The 4 Degrees of Consumer Engagement – A Simple Yet Powerful Behavioral Insight

Amongst the infinite array of products and experiences clambering for attention, how do consumers decide where to spend their two most precious resources: time and money? Find out where your offering delivers a heaping dose of value using the Product Experience Hierarchy.

As marketers, we spend an overwhelming amount of our time considering other humans. Our job description reads something like ‘one part storyteller, two parts magician’ – the true crux of our work being our ability to Houdini ourselves into the minds of our prospects.

We bombard our research data with every analytical tool under the sun, pore over our expertly-honed consumer personas, take a fine-toothed comb to each and every inch of our brand messaging (God forbid we miss something and the Internet descends), plot and refine our campaigns months and even years in advance, and still…the nagging notion “am I missing something?” is never lurking far from mind.

The fact is, sometimes we become so absorbed in the high-level nature of our work – nay, our art! – that we overanalyze our customer base and the values that motivate them to make a purchase.

Enter Consumer DNA’s very own Product Experience Hierarchy – a consumer insights framework that provides a simple illustration of how consumers decide where to spend their money and time. Abraham Maslow’s proven and enduring Hierarchy of Needs forms the basis of our understanding of the totality of human behavior; however, the customer journey is one specific pathway by which people fulfill their needs and can thereby be defined by a more specific model.

The Product Experience Hierarchy details four distinct levels of consumer engagement: spanning from Novelty, Task Accomplishment, and Personal Growth, all the way to the very highest: Transcendence.

“We live in an unprecedented era of innovation, which has resulted in a multitude of interesting, new product choices,” asserts Michael Kassab, CEO of ConsumerDNA. “Every consumer chooses a different selection of products and services that maximizes value and molds them into the person they want to be. It’s about development and refinement of the self, or of friends and family.”

The 4 Levels: Let’s Zoom In

Each level of consumer engagement carries it’s own hallmark qualities and distinguishing characteristics. Let’s take a closer look at each of the four levels and a smattering of products that fall within the bounds of each category.


Novelty is the factor that gets most of our attention, but that is short lived unless the product connects with us at a deeper, more meaningful level,” Michael reflects. For example, current fitness trackers may allow us to monitor a handful of our own biometric signals but these limited functions will fall short of expectations until utility exceeds novelty.

Task Accomplishment

When a product enables the user to perform an essential human task quicker, easier, or better, we can say that the consumer engages with the product at the level of task accomplishment. This especially applies to product lifecycle management, where design and technology improvements are expected in each new generation. Every year, smartphone users see improvements in the speed and computing abilities of their mobile devices with global social connectivity, increasing options for streaming media, and higher and higher-quality cameras to boot.

Personal Growth

The value of a product skyrockets once the user experiences it as a means of Personal Growth and Accomplishment – when it becomes instrumental in the process of attaining the personal goals of the end-user. These can take the form of social conquests, skill development, health and wellbeing, or development of intellectual prowess. The most recent advancements in technical fabric allows outdoor performance clothing (and the humans contained within them) to weather the elements like never before. This enhanced comfort pairs well with new and improved gear to enable spectacular mountaineering achievements.


The highest degree of value is Transcendence.  At this level, the product becomes inspirational. These product experiences imply new potentials and pathways forward.  It is a source of creative energy that is refreshing and regenerating to the end user. The shopping experience at today’s premium food market is a culinary tour of the world. It allows for the individual to grow as a culinary expert – they are continually inspired with each new shopping experience. (The free samples don’t hurt either.)

The Product Experience Hierarchy is distilled from consumer behavior studies across more than 50 product categories and hundreds of brands that represent thousands of product use experiences.

In our experience, these levels are somewhat fluid and products can mean different things to different segments of your customer base.

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