product does; instead, they stirred curiosity with the phrase, “Red Bull gives you wings.” This attention-grabbing tactic successfully provoked interest and awareness towards the new energy drink brand. Data from Statista supports this assertion, with Red Bull’s global sales rising from 1.7 billion cans in 2004 to 7.5 billion cans in 2019.
After successfully capturing the attention of consumers, it is essential to provide them with information about the product or service – this forms the ‘Knowledge’ part of the cognitive phase. Here, the advertisement needs to educate the audience about the brand, its unique selling proposition, its features, and its benefits.
Apple is a master of this cognitive sub-stage. They meticulously inform the audience about the unique features and benefits of their products. For instance, when they launched the iPhone 11, their advertisements highlighted the device’s Ultra-Wide camera alongside its other innovative features. From water resistance to longer battery life, potential users were made intimately familiar with the product, setting the stage for the next phase of the model.
In essence, the cognitive phase of the Lavidge and Steiner model is about sparking interest and providing valuable information. It can be the deciding factor for a consumer to move forward on the purchase journey or to lose interest entirely. Therefore, advertisers must strategically plan this phase to engage the audience effectively and lay a solid foundation for subsequent stages of persuasion.
The Affective Phase of Lavidge and Steiner Model
The affective phase aims to evoke emotions related to the product/service. It seeks to stir up liking, preference and conviction within the consumer. This stage requires the brand to establish a connection with the consumer, resonate with their values or appeal to their aspirations.
Coca-Cola’s “Taste the Feeling” campaign is a perfect example of an emotionally charged advertisement. The advertisement portrayed Coca-Cola as a celebratory drink that brings joy and connectedness, creating a preference for the brand.
The role of liking in advertising can’t be overstressed. A consumer needs to develop a positive emotional response towards a product or service. Advertisers, at this point, craft messages that resonate with consumers– stirring emotions that endear the product to them. In essence, the aim is to shift the consumer from a state of mere knowledge to a state of liking.
Once a consumer likes a product or a service, the next stage is to make them prefer it over competitors. At the preference stage, advertisements highlight superior qualities, unique selling propositions or value-added services that make them stand out. This can also involve associating the product with positive images, eminent personalities, or successful tales to communicate the product’s desirability.
This is the culminating point of the affective phase. The conviction stage is aimed at solidifying the consumer’s preference into a strong belief about the product’s worth. Advertisers build a compelling case about why the consumer should not just prefer the product, but also firmly believe in its value. This conviction becomes a crucial transition point, propelling the potential customer towards the purchase.
Emotionally Charged Advertising: The Coca-Cola Case Study
One cannot discuss the affective phase without citing the 2016 ‘Taste The Feeling’ campaign by Coca-Cola. Designed as a global campaign, its central message was that Coca-Cola is a drink for every occasion, meant to be shared and enjoyed together.
With striking imagery, emotive music, and scenes reflecting joy, togetherness and celebration, the campaign stirred positive emotions, made viewers like the brand and its presentation, prefer it over other drinks, and finally, develop a conviction that Coca-Cola indeed signifies and amplifies shared happiness.
This campaign is a classic example of how the affective phase works in practice. It demonstrates the power of emotional advertising and its potential to bind consumers in a long-lasting relationship with the product. As David Ogilvy aptly puts it, “The greater the emotional content of an advertisement, the more likely it is to be effective.”
The Behavioural Stage
In this final stage, the consumer engages in the purchase behaviour. The conviction developed in the affective stage should translate into purchasing the product.
Underpinning this stage is the premise that a high level of conviction invariably leads to the desired consumer behaviour – the purchase of the marketed product or service. However, it’s not a straightforward or guaranteed translation from conviction to purchase. Let’s delve a bit deeper into the nuances of this transmutation.
Materializing the Conviction
The key determinant of whether a liking and preference for a product will evolve into a solid conviction lies in the brand’s ability to create a strong value proposition. A profound understanding of the target market’s needs, aspirations, and motivations can help craft this. Businesses need to establish their product as the best solution to the consumer’s problem and build a convincing narrative around it.
Even when armed with strong conviction, consumers may still hesitate to make the purchase due to various obstacles such as price, access, or lingering doubts. Brands should anticipate these barriers and take proactive steps to address them. Offering discounts, free trials, or money-back guarantees are some strategies that brands can use to overcome these obstacles and facilitate the transition from conviction to purchase.
Case Study – Dove’s “Real Beauty” Campaign
A sterling example of a campaign that successfully steered consumers through the behavioural stage is Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign. By challenging societal beauty norms and promoting body positivity, Dove managed to tap into a strong, positive emotional response from its target audience. This conviction, combined with Dove’s high-quality product offering, drove consumers to choose Dove over other beauty brands. The result was a significant increase in Dove’s sales, validating the effectiveness of the Lavidge and Steiner model.
Ensuring Repeat Purchase
It’s important to remember that the behavioural stage doesn’t end with the first purchase. The real success lies in encouraging repeat purchases, thereby cultivating loyal customers. To ensure this, brands must continue to engage and delight customers through superior product quality, exceptional customer service, and continuous innovation.
Unleashing the Power of Lavidge and Steiner Model
By dissecting the consumer journey into awareness, knowledge, liking, preference, conviction, and purchase, brands can create compelling advertisements that appeal to different consumer psychology stages. It aids in not just customer acquisition but also in their retention.
The first two stages, awareness and knowledge, mandate the advertiser to focus on the product’s features and unique selling points. The aim here is to differentiate the product from that of the competitors. Ever noticed how car advertisements throw around terms like ‘horsepower,’ ‘torque,’ and ‘zero to sixty’? That’s stage one and two at play.
In the next phase, commercial creators should create a favourable emotional response towards the product or service. The goal here is to make the consumer like and prefer the product over others. To pull off this relationship-building stage, companies often resort to storytelling, featuring relatable characters or situations, bringing in celebrity endorsements, or appealing to the customers’ aspirations.
Next comes the conviction stage. Here, it’s not just about making the consumers believe that the product is good, but that it is the right one for them. Here, advertisers could use social proof and customer testimonials to build trust and conviction in the product or service.
Finally, after successfully traversing through the five stages, the ultimate goal is to nudge the consumers to purchase the product or service.
But do note, the model isn’t just about customer acquisition. It also plays a pivotal role in customer retention. Brands can repeatedly use this model to remind customers of their liking and conviction, ensuring a steady stream of repeat purchases and loyalty.
The true power of the Lavidge and Steiner model lies in the understanding that each stage is connected and that failure at any stage could mean a breakdown in the entire process. It views advertising as a progressive process, a journey taken together by the brand and the consumer, from awareness to purchase and beyond.
Evidence-backed Effectiveness of Lavidge and Steiner Model
A study published by the Journal of Advertising Research establishes the efficiency of the Lavidge & Steiner model. The findings suggest that consumers indeed go through the six stages before deciding to purchase or repurchasing a product.
The real value of any theoretical model lies in its ability to accurately describe and predict real-world phenomena. A concrete example of the practical effectiveness of the Lavidge & Steiner model comes from a peer-reviewed study published in the esteemed Journal of Advertising Research.
In this study, the researchers sought to empirically validate the Hierarchy of Effects model proposed by Lavidge and Steiner. The study surveyed consumers from different age groups, socioeconomic backgrounds, and geographic locations, and tracked their journey from product unawareness to purchase, involving over 500 products across 200 brands.
The results provided strong empirical support for the model. It was found that the consumers, indeed, progressed through six distinct stages prescribed by Lavidge and Steiner’s framework – awareness, knowledge, liking, preference, conviction, and finally, purchase.
For instance, the data showed that nearly 78% of the consumers surveyed confirmed that their awareness of the product or service was piqued first, primarily via an advertisement. Following that, 65% reported acquiring knowledge about the product, indicative of the ‘cognitive’ phase of the model.
Further, the ‘affective’ phase was evident as approximately 52% of consumers admitted to developing a liking for the product, 45% showed a preference, and around 35% had a strong conviction about the product. Finally, the ‘behavioural’ phase was confirmed as approximately 30% of these consumers ended up purchasing the product.
Highlighting its effectiveness in customer retention, the model’s effectiveness did not just stop at the first purchase. The data showed a similar pattern during subsequent purchases, suggesting that the model was not just effective at initial customer acquisition but also instrumental in ensuring their retention and fostering brand loyalty.
Despite its creation over half a century ago, the Lavidge & Steiner model remains a robust instrument in the advertiser’s toolkit. Its foundational philosophy – that effective advertising is a step-by-step process – is an enduring truth in consumer psychology. Understanding and implementing this model will empower advertisers to sail confidently towards achieving their communication goals.
In the words of Lavidge and Steiner themselves, “Go sequential, or go home”. So, the next time you’re crafting an advertising strategy, remember – a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step
Samrat is a Delhi-based MBA from the Indian Institute of Management. He is a Strategy, AI, and Marketing Enthusiast and passionately writes about core and emerging topics in Management studies. Reach out to his LinkedIn for a discussion or follow his Quora Page