Are the principles from 1898 that laid the groundwork for the marketing industry still relevant to today’s consumers?

No matter where we went to school or when we started our marketing careers, we’ve heard of and used the AIDA model for our marketing funnels. When Elias St. Elmo Lewis first published his thoughts on advertising to consumers in 1898, he created a new standard for businesses to communicate with their consumers and forever changed the entrepreneurial marketplace.

An excerpt from Lewis’ “Catch-Line and Argument,” in The Book-Keeper (Vol.15; p. 124; Feb. 1903), includes his perspective on the three fundamental advertising principles:

“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 successful advertisement.”

What is AIDA and how does it work?

The three principles Lewis identified are the basis of what would eventually be called the AIDA model. This model categorizes the cognitive stages a consumer passes through while determining on whether to purchase a product or service. This funnel model is made up of four stages:

Stage 1 – Awareness: Familiarize consumers with your product or service.

Stage 2 – Interest: Engage with consumer about the benefits of your product or service to encourage the consumer to research further.

Stage 3 – Desire: Establish an emotional connection, through brand personality, to transition the consumer from interest in the product/service to ‘wanting it’.

Stage 4 – Action: Create a clear and obvious call to action so that the consumer interacts with your company and takes the next step (i.e. buys the product, downloads a brochure, calls for more information, etc.)

So how can you use this in creating your marketing funnel? Consider this model to be more of a communications pipeline as it defines the mental stages consumers need to be guided through before deciding on making a purchase. Each stage requires using different platforms and engagement styles to communicate the relevant information.

As you prepare your basic marketing funnel, ask yourself some key questions to be effective with each stage:

  • Awareness: Who are the target consumers for our products/services? How will those consumers become familiar with our products/ services? What is our brand’s personality and how do we portray it? Which marketing channel/platform should we use (ie. Email campaigns, search advertising, landing pages, social media, etc.)
  • Interest: How will we gain our target consumer’s interest? What is our content strategy? What solution does our product/service provide? Do we have social proof available to back up our claims? How do we make this information available?
  • Desire: What makes our product or service desirable? How do we interact personally to make an emotional connection?
  • Action: What is our call to action? Is it easy for consumers to connect and where would they expect to find it? What offers should we present?

Now that we have looked at this model, the question is, does this model work for modern marketers? For over 100 years the AIDA model has been a staple of marketing around the globe, but as technology has progressed, consumers are changing their behaviors. The founding principles are still very relevant, but they stop short at recognizing the opportunity to nurture current customers into repeat shoppers and turning those customers into advocates for one’s company. In our next article, we’ll discuss how modern marketers are expanding the AIDA model and effectively turning their traditional marketing funnels upside down.