The Power of the Awareness-Intent Matrix: Stages of Awareness

Stages of Awareness: Mastering Messaging with Schwartz's 2D Awareness-Intent Model

How to align your communication and copy with customer readiness AND awareness for improved engagement and higher conversion rates.

Bastian Moritz
Apr 2024

The concept of moving through a journey or stages is deeply rooted in marketing theory and consumer behavior studies.

This is a comprehensive and academically rigorous overview of the Stages of Awareness.

Original: Hierarchy of Effects Model

The foundational model, often called the "Hierarchy of Effects," was developed by Robert J. Lavidge and Gary A. Steiner in their seminal 1961 paper. This model is expanded into various advanced interpretations which you might find valuable for an in-depth academic perspective, otherwise I recommend you to skip to Eugen Schwartz’s model.

Lavidge and Steiner's model presents these stages as a linear process through which a consumer moves from ignorance to purchase:

  1. Awareness: Consumer knows of the product but lacks details.
  2. Knowledge: Consumer understands what the product does.
  3. Liking: Consumer forms a favorable opinion of the product.
  4. Preference: Consumer prefers the product over others.
  5. Conviction: Consumer believes the product is beneficial and suitable.
  6. Purchase: Consumer buys the product.

Advanced Awareness Models and Frameworks

Various adaptations and expansions of this “Pre-Connectivity Period aka before-the-interwebs Model” have been developed since, to fit different contexts, such as online consumer behavior, services marketing, and social media engagement.

Some of these include the AIDA Model (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action), which emphasizes the attention-grabbing stage before moving through interest and desire, leading to action (purchase). It's particularly relevant in advertising and online marketing.

The Think-Feel-Do Model model aligns cognitive (think), affective (feel), and behavioral (do) responses to marketing, useful in emotional branding and customer engagement strategies.

Developed by McKinsey, the Customer Decision Journey (CDJ) model presents a non-linear path that incorporates active evaluation and post-purchase experience, reflecting the dynamic ways consumers interact with brands and products in the digital age.

REAN (Reach, Engage, Activate, Nurture) focuses on the touchpoints in digital marketing, emphasizing ongoing customer engagement and retention alongside acquisition.

The possibilities and disruption of the “Digital age” has made “both researchers and management practitioners to look at the hierarchical framework from a different perspective” (Chakravarty and Sarma 2022). You are no longer just buying advertisement placement from a newspaper that calls you up. Meaning the effectiveness and limitations of each model have dramatically shifted since, both in digital versus traditional media as well as in different market contexts, such as B2B versus B2C. And it is now up to you to critically analyze how these models can be integrated into comprehensive marketing strategies that leverage your data analytics, your customer relationship management (CRM) tools, and your digital marketing tactics.

But what hasn’t changed is human psychology.

And with research fields like behavioral economics and consumer psychology our understanding has dramatically improved.

The Hierarchy of Effects model offers several benefits:

The Hierarchy of Effects model provides a clear structure for campaigns. Teams have an outline based on consumer psychology, saving them time in developing successful campaigns.

These models take customers through an entire nurturing process, they are likely to form a connection with the brand and its products, helping to understand brand loyalty. They are advanced strategies in that they approach the sale of a product or service through well-developed, persuasive advertising messages designed to build brand awareness over time.

These models describes how advertising affects consumers’ behavior and leads to the transition from not knowing a product or brand to liking it and finally making the action to purchase.

By understanding and addressing the psychological triggers and barriers at each level of the hierarchy, marketers and salespeople can optimize their campaigns, enhance their messaging, and foster brand loyalty, ultimately leading to increased conversions and improved return on investment.

Your goal should not be to guide your potential customers (prospects)through all stages of the hierarchy:

  • Not all your prospects will follow this exact path.
  • You don’t want to force a test drive on someone who just wants to buy the car now.

It is “only” a framework to inform your content, copy, creative, etc. to most effectively communicate with your ideal customers or audience member.

So understanding and using the right stages of awareness framework and models allow you to create more targeted campaigns that address the specific needs and knowledge gaps of your prospects at each stage.

This will improve the efficiency of your marketing spend and also enhances the customer experience by providing relevant information and solutions throughout their decision-making process aka customer journey.

Eugene Schwartz’s model serves as such a tool that allows you to dissect and understand market dynamics, strategize effectively, and apply your insights in real-world scenarios.

Eugene Schwartz’s Breakthrough: Awareness-Stages

The stages-of-awareness model is used in marketing to describe the different levels of customer awareness about your product or service.

The framework is foundational for understanding consumer behavior in sales and marketing, forming the basis for developing targeted marketing strategies that align with the psychological state of your ideal customer consumer at various points in their journey toward making a purchase.

The objective of understanding these stages is to tailor your marketing and sales messaging that are aligned with your prospect’s or customer's current state of awareness, thereby enhancing the effectiveness of campaign efforts, conversion rates, and ultimately, customer acquisition and retention.

The stages-of-awareness model has its roots in the work of Eugene Schwartz, a highly influential figure in advertising during the mid-20th century. Schwartz detailed this concept in his book Breakthrough Advertising published in 1966.

Schwartz's model emphasizes how advertising can be tailored to meet the consumer exactly where they are in their awareness and readiness to buy. This nuanced approach helps marketers craft messages that resonate more deeply with potential customers by acknowledging their current level of awareness and leading them towards a purchasing decision.

Schwartz’s model also supports the integration of other marketing models and tools, enhancing our ability to develop comprehensive, effective marketing strategies. But before we do that let’s have a detailed look at each stage, first.

  1. Unaware: At this initial stage, the potential customer has no knowledge of the product or service. The marketing goal is to create awareness and stir curiosity through broad advertising, engaging content, and possibly through high-impact news or events.
  2. Problem-Aware: Here, the customer recognizes they have a problem but doesn't know that there are solutions available. The focus of marketing is to connect the problem with potential solutions, often through educational content that links the problem explicitly with the product being marketed.
  3. Solution-Aware: The customer knows solutions exist but is not aware of your specific product or service. Marketing strategies at this stage involve differentiating your product from competitors and highlighting its unique value propositions.
  4. Product-Aware: At this stage, the customer is aware of your product but is not yet convinced it is right for them. The strategy shifts towards providing more detailed information about the product, customer testimonials, case studies, and demonstrations of effectiveness.
  5. Most Aware: In the final stage, the customer knows your product well and just needs a final nudge to make a purchase. Marketing efforts focus on closing the sale with promotions, discounts, or time-sensitive offers that prompt immediate action.
StageDescriptionMarketing Objective
UnawareThe potential customer has no knowledge of the product or service.Create awareness and curiosity through broad advertising and engaging content.
Problem-AwareThe customer recognizes they have a problem but doesn't know there are solutions.Link the problem to potential solutions, often through educational content.
Solution-AwareThe customer knows solutions exist but is not aware of your specific product or service.Highlight the unique benefits and differentiators of your product.
Product-AwareThe customer is aware of your product but is not convinced it is the right choice for them.Provide detailed product information, testimonials, and case studies.
Most AwareThe customer knows your product well and just needs a final nudge to make a purchase.Close the sale with promotions, discounts, or urgent calls to action.


Now, there have been much more sophisticated versions of that developed with pseudo-awareness and symptom-awareness, but for now it shall suffice to get you started.

Let’s rather demonstrate the stages of awareness with how a prospect with the job-to-be-done (JTBD) of “alleviating backpain” and a job-to-be-done of "preparing for an exam" might progress through each stage of awareness, with specific oversimplified marketing strategies applied at each step.

We include a couple of competing solutions including non-consumption behaviors typical of customers at each stage.

Our prospects will be guided through the awareness stages by tailored marketing efforts, each designed to meet them at their current level of understanding and readiness, and nudge them towards purchasing a solution for their back pain.

So the application of the stages-of-awareness framework aligns your marketing efforts with the specific needs and journey of your customer.

StageProspect's Awareness & ThoughtsMarketing Strategies for Physical TherapyMarketing Strategies for AcupunctureMarketing Strategies for Ergonomic ChairsMarketing Strategies for Yoga ClassesMarketing Strategies for Non-consumption
UnawareThe prospect doesn't realize they can actively address their back pain.Use mass media to introduce stories of back pain relief through therapy.Highlight testimonials of acupuncture in general wellness programs.Promote general benefits of ergonomic living in lifestyle magazines.Feature yoga success stories on wellness blogs.Target broad audiences with general wellness information to stir curiosity.
Problem-AwareThe prospect recognizes their chronic back pain but hasn't sought solutions.Share educational content on the long-term benefits of physical therapy.Use content marketing to explain how acupuncture can alleviate pain.Highlight ergonomic chair designs specifically for back pain relief.Offer free trial yoga classes focusing on back health.Educate on the consequences of neglecting back pain.
Solution-AwareThe prospect knows solutions exist but hasn't committed to one.Compare physical therapy with less effective home remedies.Demonstrate the effectiveness of acupuncture with before-and-after scenarios.Advertise unique features and customer satisfaction of ergonomic chairs.Present evidence of yoga's effectiveness in treating back pain.Discuss the limitations of temporary relief methods like hot baths or OTC painkillers.
Product-AwareThe prospect is aware of specific treatments but isn't convinced of their efficacy.Host seminars/webinars featuring therapists discussing treatment plans.Create video testimonials and detailed patient recovery stories.Offer a 30-day trial with money-back guarantee for chairs.Run local events where people can experience the benefits of yoga firsthand.Highlight the drawbacks of delaying treatment and continuing to suffer.
Most AwareThe prospect understands that your solution might help but needs a final push to purchase.Promote limited-time discount packages for therapy sessions.Offer first session free or a discounted introductory package for new clients.Introduce end-of-year sales for ergonomic products.Provide membership discounts for long-term commitments to yoga classes.Stress the risk of chronic conditions without proper intervention.

For this specific job-to-be-done of successfully preparing for the CAM Practitioner Certification in Germany, we can detail a table that breaks down marketing strategies for four distinct approaches:

  • enrolling in a CAM Practitioner specific school,
  • studying independently with books,
  • studying independently and a prep course,
  • and non-consumption, which in this context means only aspiring without taking concrete steps.
StageProspect's Awareness & ThoughtsTraining SchoolSelf-StudySelf-Study with Prep CourseNon-consumption
UnawareThe prospect does not know about the certification or its requirements.Use informational campaigns to explain the benefits of professional certification and training.Promote success stories of self-taught practitioners.Highlight the structured approach and support of combining self-study with professional guidance.Share inspirational stories of CAM practitioners to ignite aspiration.
Problem-AwareThe prospect knows they want to be a CAM practitioner but is unsure about the certification process.Provide detailed content on how training school prepares you comprehensively for the exam.Discuss the flexibility and lower cost of independent study.Emphasize the added assurance and clarity a prep course and coach can provide.Educate on the risks and missed opportunities of not pursuing certification.
Solution-AwareThe prospect is aware that various preparation methods exist but has not decided how to proceed.Showcase testimonials and the curriculum's alignment with certification requirements.Highlight the autonomy and self-paced nature of studying alone.Outline the benefits of personalized coaching alongside self-directed learning.Illustrate the personal fulfillment and professional benefits of becoming a certified practitioner.
Product-AwareThe prospect knows about the specific training options but needs to understand which will best suit their needs.Host open days and free taster sessions to demonstrate the training environment and support.Provide comparisons of different self-study methods and their effectiveness.Offer free trial sessions or webinars with coaches to showcase the support structure.Detail stories of how training and certification have transformed others' careers.
Most AwareThe prospect is ready to commit to a path but requires final reassurance to take the next step.Emphasize the comprehensive preparation and higher success rates of school graduates.Share advanced study techniques and resources exclusive to the book-based method.Stress the customized learning plans and ongoing support from a personal coach.Motivate with final push stories highlighting the transformative impact of certification on professional practice.

In this case each solution is strategically positioned against each preparation method by leveraging their unique benefits and suitability to different learner preferences and situations. It focuses audience specific values appealing directly to the motivations and barriers faced by potential CAM practitioners at different stages of decision-making (that we identified during audience research), rather than competing on price like the example above.

You can see the result for the CAM Practitioner Exam Preparation Course in German here. But you must enter the customer journey only on the appropriate awareness and intent stage 😉

The Power of the 2-Dimensional Awareness-Intent Space

Now we see that it is a combination of knowing where they are (and meeting them there with our communication effort) as well as their readiness to buy.

This two-dimensional approach of Gene Schwartz's model is a game changer.

The power of Gene Schwartz’s Model lies in the nuanced approach of considering both the stage of your ICP’s awareness as well as their readiness to buy.

This nuanced perspective considers both the stage of the ideal customer profile's (ICP) awareness and their readiness to buy, which are essential for creating effective marketing strategies.

  1. Awareness
    On the Awareness dimension we set how familiar the ICP is with the problem they face, the existing solutions, and specifically, our product or service.
    As awareness progresses from unaware to most-aware, the marketing messages and channels used need to evolve accordingly to ensure they are appropriate for the level of knowledge and engagement of our customer.
  2. Purchase Intent (Readiness to Buy)
    The Readiness to Buy dimension gauges the customer's proximity to making a purchase decision.
    This readiness can be influenced by various factors, including the urgency of their need, the attractiveness of our offering, competitive positioning, and external economic or social triggers.

Your marketing and sales strategies need to be calibrated to not just increase awareness, but also to accelerate your customer's readiness to buy, using tactics like urgency, scarcity, or incentive-based promotions.

Let’s apply this layered approach to our earlier table to illustrate how marketing strategies require marketing communications that address both the informational needs (awareness) and motivational drivers (intent) that influence customer decisions.

The 2-dimensional space forces us to exemplify it on a single product. Let's consider ergonomic chairs as the product for this matrix. This will allow us to outline targeted marketing strategies at the intersection of customer awareness and their readiness to buy. Here's a matrix for ergonomic chairs, delineating simplified strategies across different combinations of awareness and intent:

Low Intent (Not actively seeking to buy)Moderate Intent (Seeking solutions, undecided)High Intent (Ready to buy, deciding when/from whom)
UnawareUse general advertising to raise awareness about ergonomic living.
Problem-AwareEngage with content that educates about back pain and its solutions.Highlight benefits specific to ergonomic chairs for back pain relief.
Solution-AwareDemonstrate unique features and testimonials.Showcase comparisons with other chairs and emphasize superiority.
Product-AwareProvide detailed product specifications and user reviews.Offer promotions like free trials or discounts to prompt purchase.
Most AwareUse urgency tactics (limited-time offers) to close the sale.

Detailed Strategy Descriptions:

  • Low Intent + Unaware: This strategy focuses on creating initial awareness. Here, broad advertising is used, perhaps through social media or television, to introduce the concept of ergonomic living, subtly linking it to ergonomic chairs.
  • Low Intent + Problem-Aware: Educational content plays a key role here, such as articles or videos explaining how ergonomic chairs can prevent or reduce back pain, aimed at elevating the customer from simply recognizing their pain to understanding potential solutions.
  • Moderate Intent + Problem-Aware: At this stage, marketing should start to introduce ergonomic chairs more directly, focusing on their specific benefits for back pain relief, perhaps through targeted ads or informational blog posts.
  • Moderate Intent + Solution-Aware: Here, the focus shifts to differentiating the ergonomic chair from other solutions. Testimonials, feature highlights, and perhaps interactive web content can help illustrate the chair’s benefits over other types of chairs or therapeutic methods.
  • High Intent + Solution-Aware: This strategy should leverage comparative advertising to emphasize the superiority of the ergonomic chair over competitors. Detailed spec comparisons, user success stories, and expert endorsements are effective here.
  • Moderate Intent + Product-Aware: For customers who are considering the product but aren't sold yet, providing more in-depth information can help, such as detailed reviews, product demos, or user testimonials.
  • High Intent + Product-Aware: Here, marketing efforts should focus on conversion tactics like offering a free trial, money-back guarantees, or a discount code for first-time purchases to reduce the buyer’s risk and encourage immediate action.
  • High Intent + Most Aware: Customers at this stage are almost ready to purchase but need a final push. Limited-time offers, flash sales, or exclusive deals can be effective in securing the purchase.

This matrix provides a structured approach to developing marketing strategies based on the intersection of where potential customers stand in their awareness of the product and their readiness to make a purchase.

And this is what you need great messaging that is relevant and effective but also helps optimizing your campaign resources and efforts.

Strategic Communication for Awareness and Intent

Your marketing and sales strategies require strategic communication that address both the informational needs (awareness) and motivational drivers (intent) that influence customer decisions.

With these 2 dimensions, Schwartz’s model allows us actively engage with the customer’s journey, not just passively present information (which could be simply a series of ad placements or promotions) – no, thanks to this approach we can become more creative and be of service to our customers.

It helps us in crafting messages that are relevant and compelling enough to move our ideal customer closer to a purchase, thus optimizing our marketing efforts for higher conversion rates and their jobs-to-be-done closer to the dream outcome they deserve.

And this is how you design and implement marketing campaigns that are both strategic and responsive to customer states and needs.

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