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The AIDA model & digital marketing: are they (still) compatible

The AIDA model today.
Image: © Andrey Popov / Adobe Stock

Where does the AIDA model originate from?

The AIDA model was invented by advertising strategist Elmo Lewis way back in 1898 and was initially intended as a multi-stage model for the perfect sales talk. It later also came into play in marketing, where it is regarded as a pre-sales model based on the assumption that brand perception can be influenced through advertising measures – and therefore, purchasing decisions are direct responses to stimuli communicated by advertising.

The AIDA model in marketing

According to the AIDA model, customers pass through four stages along the customer journey before they take action and purchase or use a product or service. Each letter of the acronym stands for one of these stages:

A
Attract Attention

For (potential) customers to actually engage with a brand’s ads, their attention first needs to be attracted – for example by asking a provocative question or advertising special offers or new products. Depending on the medium of the ad, eye-catching colors and bold text (for printed material) or a louder volume (for TV or radio ads) can also be effective ways to gain attention.

I
Maintain Interest

After capturing the attention of consumers, the second stage is about generating and maintaining interest. The aim is for users to connect with the ad and read or watch it all the way through. To achieve that goal, it’s important to address the problems and challenges of the target group. Customers must feel as though the advertising message is not only striking, but also relevant to them.

D
Create Desire

After capturing the attention of consumers, the second stage is about generating and maintaining interest. The aim is for users to connect with the ad and read or watch it all the way through. To achieve that goal, it’s important to address the problems and challenges of the target group. Customers must feel as though the advertising message is not only striking, but also relevant to them.

A
Get Action

After capturing the attention of consumers, the second stage is about generating and maintaining interest. The aim is for users to connect with the ad and read or watch it all the way through. To achieve that goal, it’s important to address the problems and challenges of the target group. Customers must feel as though the advertising message is not only striking, but also relevant to them.

The particular advantages of the AIDA model

 

More than 100 years have now passed since the AIDA model was first formulated. So it’s more than justifiable to question how applicable the AIDA model still is in today’s media world.

The main advantage of the AIDA model is its simplicity. The straightforward design makes the model timeless and thus it can still be used nowadays. For example, if marketers want to optimize the online presence of their brand, they can use the AIDA model as a checklist to identify potential weaknesses. Based on the four stages of the AIDA model, they can ask questions like:

  • Is the website easy to find?
  • Are product descriptions, etc., interesting enough to attract interest?
  • Does the website’s overall impression make customers want to buy the products or services being offered?
  • Are there cleverly placed call-to-action elements that successfully persuade users to take action?

In actuality, how relevant is the AIDA model still today?

Advertising must stand out, be appropriate for the target group, and stay in consumers’ minds. In that respect, the AIDA model remains apt today. But how effective is it still these days, when it’s no longer just about simply mapping old basics? After all, our consumer and advertising consumption behavior has changed dramatically since the AIDA model was created in 1898. In terms of its applicability to daily digital business, critics of the AIDA model fault the following, among other aspects:

  • With the AIDA model, advertisements act as stimuli that are meant to trigger a purchasing decision in customers as a response. This way of viewing the purchasing decision process as a stimulus–response model is deemed outdated by many critics. An important reason behind this is that the customer journey has become increasingly complex amid the growing digital shift. Purchasing decision processes are rarely so linear. The sequence of advertising effects also varies sometimes. For example, “interest” doesn’t always result from “attention”, but actually often comes before it in the case of specific ads, such as those displayed after entering a search query in Google and other search engines.
  • Nowadays, advertising is consumed in a much larger volume and often in the background. However, even ads that are not taken in with full attention can have a positive effect on the perception of a brand.
  • With the AIDA model, the purchasing decision process ends when the product or service being advertised is bought or used. It leaves subsequent factors out of the equation, such as the satisfaction of customers, how they rate the brand, repeat purchases, and recommendations. However, for a company to build strong customer bonds, those aspects matter the most. They are part and parcel of a complete model.
  • To date, there is a lack of empirical evidence for the effectiveness of the AIDA model. The kind of process and methods that work on customers of a brand can vary. For that reason, it is essential to focus first and foremost on the target group and design processes that are tailored to it.

The AIDA model – good as a basis but no magic formula for perfect ads

The AIDA model offers an approach to explain how advertising steers brand choice, but it is by no means a universally applicable principle. If you’re looking for a way to drive your business further forward, it’s therefore worth looking closely at the target group instead. The better you know and understand your customers, the more likely you will reach them via precisely the method and channels that promise the greatest advertising impact. So: get to know your target group, take it seriously, and show your customers how much you care about their needs!

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