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.
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.
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 even be 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.
Attention is the first step of the AIDA, and it’s critical to kick off the model and transform a non-linear journey of a potential customer into a linear path.
Indeed, the AIDA model is definitely a simplification of the path and journey that customers take to get to know our brand (attention is very fragmented, and often users/customers get to know brands in many different ways).
Yet, it’s still a good method as it forces the brand to think of controlled paths for the customers to get to know the brand.
In the AIDA model, the second step or phase is interest.
A salesperson knows that before a sale can be closed, attention must be kept by understanding what motivates the other party.
Maintaining the level of interest in the prospect is another critical step in the AIDA model.
This is a critical step as you go from attention, which is the trigger and the hook, to something a bit more valuable, as now you have – almost – the change to drive action.
But before you can drive action, you need another key ingredient.
Once attention is captured and interest is maintained, the salesperson has to generate excitement.
This phase is critical, as the salesperson has to bridge the gap between action and interest before closing a deal.
Desire is critical to enable action as it’s very easy in the first two steps (attention and interest) to lose the potential customer.
In fact, at this stage, you have not yet built enough momentum to steer action unless you make sure there is desire.
Only once you have created desire can you lead to the last step!
That is when the transaction gets completed, and the sale happens.
Salespeople can trigger action by using several psychological levers, like scarcity, price, or else.
At this stage, another key component is trust.
However, initially desire works as a substitute for trust because the customer doesn’t know you yet.
In short, over time, as you build a solid relationship (especially for a business model which relies on repeated purchases like subscription-based ones), you have time to build trust, which is much more organic and slow to achieve successfully.
Yet, in the short-term, desire works as a substitute for trust, as it steers actions and works as a hook.
However, it’s critical to recognize that while desire is a short-term hook, over time, you want to build trust through product quality, proactive support, continuous service updates, and more.
Those are the things that will transform desire into trust, and that will lead – from a short-term transactional relationship – to a long-term trust-based relationship.
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.
That is true for most linear communication models.
This is true for all types of models that academics 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 the focus on whoever is using it.
In short, practitioners should never fool themselves into believing that the world follows the model she uses.
Indeed, my main argument is that an effective communication strategy informs itself based on context, format (for that specific context), and scale (how large is the audience vs. how niche is that?).
But, she should use an AIDA model to focus the effort on specific actions to improve efficacy.
In addition, the AIDA model might be unrealistic in many circumstances and inappropriate for certain selling forms.
For instance, if you take a business model like SaaS or software as a service or a subscription-based model, it needs 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.
In the AIDCAS model, you get two additional elements to inform the communication strategy, which serves as a way to reinforce the funnel:
During the AIDA funnel, it might be effective – in some cases – to try to lead a potential customer from a desire to action.
However, in the short-term generating desire might be enough to kick off the relationship.
Oftentimes (especially for the more complex products), before an action takes place, you might need an additional element of confidence.
Indeed, we cannot ask the person now getting to know the brand to trust us yet.
We want to give them the confidence that they can start trusting us. How? For instance, for some products, that might happen by giving things like a satisfaction guarantee or free trials.
Those things that make it a no-brainer, on the other hand, and give the confidence of the potential customer that you know your product/service is so good that they will love it for sure.
Of course, your promise must be honest and not just a sales pitch to make this lead to a long-term relationship based on trust.
This is how you build trust, even before the action is taken!
Once the action has been taken, this is your change to complete the circle of trust by ensuring the customer is satisfied with the offering.
This is a way to close the loop to – finally – start building trust.
Indeed, while, as we saw in the previous steps, you’re leveraging on promises based on desires and confidence to lead to action, now you have the chance to build that trust based on the real satisfaction of the customer.
This step is critical to start building a longer-term relationship, which either might lead to word-of-mouth (the customer will tell others about your product), repeat purchases, or both!
Thus, as we saw in the first steps of the AIDCAS model, you can leverage perception to lead to action.
Yet, once the customer is in to experience the product/service, you need to ensure that those psychological levers align with the actual product experience.
In this way, you build trust, and you close the loop of a relationship that can last for a long-time!
Whatever sales model you decide to pick, it is essential to remark that they help salespeople and marketers to focus their effort!
The CAM model simply organizes the AIDA model into three areas: cognition, affect, and behavior.
This is also a useful way to address the AIDA model, as it helps you understand at which stage you are in the journey of a potential customer.
And whether the customer is ready for action (behavior) or if she/he is still in the cognition, and affect stage.
Understanding the psychological circumstances of the potential customer is critical also to creating empathy, which is a core tenet of building a solid funnel.
AIDA model examples
What are some real-world examples of the AIDA model in action? Let’s take a look.
The Coca-Cola Company
Marketers at The Coca-Cola Company are masters at utilizing the AIDA model to the company’s financial advantage. Below is a general overview of how this is achieved:
While the Coca-Cola brand is one of the most recognized in the world, the company nevertheless promotes its products across a variety of online and offline mediums such as social media, cinemas, sports games, events, and billboards.
In fact, Coca-Cola spends around $4 billion each year to attract the attention of consumers.
As consumers shift toward healthier drink options, Coca-Cola espouses the benefits of beverages such as Coke Zero and Diet Coke by highlighting their ingredients.
The company likes to point out that its low-calorie drinks do not come at the expense of the great taste consumers expect.
Once Coca-Cola has a consumer interested in its products, it may for example outline that they can continue to drink it without putting on weight.
Many marketing campaigns show casual, young, trendy consumers drinking Coca-Cola beverages and having fun with their friends.
These consumers embody the company’s core brand values and resonate with that innate human need to fit in.
In its “Share a Coke” campaign, the company featured a powerful call to action urging consumers to purchase a drink and share their good times with friends and family on social media.
The call to action was short, punchy, memorable, and most importantly, convincing.
Lincoln is a luxury vehicle division of American automaker Ford. In this second example, let’s dissect one of its recent marketing campaigns in terms of the AIDA model:
In a 2019 ad campaign for the Lincoln Nautilus, the company worked with Hollywood actor Matthew McConaughey.
The actor, who makes regular appearances in Lincoln promotions, immediately catches the attention of consumers as he starts to tell a story to friends seated around a pool.
Suspenseful music plays in the background.
Consumers are sucked into watching the advertisement as the combination of McConaughey, the music, and the cinematography results in a production quality that is more reminiscent of a movie trailer.
As the social gathering comes to an end, McConaughey passes a pool table on the way to his car.
Footage of him playing trick shots is interspliced with driving the Nautilus as its numerous features are listed on the instrument panel.
None of these features are explained in any detail, with the sequence simply ending with the tagline “Technology that helps put you in control”.
As McConaughey plays the white ball in an arc around the 8-ball, viewers are presented with a metaphor for the Nautilus’s ability to evade obstacles in the roadway and return to its original path.
Lincoln then introduces the Lincoln Nautilus and its Co-Pilot360 package.
This package consists of a suite of driver-assist features that ties the promotional campaign together and encourages consumers to either visit the Lincoln website or one of its dealerships.
In this AIDA model example, let’s revisit Nike in the context of its “Just Do It” advertisements which debuted in 1988 and have since evolved to stay relevant to consumers.
The statement “Just Do It” captures the attention of consumers because it is short and memorable. But it is also relevant, approachable, and vague enough that anyone can apply it to whatever it is they aspire to do.
Nike also attracts attention in other ways. In an ad celebrating 30 years since the campaign was released, the company featured athletes such as LeBron James, Serena Williams, and Colin Kaepernick.
The inclusion of Kaepernick was somewhat controversial because of his divisive views on social justice, but it nevertheless caused consumers to pay attention to the brand.
Nike attracted further attention when an ad featuring Kaepernick won an award at the Creative Arts Emmys. In the ad, the NFL quarterback uttered the slogan: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything. Just do it.”
Once Nike has captured the attention of customers, the company strives to generate interest in its products, showcase its brand values, and encourage them to live an active lifestyle.
One of the ways the company does this is by associating its products with athletes who champion social causes or tell inspirational stories.
In October 2018, Nike offered a three-year contract to a runner with cerebral palsy called Justin Gallegos. To create further brand interest, the collaboration was announced to coincide with World Cerebral Palsy Day.
Later, Nike released the Dream Crazier campaign to shine a spotlight on female athletes. Narrated by Serena Williams, the ad encourages women to show emotion in sports and ends with the statement: “Show them what crazy can do. It’s only crazy until you do it. Just do it.”
The next step in the AIDA process is to create desire which Nike does in numerous ways.
While Nike sells products and considers them an important marketing tool, what it actually sells is aspiration. The “Just Do It” advertisements project an image of strength, passion, and determination to consumers who feel empowered to embody those traits themselves.
As a consequence, Nike’s advertisements rarely mention the products themselves. The company is instead a master at crafting campaigns that evoke particular emotions and needs that the consumer can only satisfy by making a purchase.
Nike’s “Just Do It” slogan not only attracts the attention of consumers; it also compels them to take action. As we touched on earlier, the slogan is extremely versatile since “it” can represent any sport, activity, or pursuit the company sells products for.
Nike also compels its consumers to take action via scarcity marketing. The company sells limited quantities of sneakers (most often in luxury collaborations) to take advantage of sneaker culture and the exclusivity associated with owning a limited edition product.
On social media, Nike is also a liberal user of the #JustDoIt hashtag when it interacts with customers. In this context, users are encouraged to tackle challenges with Nike products and share their journeys with the company.
Other business tools and frameworks
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 a strategic level.
FourWeekMBA Business Model Framework
One-Page Business Plan
Porter’s Five Forces
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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What does AIDA stand for?
AIDA stands for attention, interest, desire, and action. That is a model that is used in marketing to describe the potential journey a customer might go through before purchasing a product or service. The AIDA model helps organizations focus their efforts when optimizing their marketing activities based on the customers’ journeys.
Why is AIDA important?
The AIDA model helps companies prioritize their marketing activities and communication based on the different touchpoints potential customers might get to know a brand. It also helps differentiate between attention, interest, desire, and action, thus creating more effective journeys for potential customers with a repeatable process in place.