In 1898, Elias St. Elmo Lewis, an eventual inductee of the Advertising Hall of Fame, anonymously wrote a column about three advertising principles he found useful throughout his career in a printing magazine called The Inland Printer, one of the most influential American magazines of the 19th century.
In his column, he states that a successful advertisement should always follow a specific formula.
“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.”
In other words, copy is only good if it attracts attention, generates interest, and creates conviction, in that order.
Over a century later, Lewis’ principles still ring true. They’re expressed as an acronym, AIDA, and widely used in the advertising industry. In the digital age, brands have even based their entire marketing strategy on the AIDA model.
Before we cover how you can apply the AIDA model to your own content marketing strategy, let’s go over what it is and why it works.
The AIDA Model
The AIDA model describes the four stages a consumer goes through before making a purchasing decision. The stages are Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action (AIDA). During these four stages, your content will ideally attract attention to your brand, generate interest in your product or service, stimulate a desire for it, and spur action to try or buy it.
Brands use the AIDA model to determine the way they should craft and distribute marketing messages to their target audience at each stage of the buyer’s journey.
The AIDA model is considered a hierarchy of effects model, which means consumers must move through each stage of the model to complete the desired action. Just like a typical marketing funnel, each stage has fewer consumers than the previous one.
How to Apply the AIDA Model to Your Marketing
By creating campaigns and structuring your website with the AIDA model in mind, you can get more control over your prospects' paths to a purchasing decision.
In theory, as they progress through each stage of the model, consumers who learn about your brand will develop certain feelings or emotions about your product or service, which is what ultimately compels them to act.
Here's what you can do to implement AIDA:
In this stage, the consumer is asking, "What is it?"
In order to get to this stage, you must first get your content in front of them. This comes with increased brand awareness and effective messaging.
Effective content marketing is one method of attracting visitors to your website. If you create content that solves their problems and focuses on their passions, you'll be able to draw them in and provide a solution. When executed effectively, your target audience should be able to discover your content through Google, social media, and other channels.
Once your target audience is interested in your product or service, they’ll want to learn more about your brand, the benefits of your solution, and your potential fit with them.
In this stage, the goal is to get them to think, "I like it."
In order to get to this stage, your content must be persuasive and engaging. While the first stage of AIDA is capturing their attention, this stage is about holding it. You can do this with a hook.
Let's say your content marketing was effective in drawing them to the website to learn about a pain, problem, or need they have. You might then "hook" them with engaging storytelling that demonstrates the why behind your solution.
Stories resonate with humans, and it's a simple way to convey information in a way that stimulates empathy and curiosity.
To generate enough excitement in your prospects to compel them to act, you need to make sure their affinity for your brand hits a certain threshold. The more aligned you are with their needs and values, the more likely you are to achieve success.
People do business with those they know, like, and trust. The first two stages of the AIDA model establish the know and the like.
The goal of this stage is to change "I like it" to "I want it."
And that's done by cementing in the final piece of the puzzle: Trust.
To do this, keep serving them content. Make sure they subscribe to your blog, follow you on social media, and download your offers. The more prospects interact with your brand, the more they’ll trust you, boosting the chances they’ll eventually buy your product or service.
The prospects you’re most likely to close are the consumers who envision a future with you -- they already enjoy consuming your content and think your product or service will be even better.
For this reason, you must institute a gap between where they are and where they could be with your solution. At the same time, you must establish social proof with case studies and testimonials.
"Before and After" style content is a great example of how to stimulate desire while gaining trust.
Spur Into Action
After you generate enough desire for your product or service, give your prospects the chance to act on it. After all, what’s the point of creating content and building deep relationships with prospects if there isn’t a clear next step?
The goal is to get them to decide, "I'm getting it."
No matter what the "next step" is, you should compel them to respond with low-friction but high-incentive calls to action.
Whether they're far away or close to a purchasing decision, the next step that you present should be "high-value." In other words, it must help them in some way.
If they understand what the outcome of your offer is and find it valuable to them, they'll be more likely to act (since they aren't simply committing to a sales call or sales content).
Consider exactly how you can provide that value while motivating them to engage with you.
The CTA for this "next step" or offer should be prominent, clear, and uncomplicated. Perhaps it's a button or banner that spells out what action they must take and what they get if they do. By eliminating friction in the process, you increase your likelihood of success.
The AIDA model is a sturdy framework for guiding your audience through the buyer’s journey and spurring them to act. And if you apply it to your content marketing, you’ll be leveraging a proven formula that can consistently engage, persuade, and convert an audience into customers. However, it starts with knowing your customer journey.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in October 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.