The AIDA Model – is the purchase process linear?

What is the AIDA model?

The AIDA model describes a linear purchasing process. The four stages it proposes are Awareness (originally Attention), Interest, Desire and finally Action. The model originated in the American advertising industry in the early 20th century so it’s got a lot of history behind it.


  1. Awareness
  2. Interest
  3. Desire
  4. Action
  5. What’s wrong with the AIDA model?
  6. Where does AIDA fit in your marketing strategy?
  7. How to develop the AIDA Model.


At this stage in the AIDA model, the (potential) purchaser first notices the product, company or maybe even category. Because the model originated in the advertising industry, awareness is usually assumed to come about through advertising. Even in the late 20th century we realised that there were more ways to develop awareness than advertising. PR, word-of-mouth promotions, CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), sponsorship – these are all well-established ways of building awareness that don’t quite fit into the advertising sphere.

Since the development of social media and influencer marketing, the opportunities for building awareness have exploded.


The interest phase is where the purchaser starts to investigate how the product would benefit them. They start thinking about how their life would be different with the product. They want to know more detail about it.

This is a challenging stage for marketers because what the customer needs are details and what we tend to respond with are specifications. This is the easiest stage to misread. Interested purchasers want details so they can understand the benefits but, with specifications and features, we give them details and miss out the benefits. It’s a mistake as old as the hills. We’ve all done it and I’m sure we’ll all do it again.


The Desire stage is where the purchaser starts to develop an intention to buy. They recognise that they want the product. They’ve already imagined their life with the product and they see that life as a step forward. But there are still plenty of things that would prevent them making a purchase. Just because they have the desire to buy doesn’t mean they’re going to.

The marketer’s job is to build the desire in the purchaser. To me, it’s a challenging phase. Not because the work is difficult but because it’s really just an extension of the Interest phase. The types of work you do in the Desire phase are very similar to the types of work you do in Interest.


So finally we come to the Action phase. This culminates in a transaction but it’s not just about a transaction. In this phase, the purchaser compares the offerings in their shortlist. They review prices. They contrast the different ways products can be purchased or financed. They investigate terms and conditions. They analyse reviews. They check on after-sales service.

When they’re satisfied with their investigations, they make a transaction. This might not be a purchase. It might be signing up for a trial.

Ultimately, the action marketers want to prompt is a financial purchase. All our activities in the Action phase have to be directed towards making sure a financial purchase happens and making that purchase as easy as possible.

The AIDA Model's stages are Awareness, Interest, Desire and Action.

The AIDA Model’s stages are Awareness, Interest, Desire and Action.


What’s wrong with the AIDA model?

Purchases aren’t linear

AIDA’s value is that it shows that purchases are made up of different parts. As marketers, we have to satisfy the questions purchasers might raise. The more questions we answer, the better we answer them, the easier we make the process, the more likely the purchaser is to buy from us as opposed to one of our competitors.

But AIDA suggests that purchases are linear. They’re not. Some purchasers will go through every stage of the AIDA model in a single online session. Especially if the purchase value is quite small. It would be impractical to apply AIDA to buying staples online.

Other purchasers might jump straight from the Awareness stage to elements of the Action stage. I would put myself in that camp. As soon as I become aware of some products I find out how much they cost to see if it’s even worth investing time looking in detail at what they do.

Rather than being a funnel, it’s best to see the stages of the AIDA model as components in a purchase. See them as independent parts of the purchase process. It’s safe to assume most purchasers will go through each component but it’s not safe to assume the sequence they’ll take.

AIDA ignores post-sales

The second limitation of AIDA is that it fails to acknowledge the importance of post sales activities. We probably don’t need to remind ourselves that post sales marketing boosts our chances of both repeat sales and positive reviews. This is a whole world that AIDA doesn’t even acknowledge exists.

Treat AIDA's stages as interchangable components of a purchase process.

Treat AIDA’s stages as interchangable components of a purchase process.


Where does AIDA fit in your marketing strategy?

The problem with models is that they tend to sit in isolation. You read about them, you think “that sounds so logical, so useful, so relevant” but then you struggle to incorporate them into your day-to-day activities.

AIDA fits nicely into the Communications stage of your lead generation strategy. By this point, you’ve worked out who your target audience is, what their goals or problems are and what value propositions you have to address those goals and problems. In Communications, you’re working out how to get your value propositions to your target market.

AIDA’s role in this stage of the strategy is to make sure that you address every part of the purchase process.

  • Does your communications plan include a way to make people notice your product or service (Awareness)?
  • Are you producing materials, videos or social content to get people curious about your product or service (Interest)?
  • Is it enticing enough to turn that interest into desire (Desire)?
  • And if purchasers decide they want your product or service on their shortlist, do you make it easy for them to turn a desire to purchase into an actual purchase (Action)?
Use the model to improve the Communications stage of your lead generation strategy.

Use the model to improve the Communications stage of your lead generation strategy.


How to develop the AIDA Model

It’s easy to address AIDA’S two main limitations, to develop a model that properly describes a purchase process and helps marketers satisfy purchaser requirements.

The technique is Buyer Personas. You’re bound to have heard of them because they are oh so fashionable. But, like most marketing fads, they come with an enormous amount of bullshit.

In the next blog post I’ll introduce you to Browser Bill, Interested Iris, Purchasing Paula and Loyal Luke. They’re the personas that will help you help your customers.

Buyer personas are the best way to implement the model.

Buyer personas are the best way to implement the model.