The Socialisation of AIDA (Marketing effects)

This article looks at how marketing has changed from anti-social to social marketing over time, by looking at the most basic of marketing communication models.  AIDA or Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action model (below) will be used to describe these changes.

The Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action (AIDA) model
The Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action model (AIDA)

A little background in marketing theory….

The AIDA model of marketing is a simple way of explaining how customers move from becoming aware of a product/ service to taking action and buying it.  The model was created in 1925 by E.K. Strong to describe the effect marketing has on people.

Other models like the ‘uses and gratifications model’ would also be interesting to look at, as it assumes that the audience is active.  AIDA by contrast describes people moving down the stages in a linear fashion, until the desired effect has been reached by the marketer (mostly a sale).  Often, for example a ‘C’ is added for ‘consideration’, but I believe this is part of the Interest stage, since taking an interest considers the proposition.  Either way there are many criticisms of this model, but ultimately it provides a useful basis to understanding marketing as a summary without a 5 page analytical essay!

So, without getting too in-depth with the finer points of the model there are a few points of note when looking at this model;
–    AIDA focuses on how a company should affect people and doesn’t consider any response from the audience or potential customer.
–    It suggests that people can be ‘pushed’ towards taking action across a series of defined stages.
–    The model suggests that people have very little free will and can be easily manipulated.
–    AIDA explains marketing by a company taking proactive action to cause a reaction and doesn’t consider that often people initiate this process.

I imagine that anyone who isn’t aware of this model would find the above points a little uncomfortable and put more faith in our processing of marketing.  One thing to point out however is that today everyone is far more aware of how marketing works and when we are being ‘sold to’.  We are more cynical and try to find information out through recommendations from others, the Internet etc before we make a decision.  The Internet has allowed us to compare products, ensure the claims company’s made are true and provide active feedback when things go very well or badly.  In 1925 this happened to far less a degree and the Internet is largely to thank for this change.

The new social AIDA model (or sAIDA in case we really needed more marketing jargon)…

As such, Coffee Marketing propose an up to date version of AIDA, that is still perhaps simplistic in nature, but certainly more relevant today.  Our new model considers the changes that have occurred in marketing as a result of the Internet and an increase in social interaction between more groups of people.

The socialised AIDA model of marketing effects
The socialised AIDA model of marketing effects

Let’s start with the main similarities. Marketing still generally needs to start with people being aware of a product/ service before they buy it. Even if someone doesn’t see an advert for the product, their friends might have told them about it, a branded video might have been forwarded to them etc.  Secondly marketers are still trying to encourage people to take an action in a way that meets the company’s objectives (e.g. sell stuff!)

The primary differences between marketing in the 20th century and the digital 21st century however is that potential customers are definitely an active part of the marketing process.

As such all four stages in the social AIDA model apply to both the marketing/ company AND the audience.  For example, at the Awareness stage there may be online communities who do not know about a product that might benefit them.  Marketers could then raise awareness of how this  product could meet their needs.  On the other hand there may be online groups who have used your product for something it was not originally intended for.  This should raise your company’s awareness that the product may be useful to other groups or in other situations if it is altered slightly, just from listening to the conversations that are happening in the market via buzz monitoring.  In short, marketers must be aware of how the product / service is being used already, what people think of it and aware of how to communicate with online communities before they do so in order not to be rejected.

People are no longer ‘pushed’ down these stages by marketing, but are ‘pulled’ down the stages by people building up trust in what is being offered, perceiving it’s value, evaluating it, engaging with the message and then taking action when they are happy it meets their needs.  The key point here is that the old AIDA attempted to overtly persuade people they needed something, where-as today you must actively prove you can meet your customers needs with them openly and then the customer will come to you.  We have moved from one-way “My way!” communication where marketing attempts to drive a sale, to two-way “Our way!” communication (brand engagement), where marketers work with the potential customer to collectively understand how their product can meet their needs.

The two way process described above leads to two core changes to the model.  ‘Interaction’ replaces ‘Interest’ as a marketer’s role is now to connect the product/ service with the needs of the audience.  ‘Dialogue’ then replaces ‘Desire’ as marketers are not trying to fabricate desire, but prove to customers that their product and service is superior through creating positive dialogue and managing suggestions or negative criticisms etc.  It might be suggested that these two elements are interchangeable and I see this as possible.  Ultimately however if you try to fabricate a need, or make claims about how wonderful your product is to create interest you will be found out and this will certainly result in worse than no action!  Alternatively if you listen to comments, educate people on the product/ service benefits and take on board any problems, your company will develop trust and naturally become perceived as superior to your competitors.

Not only does this approach lead to far better, natural results in terms of your desired ‘Action’, but is also likely to lead to a longer term relationship as well as repeat purchase.  This next stage will be left for another model though…


  1. A few questions…..

    How useful do you think the AIDA model is in understanding the process of marketing communications?


    Can a linear model like AIDA model be applied to today’s networked world?

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