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Hierarchy-of-Effects Theory


The Hierarchy-of-Effects Theory is a marketing communication model that indicates the sequential thought processes of a customer from the moment they become aware of a product to the point of action or purchase. It suggests that a customer moves through six stages: awareness, knowledge, liking, preference, conviction, and purchase. The theory is used by advertiser to create effective advertisement strategies and campaigns.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Hierarchy-of-Effects Theory” is: “ˈhaɪəˌrɑːki ɒv ɪˈfɛkts ˈθiːəri”

Key Takeaways

  1. Awareness: The Hierarchy-of-Effects Theory begins with the understanding that a consumer must first be made aware of a product or a brand. This entails making sure that the product or brand is visible in the marketplace and that the consumer understands its basic functionality and benefits.
  2. Interest and Desire: Once a consumer knows of the product or brand, it is essential to generate interest and desire for it. This involves creating persuasive messaging around the benefits and advantages of the product or service, making a compelling case for why the consumer should consider purchasing it.
  3. Action: The final stage in the Hierarchy-of-Effects Theory is getting the consumer to act. This may involve purchasing the product, recommending it to others, subscribing to a service, and so on. This stage involves designing effective calls-to-action and providing an easy and seamless sales process for the consumer.


The Hierarchy-of-Effects Theory is crucial in business and finance because it provides a systematic framework for understanding the stages a consumer goes through, from initial awareness of a product or service, to the final action of purchase. This step-by-step model can help marketers and advertisers devise effective strategies at each stage to stimulate customer movement towards a purchase. It also aids in measuring the effectiveness of marketing and advertising campaigns by identifying at which stage consumers are getting stuck, and therefore, allows for the tailoring of strategies to improve customer progression. In essence, understanding this theory is important for improving sales, customer conversion rates, and overall marketing effectiveness.


The Hierarchy-of-Effects Theory is a central tool in the field of marketing and advertising that often informs strategic planning. Its main purpose is to provide a model of how advertising influences a consumer’s decision-making process, illustrating a sequence of steps that prospective customers move through, from the initial awareness of a product or service, to the final action, which typically involves purchasing. This theory is used to develop advertisements that can effectively lead customers through this progression. In practical terms, this model helps businesses understand which messages are most effective at different stages to maintain customer engagement in the long term. For instance, messages aimed at increasing product awareness would be different from those designed to stimulate an actual purchase. Furthermore, it provides a framework for assessing the effectiveness and impact of various marketing strategies. Therefore, the Hierarchy-of-Effects Theory is an essential tool for businesses to guide their advertising efforts and maximize their impact on consumer behavior.


1. Coca-Cola’s Advertising Campaigns: Coca-Cola is a classic example of the implementation of the Hierarchy-of-Effects Theory. Initially, they make consumers aware of their product through various advertising channels such as TV ads, online campaigns, billboards, etc. Secondly, through their consistent branding and strong global presence, they develop an understanding and liking for their product in the minds of consumers. Finally, they bring in the decision-making and action steps through promotional offers or new flavor launches that may encourage consumers to make a purchase.2. Nike’s Marketing Strategy: Nike applies the Hierarchy-of-Effects Theory in their marketing strategy. First, they use celebrity endorsements, catchy slogans, and visually appealing ads to raise awareness and recognition. They then provide detailed product information and positive product associations, which improves consumer knowledge and liking. Finally, they convert this liking into purchase and repurchase actions through the introduction of new and innovative products, and by providing excellent customer service and experience.3. Apple’s Product Launches: Apple epitomizes the effective use of Hierarchy-of-Effects Theory. The launch of a new product starts with an announcement that generates widespread awareness. The company then educates potential customers about the product, stirring up interest. Apple’s distinctive brand image and quality of their products generate a desire among customers. Finally, with the much-anticipated product release, customers line up to purchase the new product, completing the final stages of the model.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is Hierarchy-of-Effects Theory in business?

The Hierarchy-of-Effects Theory is a marketing communication concept that suggests a logical progression of six steps a consumer follows when making a purchase. These steps are: awareness, knowledge, liking, preference, conviction, and purchase.

Who developed the Hierarchy-of-Effects Theory?

Robert J. Lavidge and Gary A. Steiner developed the Hierarchy-of-Effects Theory in 1961.

What are the six stages of the Hierarchy-of-Effects Theory?

The six stages include: Awareness, where the customer becomes aware of the product or brand; Knowledge, where the customer learns what the product is and what it does; Liking, where the customer develops a positive attitude towards the product; Preference, where the customer starts to prefer the product over competitors; Conviction, where the customer believes that the product is the best option; and finally, Purchase, where the customer buys the product.

How is the Hierarchy-of-Effects Theory useful in marketing strategy?

The Hierarchy-of-Effects Theory helps marketers develop campaigns and messages that move consumers along these six stages. By understanding the customer’s journey, marketers can create more effective strategies to boost product awareness, generate positive product beliefs and attitudes, and eventually stimulate purchase.

Does the Hierarchy-of-Effects Theory apply to all types of products or services?

While the theory is widely used in many different types of marketing campaigns, it might not apply to all products or services. It is most effective in situations where the buyer has to go through a decision-making process before making a purchase.

Can the stages of the Hierarchy-of-Effects Theory be skipped?

While it may be possible in some cases for a consumer to skip a stage, the theory suggests that a logical flow from awareness to purchase is the most effective way to secure a sale. However, the stages a consumer goes through can vary depending on the individual consumer’s buying habits and the type of product or service.

What is an example of the Hierarchy-of-Effects Theory in use?

An example could be a car manufacturer’s marketing strategy. Initially, television advertisements could be used to generate awareness. Then, detailed online content could provide knowledge about the car’s features. Test drives and customer reviews could generate liking and preference. Special deals or trade-in offers could provide conviction, leading to the final stage, purchase.

Related Finance Terms

  • Awareness: The first step of the Hierarchy-of-Effects Theory, where consumers recognize or become conscious of a brand.
  • Interest: The stage in which consumers express a general curiosity or desire to learn more about a particular brand or product.
  • Evaluation: The stage where consumers ponder or assess the brand’s offering against its competitors.
  • Trial: The stage in the Marketing Communication model, where consumers test out or experience the product or service.
  • Adoption: The final stage in the Hierarchy-of-Effects Theory, where consumers make the decision to become a regular user of the product or service, converting from prospects to customers.

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