Is the Hierarchy of Effects Dead or Alive?



Advertising influences purchase behavior when it changes how consumers think and feel about brands.  The Hierarchy of Effects (HoE) model has been the most influential framework to analyze intermediate effects of advertising and has guided advertising decisions for decades. The HoE model captures the influence of advertising on sales through a chain of sequential effects conceptualized as Cognition, Affect, and Experience. However, an extensive review found little support for any hierarchy, thus implying the death of HoE. That conclusion was not based on empirical comparisons of possible hierarchies. This paper analyzes how mindset metrics intermediate the marketing effects on sales for the top brands in fifteen categories over seven years. It compares the fit of 26 models proposed in the literature, and concludes that the original concept of hierarchy (which signifies “sequentiality”) holds up firmly. However, the sequence varies across brands, with the Affect→Cognition→Experience being the most prevalent. Classical dimensions of category characteristics (hedonism and involvement) do not predict which sequence applies, but do moderate the effects of marketing on mindset metrics. The results give brand managers the key insight that the exact hierarchical sequence can make a real difference for advertising efforts that influence consumers’ hearts, minds, and experiences.