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BLOGInsight: Should AIDA be replaced?

by Randall CraigFiled in: Blog, Insight, Make It Happen Tipsheet, Marketing, StrategyTagged as:

In 1903, Elias St. Elmo Lewis coined one of the most important marketing frameworks: AIDA. It has stood the test of time, and has helped many marketers more strategically plan their campaigns. AIDA is an acronym for Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action. But is AIDA intrinsically flawed, or at least no longer relevant for today’s more complex marketplace?

The genius of AIDA is that a marketer need only activate each phase of AIDA, and the campaign will be successful.

  • Attention: Look over here!
  • Interest in your solution: Here are the benefits of using us.
  • Desire: I should do something about it
  • Action: OK, I will transact.

Contrast this with the Trust Curve – a competing, more modern framework developed by my firm Pinetree Advisors over 20 years ago:

  • Awareness: I am aware of my problem, and I am aware of you.
  • Preference: I prefer you, I think you can take care of it. This is the initial seed of loyalty.
  • Trial: Examples of Trial include trying on a suit before purchase, or test-driving a car.
  • Commitment: The contract is signed and the transaction takes place. If the experience is a positive one, then loyalty is locked in, resulting in repeat business. Loyalty also drives advocacy, resulting in even more business, but this time from others.

AIDA assumes that after the need is crystallized (Desire) the user immediately acts. But what action is the model referring to? Is it trial? If so, why not explicitly say so? If it is purchase, then the critical intermediate step of trial is missing.

The fundamental flaw with AIDA, however, is that it is transactional and campaign-oriented. In contrast, the underlying premise of the Trust Curve is the growing relationship between two parties, and the activities required to improve that relationship.

Is AIDA dead? Not exactly, and it’s better than nothing. But it may have had its day.


The most important part of the Trust Curve is not just the initiatives that are underneath each stage, but a recognition of what drives the target market’s movement from one stage to another.  This week, plot your existing marketing initiatives on the Trust Curve:  Do you need to fill in a gap, or remove ones that are overkill?

Application note:  The Trust Curve is surprisingly flexible.  Consider the recruitment process:  Awareness may be a job posting, Preference is the selection of resumes, Trial is the interview, and Commitment is the offer.  Or on a personal level, consider the relationship between you and your significant other.  You met somewhere (Awareness), learned more about each other (Preference), and went out on a date (Trial).  For Commitment, let’s just say people have different ideas about how much Trial is necessary before making a Commitment…

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