The three dimensions of communication effects are: cognitive, affective/attitudinal, and behavioral. Collectively, the three dimensions emphasize the interrelationship between knowing, feeling, and doing among consumers. The first dimension – cognitive – refers to the beliefs or knowledge a consumer holds about a product or brand. Specific effects of this dimension include awareness, attention and knowledge of the particular product/brand. The second dimension – affective – refers to the way a consumer feels about a product or brand; it represents emotions or opinions. Specific effects of this dimension include liking and preference. The third dimension – behavioral – involves the intentions or actual behavior a consumer has in regard to the product or brand. The specific effect of this dimension includes purchase.
Most advertisers will say that the most important dimension of communication effects is the cognitive dimension because it includes the awareness and knowledge of a product or brand. One of advertising’s purposes is that it introduces products/brands to consumers so that they have awareness and knowledge of them. Without awareness or knowledge the consumer does not know that the product/brand exists and therefore cannot make a decision in regard to the product/brand. It can be assumed that if the consumer is not aware of or does not have knowledge of the product/brand than they cannot experience the other two dimensions – affective and behavioral. Ultimately the cognitive dimension is the start of the AIDA model, without the cognitive dimension a consumer cannot make an action in regard to a product/brand.
Unaided awareness, top-of-mind awareness, aided awareness and familiarity are all types of advertising awareness. First, unaided awareness is achieved when a consumer identifies a brand/product without being prompted. Top-of-mind awareness is a subset of unaided awareness; it is achieved when a consumer identifies a brand/product before any other one. Aided awareness is achieved when a consumer can identify that they are aware of a brand/product when they are prompted. Familiarity is a subset of aided awareness. It is achieved when a consumer not only knows or has heard about a brand, but also knows about the brand and it’s personality. Top-of-mind awareness is particularly coveted by brands because it is the brand that first comes to a consumer’s mind. According to Kelley and Jugenheimer (2010) research has shown that a brand’s market share can be highly correlated with unaided awareness; market share leaders are often the brands that lead the category in awareness. Therefore, top-of-mind awareness is the most important advertising effect.
Advertising’s immediate objective should never be strictly sales. Although sales are an important long-term goal, advertising should not be thought of as a means-to-an-end where sales is the only objective and once achieved there is no reason to continue. Even though a consumer purchases a product once, it does not go to say that the consumer will be a repeat purchase or that they will become an advocate for a brand. Sales are important. However, if consumers do not continue to buy a product/brand more than once than it was a one-time affect that did not increase brand equity in the consumer’s mind. Also, it is hard to isolate advertising sales completely from other factors that could have contributed to sales. Therefore, it will be difficult to measure the effect advertising had on purchase behavior. For these reasons, advertising’s immediate objective should not be sales. Advertising should focus on the cognitive and affective dimensions of effects rather than behavioral because the cognitive and affective dimensions will drive the behavioral dimension in the end.
Kelley, L. D., & Jugenheimer, D. W. (2010). Advertising account planning: Planning and managing an IMC campaign (2nd ed.). Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe.