The AIDA (awareness, interest, desire, action) model has long been heralded as a marketing constant, one that transcends industry. But in a world where digital dominates, competition abounds, and customers expect more than ever before, is AIDA the right lead-gen foundation for companies that want to stand up and stand out?

Some marketers might say that AIDA is no match for our connected world. But we say this marketing-101 model still stands…with some slight disruptions to the linear structure of yore. 

The Bottom Line

"...basic human behavior hasn't changed...people still act on things that move them...

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The truth of the matter is that basic human behavior hasn’t changed. Yes, today’s consumers have more tools and technologies at their fingertips than in the past. They’re more informed, and their expectations are high. But when it comes down to it, people still act on things that move them…things that grab their attention, peak their interest, and spark their desire. AIDA in a nutshell.

What has changed is the way consumers go about making their decisions and purchases—their overall journey from awareness to action. The buying process is broader and more dynamic than ever, with a surplus of online platforms including websites, social media, email, and more…all this on top of good old-fashioned print advertising.

AIDA Then and Now

Thus, the AIDA of today is no longer the 1925 phenomenon credited to American psychologist E.K. Strong, author of The Psychology of Selling and Advertising. Back in the day, the purchase cycle wasn’t so cyclical. In fact, it was a pretty straight shot toward buyer’s bliss (or remorse…Come on, we’ve all been there).  

Think about it. An ad for a product caught your eye, you paid attention to the benefits it was offering, you started to wonder how you ever lived without it, and lo and behold you bought it. Done.

Now, the consumer journey isn’t always so simple. While some journeys go from click to collect in two seconds flat, others are more complex. Each phase can be chock-full of mini steps and stages. Plus, the end “action” isn’t necessarily a purchase anymore. Consider the calls to action (CTAs) we see on websites, digital ads, and social media posts every day. Many times, these CTAS urge the consumer to further engage with the brand in question, guiding them into another AIDA process until they are ready to buy. So, what we end up with is not just a one-dimensional marketing and purchase cycle, but an ever-changing celestial sphere of customer-to-business links and interactions.

And there’s more. “Action” is no longer the last step in the once uncomplicated buying process. At the risk of sounding like we stammer, we tack another “A” onto our revamped “AIDA-A” approach. “Advocacy” (a.k.a. the holy grail of modern business development) has never been more important and far-reaching than it is today. With the long, gangly, inescapable arms of the World Wide Web, advocacy now extends beyond word of mouth referrals into our online interactions as well, from Facebook likes and retweets to Google reviews.

To add to the heap, we are consistently bombarded by the passive endorsements of our friends and family members, many of whom post daily photos inadvertently showcasing the clothes they wear, the products they use, the foods they eat, and the list goes on. Whether we mean to or not, we regularly advocate for the brands that we use on a day in, day out basis. And it’s these everywhere endorsements that keep the celestial AIDA-A sphere in continual orbit—oftentimes pointing consumers right back into the great realm of awareness.

A Lesson from The Olden Days

While this upgraded AIDA-A way of thinking builds the foundation for branding, messaging, and positioning, things get a bit trickier when it comes to differentiating in an increasingly commoditized space. This is where we do recommend revisiting philosophies of old. We’re not talking about Strong’s 1920s take on marketing. We’re talking about the long-lost customer experience of yesteryear.   

"Today's savvy consumers are tired of mass-produced, impersonal, uninspired messages, products, and services.

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Consider your great grandpappy and his trusty tailor. Each of his suits was meticulously sized, stitched, and sewn…just for him. He and the local shop owner were on a first-name basis, knew one other’s families, maybe even shared the occasional scotch and cigar.

Today’s savvy consumers are tired of mass-produced, impersonal, uninspired messages, products, and services. They yearn for the days of true communication, customization, and familiarity.

What does this mean for businesses like yours? It means that standing out to customers is less about showing off your know-how and skills and more about creating a good experience for them…throughout the entire AIDA-A journey. What draws people in and makes them want to stay is an experience that’s authentic, inviting, engaging, and distinctive. And while the world of digital marketing might not allow most businesses to get as up close and personal with clients as your granddad and his tailor, it does provide about a zillion opportunities to engage with customers and make their experience a memorable one.

Parting Thoughts

Ever-changing technologies, the latest marketing philosophies, and steeper customer demands can be distractions that cause us to forget or question the most fundamental human behaviors and attitudes.

While it’s no longer the linear process it once was, our galactic AIDA-A approach forms a relevant foundation for modern businesses. By first recognizing the dynamic nature of today’s buying journey and the weighty importance of customer advocacy, companies like yours can continue to use this time-tested model to generate leads and make sales. And yet, AIDA-A is just the beginning. With an attractive, memorable experience, you can uniquely engage customers and make your business burn brighter than the rest.

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