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Two Consumer Behavior Models: Hierarchy of Effects and Elaboration Likelihood

Understanding consumer behavior, decision making and buying are critical aspects of any business. Consumer behavior models is just one of the many ways (real time observation and analyzing past data are some others) experts simplify this complex process. Let's look at two consumer behavior models: Hierarchy of Effects and Elaboration Likelihood Model.

Hierarchy of Effects: This suggests consumer buying behavior can be explained in phases. We need to influence and monitor these phases which range from first influencing the lower  level objectives such as awareness and understanding of the product to higher level objectives such as associating feelings with the product to encouraging purchase and regular use. This can be represented by a pyramid with fewer consumers  at the top than the bottom and each step has definite methods such as advertising or a sales promotion to encourage consumers to embrace the phase and move to the next in order to ultimately purchase the product. There are variations to this model as seen in the image below. Some examples: A fridge is utilitarian for most but Sub-Zero is hedonic. Toothpaste is mundane for most, but Tom’s could be considered utilitarian or self expressive. For some wealthy individuals, a Mercedes Benz may be mundane. A person could be a utilitarian when she starts to use the product and later be hedonic.

Elaboration Likelihood Model: Assumes consumers choose two routes before they decide which product to buy - the central or the peripheral route. The central route assumes customers are highly motivated, read a lot, weigh alternatives and make rational decisions. The peripheral route assumes buying is an emotional decision. Consumers can be persuaded  through cognitive and emotional responses and not through rationale or heuristics. For example, using the cartoon character Snoopy in Metlife's advertisements. Consumers tend to choose one over the other based on the type of product (big purchases could be peripheral decisions such as a car) and type of personality.

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