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Strategy

The Four Step AIDA Model Plus One Extra Step For Maximum Marketing Impact

Back in the day, E. St. Elmo was on fire. One of the first people to apply the scientific method to advertising, he is credited with coming up with the AIDA model, one of the oldest advertising theories. In the late 1800s, E. St. Elmo Lewis built on the ideas of pioneering ad men Fred Macey and Joseph Richards to articulate a basic model of advertising communications that was given the acronym AIDA by C. P. Russell in 1921. One hundred years later, the idea behind this simple marketing model is as powerful as ever. What does AIDA stand for? Each letter represents a step of the customer’s journey, guided by the marketing shaped according to the theory. The first step is to gain the customer’s attention or create awareness, then arouse interest, stoke desire, and finally inspire action. Even people who are not familiar with the model may notice that they have been using it all along, because it describes a very natural approach to generating sales. When you have the framework clearly in mind, it can help guide your marketing strategy. So let’s take a closer look at the four steps, and then consider a bonus step that was added to the model later.   

Attention or Awareness

Naturally, the first step in making a sale is letting the potential customer know that your product or service and your company exist. In the print advertising parlance of Lewis’s day, you need an “eye catcher” and in today’s digital media landscape, the visual aspects of marketing remain important. Guglielmo Marconi made the first radio transmission in 1895 and it wasn’t until the 1920’s that commercial radio broadcasting, and the ads that interrupted it began. Today, grabbing the listener’s attention in audio streams is an important possibility to consider. There are many different ways to create attention and awareness. Social media giant Facebook offers awareness and reach as advertising goals to guide their algorithm in choosing an audience for your ads. They were not around in Lewis’s day, but now you can rent a crude sculpture of a person that is six meters tall, inflated by a fan from below causing it to gyrate and wave its arms. Both of these are interruptive strategies to get attention. In “The Diary of the Seducer”, existentialist philosopher Sorren Kierkegaard talks about the effectiveness of approaching indirectly. Rather than approach headon with his proposition, Kierkegaard makes himself visible being influential, so that when he approaches his prospect, that person already has a sense that he is somehow valuable or worthy. Modern marketers can take a page from the sword fighting Dane’s book and create awareness of their brand by offering great content. Rather than trying to meet customers by telling them about what you are selling, you can offer useful content that would interest people who might ultimately want your products.  Or the inflatable arm waving guy. That works too.  

Interest

One criticism of the AIDA model is that the steps overlap. In this author’s opinion a valid rebuttal to that criticism is: sure they do. So what? The process of generating awareness can also create some interest. The model still works. If you are taking a content marketing approach, you might write an article with useful tips that somehow relate to your product or service and then tangentially mention what you are selling. For instance, if you want to generate awareness and interest in a single combined step, Viral Octopus offers a full range of modular marketing services that includes content marketing for growing businesses that want to increase their customer base with low-cost high quality web traffic. VO also offers FB ad services for more immediate results.  One way or another, once you have got your audience to notice you, you want to quickly ratchet up their level of intent. Awareness just means that they have noticed you. It does not necessarily mean they have decided you are worth further attention. That is why you must act quickly and follow up on the awareness by cultivating interest. Useful information can create interest. Social proof can be very helpful at this stage too. If people see that other people like them have moved from awareness to interest, they are likely to follow.   

Desire

Once the customer has become aware of your brand you give them a reason to take further interest. Again, we can see the stages overlap. As you create interest, explaining things your customer wants to know about, you introduce your product or service and naturally begin to kindle a little flame of desire. At some point, when you believe that spark has begun to catch, the focus of your communication should probably change. They know it exists, they think something like what you have might be good for them. Now it is time to get more specific and perhaps begin to appeal to emotions and really lean on that social proof. Try to make a deeper connection and show your customers why your specific offer is exactly the right thing to fill their immediate physical needs as well as their more complex social and psychological needs.   

Action

Now you want the customer to take the final step. Again, your steps will overlap. You may be offering a call to action button at every stage in your customer journey, if you think prospects may sometimes be ready to buy during their first impression. But in most cases, it will be reasonable to consider the focus of your communications gradually shifting from “getting to know you” to demonstrating general value to getting more specific about “what I can do for you” and on to saying “so let’s make this happen!” You can think of the customer journey as a funnel. The top of the funnel is the broadest -anyone who might be interested. By the final stages of desire and action, you are talking to a smaller pool of people who have indicated more interest by continuing to engage with your brand. At the final stage of the AIDA funnel, action, you should be focusing on your most likely customers and asking them to take the final step.   

Bonus Step: Add an R for Retention and get AIDAR

E. St. Elmo was a brilliant man and a pioneer. His model is a great starting point, but it is far from complete. There are many other different ways to look at marketing. And even from the particular perspective of this schema, there is clearly a step missing, retention. Once you have moved your customer to that first action, you want to take them a step further. And it’s not just a reiteration of the previous process. Creating upsells, cross-sells, referrals, and cultivating true brand evangelists is a very worthwhile endeavor that deserves its place in a taxonomy based on the customer journey concept.   

Marketing theory will not help you at all unless you incorporate it into your marketing practice. How can you use AIDA(R)? And what can you achieve when you focus on that extra R?

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