AIDA. Considered the ultimate copywriting formula. It stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action. The copywriting gospel says that it’s the ultimate way to convert your audience into paying customers.
But what do these four words actually mean? What does AIDA look like in practice? How can you make AIDA work for you? And does AIDA still get results today?
What Does AIDA Stand For?
AIDA is a marketing model that breaks the customer journey towards purchase down into four stages:
- Attention. This means getting noticed by your reader, grabbing their attention, and spreading awareness about who you are and what you can offer.
- Interest. This is about generating curiosity and interest in your reader and starting to build a connection.
- Desire. Next, you want to instil a desire in your reader for whatever it is that you’re selling.
- Action. Finally, inspire your reader to take action, whether it’s buying, signing up, or getting in contact.
In copywriting, AIDA is typically used as a basis for creating content for marketing materials such as blog posts and emails. By gradually moving the customer along the marketing funnel, this formula is able to decrease the bounce rate, increase engagement with your content and brand, and improve conversions.
AIDA in More Detail
Now we know what AIDA stands for, let’s examine each of the four stages in more depth.
Getting the attention of your reader usually begins with a headline—or, if you’re sending an email, a subject line. This should be concise, catchy, and curiosity-provoking. Writing something that gets clicks requires understanding your audience and what they’re looking for. What are they interested in? What are their pain points? What questions are they asking?
This is why it’s important to have already established clear buyer personas. Ensuring you get the attention of your audience depends on knowing exactly who your audience is.
Words and phrases that grab attention successfully are also highly emotive. Secret, mouthwatering, and authentic are all examples of powerful words. They inspire certain strong emotions (curiosity, lust, and trust, respectively) which makes them good at getting noticed.
You’ve hooked your reader. Now you need to make sure you don’t lose them. Attracting and then holding their attention means continuing to deliver on the promise set up by the headline.
So it’s important to get straight to the point. Readers want to know they’re in the right place. Show them that you understand them and their pain points. Address them directly using “you” and speak their language in an appropriate tone of voice. Tell them how you can help. Make it feel personal—as though this content has been written for them alone.
You can also try and turn your content into a story. Getting them to use their imagination will keep them engaged as you gradually move onto the next stage in the AIDA formula.
Now your reader is interested, you can pitch your product or service. Make sure to focus on benefits rather than features. Why does this particular aspect of your brand matter? What can you do for them? How will this improve their life?
At this stage, you can also add testimonials, reviews, and case studies. Social proof is highly persuasive as is anything that makes you seem more credible or reliable, such as accreditations and endorsements.
The final stage is getting your reader to take action. Unsurprisingly, this is done with a call to action (CTA).
Your CTA should be clear and direct. What’s the next step they need to take? Make it very obvious what it is they need to do and minimise any potential friction by testing it thoroughly before making it live.
How Can I Use AIDA in My Content and Copywriting?
The trick to making the AIDA marketing formula work for you is to adapt the formula for your unique buyer persona. You’ll fall at the first hurdle if you don’t know who your audience is, what they’re interested in, and how they behave.
Here are some additional tips for putting AIDA into action in your written content.
This is going to be the first time your customer encounters you and your brand. While some of your customers will learn about you via recommendations from friends, family, or influencers, others will hear about you from your adverts.
But actually getting people’s attention via ads, whether on Google, social media or in more traditional marketing channels like brochures, takes a bit of consideration.
Here are our top tips for getting noticed:
- Ask questions. People will instinctively answer you in their minds. This pulls them in and engages them.
- A/B split test different headlines or subject lines to work out what your audience is attracted to.
- Create a sense of urgency or scarcity. This powerful emotion is almost guaranteed to grab the attention of your audience.
- Use humour in the form of funny quotes, memes, or GIFs.
- Mention your target audience in your headline so they know you’re talking to them i.e. All mums of twins love these time-saving kitchen gadgets. Or Consider yourself a modern nomad? Then check out these 4 locations for remote work.
- Use numbers. For example, 15 ways to help you save for retirement. Concrete figures are easier for us to grasp and understand and getting specific engages a different part of our brain, increasing the chance of getting your reader’s attention.
- Use powerful words or unusual adjectives. For example, explosive or breakthrough.
- Switch it up and talk about the negative. For example, instead of 15 reasons why you need a handheld vacuum cleaner, you could talk about 15 reasons why not having a handheld vacuum cleaner is making your life difficult.
- Validate the reader. For example, Why the most successful business people are using this one online tool. Everyone wants to be considered successful.
- Evoke curiosity. We like new ideas and information. So give away a few details but not the whole picture. Leave them guessing.
This is the most difficult stage to pull off. Getting people’s attention is fairly easy but keeping it is much harder. Hence why the bounce rate of the average eCommerce site is 47%.
Here are some top tips for maintaining interest:
- Make sure your opening sentence is a real hook. This might mean using a statistic, personal anecdote, or perhaps a pithy quote.
- Make sure your opening paragraph gets straight to the point with minimal rambling and lets people know what the rest of the content can offer.
- Tell a story. Getting people to use their imagination makes your content more compelling.
- Focus on pain points and solutions. People are there to find answers to questions. Make sure you provide them.
- Keep it short and punchy. Easy-to-digest copy is especially important when writing emails because we are flooded by so many each day.
- Although making your copy playful and fun helps you stand out and entertain the reader, be careful not to sacrifice clarity for the sake of humour.
- Bullet points are a great tool for keeping content easy to scan.
- Ensure the page is clearly structured and progresses logically from one point to another.
We’ve already mentioned the importance of focusing on pain points but at the desire stage of the AIDA model, it’s even more important to hone in on exactly what you can do for your audience.
This means talking about the benefits of your service or product. You may have already discussed the features. Now is the time to make it very clear why that matters. How can these features improve their life?
Amp up the desire further using highly persuasive language that plays on powerful psychological triggers. For example:
- Create a sense of urgency or scarcity to add a little bit of pressure and get people to act fast. Phrases like while stocks last and running out fast are great for this.
- Inspire trust and confidence. This means sharing testimonials, case studies, and reviews as well as promising things such as a money-back guarantee to reassure customers.
- Prove your value by comparing yourself to competitors. Everyone wants to think they’re getting the best deal.
- Anticipate objections and provide solutions.
If you’ve nailed the previous three stages, this final stage of the AIDA formula should be simple enough. All you need to do is make sure it’s really clear what action you want your reader to take, from purchasing a product or joining a waiting list.
Make sure there is no friction at this stage. Focus on your website user experience and make sure it’s simple, seamless, and perfectly designed. Avoid things like captcha or overly complex sign-up procedures.
Here are some more tips for a killer call to action:
- Begin with a strong command verb such as join
- Tell your reader why taking this action is a good idea. For example, ‘Download our e-book now to discover little-known ways to boost your conversion rate” or ‘Get in contact today to start your journey towards superior dental health”.
- Add an exclamation mark if it feels appropriate. This amps up the sense of excitement and enthusiasm.
- Create a sense of urgency. How long does your sale last? How long will your e-book be available?
- Capitalize on FOMO or ‘Fear Of Missing Out.’ Tell them how many other people have already taken advantage of this offer.
What Are the Limitations of AIDA?
Although it’s still used widely within the world of marketing, AIDA does have its limitations and drawbacks. The main criticism is that it’s overly formulaic and too simplistic.
Humans are idiosyncratic by nature. We do surprising things all the time and our behaviour can’t always be reduced down to a formula. Not every buyer will follow the AIDA pattern. For example, some will buy a product on the spur of the moment, especially if the price is right. They won’t need this step-by-step building of interest and desire. They’ll skip straight from Attention to Action.
Similarly, each step may take place on different channels. You may get someone’s initial attention via social media but increasing interest might take place on your blog. Meanwhile, the actual action may happen weeks later on your online shopping page.
What’s more, the AIDA formula doesn’t account for other aspects of the marketing process, such as customer retention or referrals.
Finally, when it comes to writing content rather than advertising copy, the focus is on educating and inspiring, spreading brand awareness rather than explicitly selling. And so the AIDA model, with its focus on building desire and encouraging action, is more appropriate for writing copy rather than content.
What Are Some Examples of AIDA?
Here are examples of each of the four steps of AIDA in action across several brand and company websites and social media pages. We’ve highlighted the different stages in bold so you can see how sometimes they appear in a linear order, sometimes separately across different channels, and sometimes will skip certain stages completely.
Clothing brand Anthropologie has the knack for getting our attention on its Facebook page. Here, they start by playfully anthropomorphizing a shirt, as well as using a rhetorical question to engage us. This is followed by a simple and clear CTA: “Shop our top picks here.” It’s a straightforward and minimalist post but does exactly what it needs to.
Skincare brand Pai also capitalizes on the unexpected to get attention in this Instagram post, using a video of blueberries falling. We immediately want an explanation behind this surprising image so are naturally inclined to read the caption: “Ready for our next drop?” This is followed by a CTA combined with an incentive: “get exclusive access to a free gift with purchase.”
Dairy company Arla’s company website sustains interest by quickly getting down to the specifics of why customers should choose them. Focusing on what makes them unique, they list four key points: the welfare of their cows, their environmental footprint, their farmer-owned business model, and their stringent quality standards.
Their target audience likely prioritises and cares about all these things so highlighting them on the homepage is a powerful way to maintain visitor interest.
Arla follows this up with a CTA that also makes use of persuasive strategies with the quirky pun “un-bee-liveable”, as well as generating desire, capitalizing on FOMO by mentioning the 2,300 farmers that are already involved—therefore making us want to get involved too.
Florist company Freddie’s Flowers keeps customers engaged and interested by focusing on the personal. We like stories and this engages our imagination. The use of the two obscure flower names—“alstroemeria” and “solidago”—is unexpected which also helps keep our attention.
The page then details how the delivery process works, addressing all the key information before anticipating a customer objection and providing a solution. This has the effect of further generating desire.
The page ends with a CTA that uses the word “me”, inspiring action by stepping into the reader’s shoes, as well as an exclamation mark to generate excitement and enthusiasm.
Heygo, a travel live-streaming platform, starts with an attention-grabbing headline with a strong command verb and two short and punchy sentences. A subtitle then clarifies exactly what the company does. This is followed by an easy-to-read bullet list of the main selling points to sustain interest.
As we mentioned, getting specific with numbers and figures is a great way to maintain interest and keep people’s attention. Mentioning reviews and ratings further generates interest.
Desire is generated with powerful words like “amazing”, “gorgeous”, and “instant”, while the use of humour—”so they know how worldly you’ve gotten lately”—keeps people engaged and builds trust.
Independent perfume brand Heretic uses a bit of cheeky humour in its headline on this article on its blog to instantly get attention:
This is followed by a quote to introduce the article as well as vibrant power words: “vitally awake”, “rebel”, “inspired”, and “spirits”. These are all words that evoke dynamism and energy, building interest.
As it’s a blog article designed to inspire and entertain, rather than sell, it’s not until a few paragraphs in that the product is introduced. This way the brand avoids appearing too pushy and putting people off. But a sense of scarcity is still introduced: “available in very limited quantities.” This starts to generate desire.
As for the CTA? It’s simple and clearly visible at the end of the page.
AIDA: Bear it in Mind – But it’s Not the Be All and End All
AIDA is an exceptionally useful model for writing persuasive copy, helping you to keep the reader in mind at all times while also focusing on the end goal of conversion. Using this formula, you can create content that resonates with readers but still aims to turn them into customers.
While there are admittedly limitations to AIDA, as long as you approach it with flexibility and holistic thinking, taking into account the nuances of human behaviour, the formula remains a great way to ensure you are creating the most convincing and effective copy possible.
Not sure how to make AIDA work for you? Hand over to our team of skilled copywriters who know how to write for an audience in a way that clearly, deliberately, and successfully grabs attention, sustains interest, evokes desire, and gets them to take that all-important action.
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