The past, present and future of AIDA’s impact on marketing
There is a long standing claim that the average American is exposed to 5,000 ads each day. Although I do not know if this is a verifiable fact, I do know that the number of messages across an ever increasing number of channels means that it is increasingly difficult for any single message to cut through the clutter and get heard (or seen). For this reason, those crafting marketing communications (the Promotion P of the 4 P’s) face a daunting challenge. However, help may come in the form of the AIDA model, a century old model developed long before the golden age of advertising. The AIDA model attempts to map the different cognitive and behavioral tasks that an advertisement (or any marketing communication) must accomplish to achieve its objectives of driving a consumer to choose your brand.
The origins of the AIDA model?
The AIDA model originated in the world of advertising. Many experts attribute the creation of the model to Elias St. Elmo Lewis, a 19th century advertising pioneer. In several of his publications on advertising, Lewis outlined three core principles to effective advertising:
“The mission of an advertisement is to attract a reader, so that he will look at the advertisement and start to read it; then to interest him, so that he will continue to read it; then to convince him, so that when he has read it he will believe it. If an advertisement contains these three qualities of success, it is a successful advertisement.”
In later works, he added the phrase “get action.”
What does AIDA mean?
The AIDA model is an early example of what is called a hierarchy of effects model. A hierarchy of effects model is one that demonstrates a series of sequential steps or stages that it is believed consumers move through when they make a purchase decision.
The AIDA model starts with ATTENTION, as marketing communications must attract the attention and make the prospect aware of your product or service, if they are to be successful. Failing to do this will stop your marketing communication in its tracks. Marketers employ a number of different strategies from “click-bait headlines” to images or phrases to achieve this important step.
After you have the attention of a prospect, you need to gain their INTEREST. To accomplish this, you must inform the prospect about your product or service. Most marketing experts suggest that you can only generate sufficient interest by demonstrating the advantages and benefits of your product or service. These must also be from the standpoint of the customer, as consumers are interested in products for their own reasons, not yours.
Once a prospect has sufficient interest to consider your product or service, you must convince them that they want and DESIRE your product and service because of a direct benefit that satisfies their needs.
Finally, you have to lead the prospect towards taking ACTION by purchasing your product or service or another desired action or behavior. This is not always a sale and can include signing up for a newsletter, visiting your store, or any other engagement.
How to use the AIDA model
As stated earlier, the world is full of messages competing for your prospects attention. In order to grab someones attention, you should use powerful words and images. Your goal should be to stop them in their tracks and provide their full attention to your message. Only then could you hope to bring them to the next phase of the AIDA model.
Arousing interest from a viewer is even more challenging than getting their attention. We often see incredible advertisements fail at this stage. An arresting image or catchy title may get someone to stop and consider your message, but if you fail to show them why it may be relevant to them, they will move on to the next message. Viewers must be able to pick out relevant messages quickly.
The best way to build desire is to link features and benefits.
One of the biggest mistake we see business owners and marketers make is to not have a clear call to action. It is crucial that your marketing communications clearly state what action you want someone to take and provide the means to do so.
Other uses of the AIDA model
The basic principles of the AIDA model have been used to develop another marketing tool called the purchase funnel. This tool attempts to provide marketers with an understanding of what type of marketing communications is most likely to be effective at each of the different stages of the AIDA model. However, there are a number of marketing tools that I believe are better suited for mapping the customer purchase journey. I believe that the AIDA model is best used for its original purpose, creating effective advertisements.
AIDA as a sales funnel
Starting in the 1960’s some marketers began to utilize AIDA to visualize a funnel in which a number of potential purchasers go through stages toward final purchase with each stage containing fewer potential purchasers. These are called “purchase funnels” or “sales funnels.” This is the usage that most business owners are familiar with.
The AIDA model is more of a communications model than a decision-making model. As a communications model, AIDA can most effectively be used to determine how best to communicate to prospective customers at each stage of the model. In this usage, it is similar to the concept of Awareness Ladders. Prospects will typically be using different channels and require different information about your products or services as they move through the stages.
When the model is employed for mapping out a marketing funnel, ATTENTION is typically replaced with AWARENESS. This makes sense, as no purchase can occur until a buyer is aware of your service or product.
How to Use AIDA to Your Marketing Advantage
When using the AIDA model in a sales or marketing funnel, you must answer several questions about how to increase AWARENESS of your product or service. Questions can include:
- How do we make buyers aware of our products or services?
- What is our outreach strategy?
- What is our brand awareness campaign?
- Which tools or platforms do we use?
- What should our messaging be?
When targeting customers that are already aware of your product or service, you should instead focus on developing their INTEREST. You can accomplish this by answering questions such as:
- How will we gain their interest?
- What is our content strategy?
- Social proof available to back up our claims?
- How do we make this information available and where?
- What makes our product or service desirable?
- How do we interact personally to make an emotional connection?
- What are the call to actions and where do we place them?
- Is it easy for consumers to connect and where would they expect to find it?
TacosOnWheels: An AIDA Model Case Study Being Used as a Marketing Funnel
TacosOnWheels is a new Taco Truck operating in Austin, Texas. Before launching, the owners of TacosOnWheels used the AIDA marketing funnel model to create a marketing plan that included tactics for each stage of the AIDA marketing funnel.
Awareness: Ran a PR campaign four months prior to launch, promoting their menu, chef, and their unique flavors. This was reinforced through a direct mail campaign to customer groups targeted by demographics such as geography and age and psychographics such as taste in food, frequency of dining out, and other factors they had determined.
Interest: Executed a direct mail campaign targeting millennials offering a free drink with every burrito ordered. They used research to support that this would work, as millennials are loyal if the offer is compelling.
Desire: Close to the opening of the new taco truck, they ran exclusive local launch events which was advertised through the local press and social media. This created a local buzz for ‘people wanting an invite’ and excited to see try the new food.
Action: Clear calls-to-action were positioned on the Facebook page, the website and local advertising.
Criticisms of the AIDA Marketing Funnel Model
Elias St. Elmo Lewis was never intending to create a “marketing funnel.” He was instead describing the elements of an effective advertising composition. Since being adapted into a model of a customer’s purchase journey, the model has seen any number of new phases inserted before ATTENTION and tacked onto the end after ACTION. Many critics also believe the model to be a historic model not appropriate for today’s always on, multi-channel world. As marketers attempt to adapt classic marketing models such as the AIDA Model to today’s world of integrated marketing channels comprised of both traditional and digital marketing, strains begin to show.