The background story of the AIDA model
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 successfuladvertisement.
Until the acronym AIDA was finally used in 1921, in a publication called Printers Ink, wherein “How to Write a Sales-Making Letter” by C.P. Russell explained:
An easy way to remember this formula is to call in the “law of association,” which is the old reliable among memory aids. It is to be noted that, reading downward, the first letters of these words spell the opera “Aida.” When you start a letter, then, say “Aida” to yourself and you won’t go far wrong, at least as far as the form of your letter is concerned.
Let’s look at each of them.
Since the dome of mass media, advertisers have fought for the conquest of a scarce asset: people’s attention. Any good salesperson knows this is the first step to take before it would be even possible to introduce the perspective of a sale.
Advertisers first, and marketers, later on, have learned how to grab the attention of potential customers, before they could be presented with the option of completing a sale.
In the AIDA model, the second step or phase is interest. A salesperson knows that before a sale could be closed, attention must be kept, by understanding what motivates the other part. Maintaining the level of interest in the prospect is another critical step in the AIDA model.
Once attention is captured, and interest is maintained, the salesperson has to generate excitement. This phase is critical, as the salesperson has to be able to bridge the gap between action and interest before it could close a deal.
That is when the transaction gets completed, and the sale happens. The sales people can trigger action by using several psychological levers, like scarcity, price or else.
Does AIDA still make sense today?
The problem with the AIDA model is that it assumes we live in a linear world, where people take deliberate steps before completing a transaction.
This is true for all types of models that academic or practitioners use. However, the world is way more unpredictable, and the path people take before they become customers is hard to define in most cases.
On the other hand, a model should have a specific function – I argue – which is allowing focus to whoever is using it. In short, practitioners should never fool himself to believe that the world follows the model she uses.
But, she should use an AIDA model, to focus the effort on specific actions, to improve efficacy. In addition, the AIDA model might be not only unrealistic in many circumstances but also not appropriate for certain forms of selling.
For instance, if you take a business model like SaaS or software as a service or a subscription-based model, those need to leverage on a continuous engagement of its customers or users, which implies a virtuous cycle or flywheel.
This brings us to the post-AIDA models.
The post-AIDA models
To overcome some of the significant drawbacks of the AIDA model (such as not taking into account what happens after the sale) a few variations of the AIDA model have sprouted up.
Some of them are the AIDCAS (where satisfaction and confidence are added to the AIDA MODEL); or the CAB (cognition, affect and behavior) Model which is the psychological equivalent of the AIDA model.
Whatever sales model you decide to pick, it is essential to remark that they help salespeople and marketers to focus their effort!
Other business tools
Over the decades several business tools have been used and developed by practitioners to enable deliberate decision-making processes within an organization.
Let’s explore some other tools you might leverage on at strategic level.
Is the AIDA model still relevant today?
The AIDA Model and the business tools shown in this article while a useful exercise for strategic thinking, are losing relevance nowadays.
That’s because with the advent of the digital, doing business did change its nature, and it did follow a different playbook.
Therefore, rather than spending too much time in strategic exercises it is very important to elaborate a strategy and then iterate the process with tools like business model canvas, lean canvas, and continuous innovation.
Enter the Flywheel model
One of the ways to understand how the business world has changed is through the Amazon Flywheel Model.
In the old world, large corporations might be able to control massive resources centrally, thus preventing other businesses to enter a space. In short, by controlling and leveraging on the supply side they could keep their competitive positioning for a longer time. That implied a more linear logic of business, where it might have been easier to spot competitors.
As we moved to a digital age, bottom-up forces brought the business world to become way more unpredictable. Thus, the competition itself becoming nonlinear. Today your competitor might be coming from a place you would never expect.
That is why if you’re building a digital platform business, but also if you’re riding the wave of a large platform business (think of how many small businesses are powered by Amazon, Google, Facebook, and many other platforms) it is important to understand those businesses in terms of network effects.
Those network effects can be triggered by understanding that a competitive advantage can be created by focusing on customer experience and leveling that up.
It is important to highlight that business changes in nature as new ecosystems and mass adopted technologies become more accessible.
For instance, if you think about how coming developments like voice-enabled devices, IoT, digital twins, and others will break further the technological divide (when access to a certain technology is unevenly distributed) more and more people will be able to join in, thus enhancing this wave.
As other technologies like the Blockchain might become commercially viable to consumers, those might reshuffle again the playground and the rules of the game, thus making the nature of competition change with it!
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