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Copywriting

AIDA Formula: How to Apply it And Drive Results with Your Copy

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No, it’s not about Verdi’s Opera. AIDA formula stands for:

Attention

Interest

Desire

Action

If you’ve never heard of it, AIDA is a model that is widely used in both advertising and marketing circles.

The model describes the various steps that occur from when a person enters the Awareness stage of your marketing funnel to when they ultimately make a Decision.

The model was originally used to help explain how ads and marketing communications manage to become engaging to prospects and how customers discern between brands to make an ultimate buying decision.

The AIDA model then describes the necessary number of tasks that are required to move a customer from the awareness stage to the very action that leads to a conversion.

What is AIDA Formula?

If you’re new to copywriting, or you’re a copywriter staring at a blank page, the AIDA marketing formula is an “old standard” that routinely produces significant results.

You can use AIDA for all types of digital marketing and offline advertising materials. These include web pages, emails, paid advertisements, direct mail pieces, and even radio and TV ads.

The concept of AIDA originated in 1898 when Elias St. Elmo Lewis, who was eventually inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame, wrote a column (anonymously) about three advertising principles that he found useful throughout his career.

That column appeared in The Inland Printer, one of the most influential 19th century American magazines, and stated that all successful advertisements should follow a certain formula.

AIDA was born.

Here’s how the model works. Later, you’ll get to see some fun and interesting examples of AIDA in action.

Attention

This stage of the formula, as the name implies, is all about creating brand awareness.

To create adequate attention, it’s necessary to be thorough when it comes to audience research.

This stage of the formula is about discovering your audience’s passions and problems, which can only come about with due diligence and fully-sketched-out buyer personas.

With that knowledge in hand, you can then develop content that focuses on those problems, passions, and drives home your marketing message.

Because this is the beginning stage of AIDA, and your marketing collateral should be readily available for any interested parties. You can do this with organic Google SEO, social media, and your website.

If you can manage to create content that grabs attention and engages your audience, you’ll incite a curiosity that leads your audience to discover what your brand actually does.

Interest

Attracting attention is one thing. Holding your prospects’ attention is quite another.

In order for your advertising or marketing message to succeed in keeping your prospects engaged, you must give them a reason.

You can do this by explaining to prospects that the problem they face is negatively affecting their lives. You can do this with storytelling or another method that makes the individual “feel” their pressing issue, leading them to seek out a definite solution.

The key to the Interest stage of AIDA is to make the problem personal so that you’re only speaking to the prospect and no one else.

Desire

The Desire stage is where you show your prospects exactly how your offerings can solve their problems.

Here is where you will explain the features of your product or service and all the related benefits. You should then illustrate how the benefits will fulfill your prospects’ needs.

Common techniques for Desire include before and after photos, which is used by cleaning products, orthodontists, and anyone else seeking to positively change lives.

Your audience should be able to see how your offerings can make their lives better, whether it has to do with wealth, health, romance, or other dire need.

If done properly, your prospects at the Desire stage will be ready to make a purchase.

Action

Once you’ve succeeded in creating desire, the next step is to persuade prospects that they should take immediate action.

If you were selling in person, this is the stage where you would ask for the sale. Advertisers might create a sense of urgency by offering the deal for a limited time or by including a special bonus to those who act fast.

If you want more prospects to take action at this stage of AIDA, you should make it easy for them. That means including your phone call if you more office calls or a CTA button on your product pages and above the fold so that prospects can click-to-buy without having to scroll.

The Difference Between Interest and Desire

Interest and Desire are often confused with one another when discussing the AIDA formula.

Once you’ve succeeded in securing a prospect’s attention, you want to make them realize that their life isn’t as great as it could be, at least without your product or service.

You build interest by educating your prospects on your offerings and by illustrating how those offerings will fit in with your prospects’ lives.

Desire, on the other hand, is about helping the consumer develop a favorable position for your brand. You can do this by using personal, emotionally-driven content to make your offerings irresistible.

To see Interest and Desire in play, think of common infomercials you may have seen. The infomercials start by showing you a problem (Attention), and then by showing you that there is a solution (Interest). Infomercials then go through all the various features and benefits that will change your life for the better, either by helping you cook better, clean better, or lose weight faster (Desire).

Finally, the infomercials hit you with a timer and limited inventory along with a phone number and call-to-action to create Action.

Here you can see the stark difference between Interest and Desire. Interest is about making your offering seem interesting through entertainment, or by being memorable or funny.

Desire, then, is about how your product or service applies to the lives of your prospects. By making them see how your offerings will fit in with their lives, you can grease the skids toward Action.

Why is AIDA Important?

Before using AIDA, and once again, the first step is to understand the potential customer or client. This can’t be stated enough.

Only when you fully understand your audience’s motivations can your marketing message be directly targeted at the person so that he or she will buy the product or service you’re selling.

AIDA, or any other marketing formula, will only work when your message is perfectly aligned with your buyer personas, which includes demographics information, company and role details, and other critical data that can help you precision-target your marketing message further.

If you haven’t yet developed a buyer persona, your job is to use your research to investigate, then define, the demographic and psychographic of each prospect or customer.

Examples of Successful AIDA Formula Use

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The following AIDA formula examples are ripped from the headlines, so to speak.

#1 AIDA Model for Coca Cola

The company behind Coke and Diet Coke have been using the AIDA template for years.

The company attracts Attention by blasting out their message to the masses using a variety of mediums. It’s common to find Coke, Diet Coke, Coke Zero and other of the brand’s offerings on the Internet, TV, ads before movies begin at the movie theater, paid digital ads, and many, many more.

In fact, Coca Cola spends nearly $4 Billion in worldwide advertising and each year that number continues to climb.

The brand that develops Interest by mentioning the ingredients from its beverages in each of its advertisements. This is particularly true for brand offerings like Diet Coke and Coke Zero, where you’ll often hear about how great the beverages taste without all the calories.

The brand creates Desire in its customers by explaining how its sodas are so satisfying for consumers. Coke Zero, for example, allows you to maintain a good shape while drinking its delicious new Coke Zero formula.

The latest Diet Coke ads, for example, show hip and cool customers drinking the delicious beverage, which is intended to create Desire in you to do the same.

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With all this media marketing and messaging that entices you to drink Coke and all the brand’s beverage iterations, the product is placed everywhere you may shop or hang out. You’ll find Coke brand items in grocery stores, convenience stores, movie theaters, and in vending machines that are found nearly everywhere.

When you couple mass exposure and availability with low prices, the brand succeeds in creating Action, which helps Coca Cola maintain its position as one of the top soda brands in the world.

#2 AIDA Model for Lincoln

Car brands are also accustomed to using AIDA in their marketing and advertising promotions.

Take the latest Lincoln ads starring movie star Mathew McConaughey.

The brand attracts Attention by drawing you into a commercial starring one of the most recognized faces in the world.

Take one of the latest commercials, such as the one advertising the 2019 Lincoln Nautilus.

The commercial begins with McConaughey and a group of people surrounding a table, where’s he’s telling a humorous story.

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In this way, the commercial doesn’t appear to be an advertisement at all. In fact, the video is filmed more like a movie trailer, which sucks the audience in, creating massive Interest.

The Desire comes when our movie star gets behind the wheel of the newest Lincoln brand. It’s then that we’re introduced to the latest Lincoln Co-Pilot technology, which includes innovative tools like Blindspot, Driver Alert, and Lane Keeping System.

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The company doesn’t explain these things and it doesn’t need to. The brand entices Action by directing you to visit the Lincoln website, where the process may start all over again until you actually show up at a Lincoln dealership to test drive the latest model, maybe even the Nautilus.

#3 AIDA Formula and Expression Fiber Arts

Expression Fiber Arts has grown to earn more than $1 Million in annual sales.

The company builds Attention by advertising on social media. The company uses attractive models and their colorful offerings to draw the eyes of multitudes of Facebook users.

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The company then generates Interest by offering their newest pattern absolutely free.

The company develops Desire by limiting the free offer to one week only and by showcasing the clothing on the model, helping prospects see just how good the clothing will look on them.

Finally, Expression Fiber Arts entices Action by urging Facebook users to download the free offer coupon, thus pushing the conversion.

The Goal of Persuasive Copy

Using the AIDA persuasive message, you can improve your copywriting skills to help your brand stand out while evoking AIDA for greater brand awareness and attraction.

When attempting to create Attention, you’ll need write powerful email subject lines and headlines that speak to your prospects’ needs and problems with as few words as possible.

Attention requires you to be quick and to the point. That’s because people are bombarded by too many messages to give credence to any brand that’s too verbose in their initial messaging.

Once you’ve developed Attention, you can develop Interest by expanding on your initial message. If your subject line or headline promised a goal, your Interest-bearing copy will expound on those ideas.

For instance, if your subject line reads: “Boost your CTRs with this 1 trick!” Well, then, any readers who are interested in more click through rates will likely open that email.

Your first paragraph, then, needs to continue that idea. It might read, “Are your click through rates suffering? Do you want more from your marketing campaigns? Here’s how to do it, and it only requires one simple trick.”

That would definitely create Interest in anyone whose CTRs are drastically too low.

When creating Desire with copywriting techniques, you’ll want to tell a story or at least make your messaging personal while promoting your offering’s features and benefits.

In keeping with the above example, the body of your email might continue as, “Three years ago, our click through rates were suffering just like yours. We didn’t know what was wrong. We tried everything and nothing worked. Then, we did this one thing that caused our CTRs to jump by 100%!

You know what we did?

We changed the days when we blasted out our emails from Wednesday to the weekends.

Click here to see the results of our amazing case study.”

To entice Action, you merely add a link to your call-to-action, thus pushing the conversion.

Key Tips to Succeed Using AIDA Formula

Here are the steps to follow when you want to employ the AIDA method in your own marketing efforts.

Write for Your Target Persona

You should be speaking directly to your buyer persona. This means that you need to use lots of “You” and “Your,” so that your prospects think you’re speaking only to them.

This makes your messaging more personal. If you can mention specifics that apply to your buyer persona, such as the role they play at their company, their responsibilities, problems, and other details.

If your buyer persona is a marketing manager, for example, use that title in your messaging to cause it to really hit home.  

Use Style Elements

Your prospects won’t only react to how your ad and marketing copy reads, but also how it looks.

To highlight certain ideas and to hammer home your AIDA message, you are encouraged to use style elements like underline and bold.

Style your copywriting too much and your copy can become overwhelming. Used appropriately, however, you can help your readers truly comprehend your words for improved effect.

Here’s a great example.

“Are you having a difficult time reaching your audience? With powerful and effective copywriting techniques, you can create Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action for an AIDA formula to remember.”

Work on Your Headlines

Your headlines are often the first element of your marketing and advertising copy that prospects will see. If your headlines aren’t effective, your marketing efforts could fall flat.

When developing AIDA headlines, you’ll want to speak to the prospect, speak to your buyer persona’s problems, and offer some kind of promise or solution.

For instance, “10 Marketing Techniques Drive Revenue in 2019.”

This is an effective headline because it offers a numbered list, which always tend to do well, and it’s timebound, which means that more prospects are sure to click-to-read this year. The headline speaks to marketers and mentions a solution to a problem, which is how to make more money this year.

You can test the viability of your headlines by using Coschedule’s Headline Analyzer, which will let you know if your headlines are emotionally-driven, contain the proper keywords, and are the best they could be for AIDA marketing and advertising.

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A/B Test Your Promotional Emails

We already proposed how AIDA can be used with email marketing. Your subject lines gather Attention, your headlines and first paragraph offer Interest, the body builds Desire, and the CTA at the end pushes Action.

If your email open rates and click through rates aren’t doing as well as you’d hoped, you should A/B test your promotional emails to achieve maximum effect.

A/B testing is the task of taking two identical emails, whereby you change a single element of one of those emails, then you test the results with the same audience.

For instance, you’ll take two otherwise identical emails, only you’ll alter the headline on one. You can then send your emails to the same folks at different times to see which one performs better.

This technique can be used on subject lines, headlines, first paragraphs, email bodies, images, and calls-to-action.

The more elements you test, the more effective your emails will be. With enough testing, you’ll soon determine the exact combination of elements that lead to the most open rates and click throughs.

Take Advantage of Crazy Egg Testing Features

A great way to test your emails, websites, and other marketing and advertising mediums is to use a tool like Crazy Egg.

Crazy Egg provides you with innovative solutions that can contribute to the best web presence possible.

Heatmaps, for instance, show you exactly how visitors are reacting to your site, emails, and other marketing avenues with thermal based imaging.

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Using heatmaps, you can see where visitors are clicking, hovering their cursors, and where they may be getting blocked instead of converting.

Crazy Egg also offers site recordings, snapshots, and A/B testing abilities that can help you hone the AIDA formula and deliver more targeted messaging to your prospects and customers.

The best part is that Crazy Egg offers a 30-day free trial. That means you can try all these exciting features on your own web presence without the commitment.

Try Crazy Egg and you’ll soon see why so many choose the platform for significant marketing improvements and results.

How to Implement AIDA Model

Let’s say you run a suburban dance studio that targets couples age 30-55. The studio also works with serious ballroom dancers who compete in national competitions.

But the bulk of the studio’s income comes from couples who simply want to enjoy learning to dance.

The studio owner buys a mailing list of couples within ten miles with the correct demographic. In other words, it’s a highly targeted list.

Before using the AIDA formula, it’s VITAL to understand precisely what motivates couples to, if you’ll excuse me, take the next step in the sales process.

Fortunately, the studio owner has successfully run the studio for several years and knows the following:

  • Women want to try learning to dance.
  • Men are initially reluctant but eventually really enjoy the classes.
  • A low-price offer converts best.
  • Dance lessons bring couples closer together—in many ways.
  • It’s a perfect date night activity.
  • A promotion in tandem with a local bar/restaurant works well. Have a dance class and then a meal and/or glass of wine.
  • Customers want to learn a variety of different styles, including the Tango, Fox trot, Waltz, and others.

The benefits of “practical application” must be stressed. For example, the couple will be able to dance at country club social events, meet new people, and never be wallflowers. Couples even move on to enjoy going to salsa clubs and some even go on to make competitive dancing their hobby.

You can definitely leverage the popularity of TV shows like Dancing with the Stars.

The key proof element is the testimonial.

The calls to action include: calling to book a spot for an introductory session, visiting a web page with more information, sending an email to the studio owner.

The offer (the most important part of this promotion) is a one-hour private dance class for $25. The private class takes place with one of the top instructors and normally costs $100.

It can also be important to understand the business model. Or, more specifically, the sales funnel.

The offer above persuades potential clients to try dancing lessons.

Approximately 50% will continue with weekly lessons. These customers, if they have young daughters, will send these children to dance lessons.

The couples will often bring other couples into the school. Many of these couples will regularly take dance lessons. About 5% will take it super-seriously and become premium clients who will spend several thousand dollars a year taking lessons to prepare for competitions.

Now the copywriter has the raw materials needed to use the AIDA formula properly. AIDA will only maximize conversion when the copywriter understands the business model and has almost all the copy elements in place before writing.

Let’s look at how we’d apply AIDA copywriting to this particular promotion.

Attention

The chosen vehicle for the offer is a two-page letter. So, the first job is to persuade the reader to take notice of an envelope… then open it. The copy on the envelope MUST grab the reader’s ATTENTION.

The target is a suburban woman aged 35-55. What’s supremely important to the prospect?

Dancing? No.

Their relationship? Yes.

To grab the attention of the reader, I would try a question headline.

“Would you like to take your relationship to the next level?”

The headline on the letter would match the attention-grabber on the envelope. I might try:

“How a Couple Used a
Totally Unexpected Idea to
Strengthen their Bond.”

I would test the attention-grabbing headlines, but these present a strong start.

Remember, when grabbing the attention of the prospect, it’s important to hit them right between the eyes and use some intrigue to persuade the reader to keep reading.

ON A SIDE NOTE: You might also choose to create a sales page—and the same formula would work. Instead of envelope copy, though, you’d probably have an email.

Now it’s time for…

Interest

Once you’ve grabbed the attention of the reader, it’s time to provide interesting and fresh information that augments the headline.

In this AIDA structure case, the letter can tell the story of a couple who tried dancing and strengthened their relationship… enjoyed meeting new people and were never wallflowers at social events… and even went on a tango vacation to Argentina.

Base the information in the interest section on what really appeals to the couples who have become regular students.

Notice that the approach above subtly solves a potential or current problem: a relationship that needs a boost. In this instance, it would be a mistake to mention the problem directly.

However, with some products and services, you can write openly about the problem. This approach works well for common problems like warts, blocked drains, indigestion, athlete’s foot, bad breath, etc.

Now that you’ve got them interested in dancing as a way to improve a relationship, now it’s time to introduce…

Desire

It’s in this section that you pound away with the benefits. And here’s where the research becomes especially valuable.

In this letter, I would state and re-state the benefits that couples enjoy when they take up dancing as a hobby.

To back up your claims, you must provide proof. In the case of the dance school, three testimonials from other suburban couples should suffice and buttress the desire.

Now that you’ve stimulated desire, it’s time for…

Action

You’ve worked hard to get the potential student interested in learning to dance. So it’s time to introduce the offer plus overcome any objections. You can also introduce the concept of scarcity.

In this case, the offer is the $25 private dance lesson and there are just four available a week.

You can mention that men are reluctant but love it in the end.

You can introduce the instructor and their qualifications.

Then it’s important to provide a clincher: when you buy the $25 dance lesson, you also get a $25 gift card to a local restaurant so you can enjoy a meal after the lesson.

A guarantee can also help persuade people to take action.

Then you MUST include a call to action (CTA). Make it clear and easy to respond. Tell the reader to take the next step.

The above example is somewhat simplistic but it clearly introduces AIDA copywriting formula.

Conclusion

AIDA – Attention, Interest, Desire, and Attraction – as a concept has been used by advertisers and marketers for decades.

Follow in the footsteps of brands like Coca Cola, Lincoln, and Expression Fiber Arts, and create a brand message that your prospects can’t help but respond to.

When you understand your buyer persona, the AIDA formula, and you begin working on elements like your subject lines, headlines, body copy, and calls-to-action, you’ll soon get why this formula has been in existence for as long as it has. Because it works very well.

Put the technique to work for your own marketing efforts and don’t forget to A/B test every element of your marketing footprint to gain the Attention, Interest, Desire, and Actions you require for more leads, customers, revenue, and return on your marketing and advertising investment.


Scott Martin is a direct response copywriter based in Charlotte, North Carolina. He has also written or edited 18 books including The Book of Caddyshack: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the Greatest Movie Ever Made. Scott provides free resources for marketers including direct response checklists.

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