AIDA: The Conscious and Unconscious Trajectory of Marketing

If you went to school for marketing, chances are at some point you were confronted with the acronym “AIDA”, which stands for Awareness, Interest, Decision, Action.  Let me illustrate how this process works with a personal story.

In my twenties I had a job that required a lot of travel.  I would be out for two weeks at a time, in a different city every day, with typically one week back in town before the next trip.  The only luggage I owned at the time was the set I had gotten as a high school graduation present and the backpack I used to carry my books in college.  My growing need to travel for work gave me an AWARENESS of luggage.  A few trips developed in me an INTEREST in what kinds of luggage might make business travel easier.  Thus, as I read airline magazines, I paid attention to the luggage ads more than I had previously.  One ad that caught my eye was for a piece of luggage that was the kind I had been looking for, which I noticed was being sold at a store where I had worked while I was in college.

One Friday in December, I was returning from a business trip and getting back on a plane the following morning to spend the holidays with my sister in another state.  I was at the baggage carousel at about 7:PM waiting for my luggage, when I saw my make-up case circling the belt.  Then I saw one of my shoes, followed by a slip.  I looked up to the top of the conveyer to see my backpack, caught on the metal corner at the top of the belt, a deep gash down the side, and my belonging spilling out.  I blinked a few times, got a trash bag from the airline desk and began grabbing my belongings as they came down the ramp and stuffing them into the trash bag.  Now I had a DECISION to make: how was I going to replace my luggage in time to board a plane the next morning? I needed to take ACTION.

While sitting in a taxi on the way home, I remembered that ad I saw in the airline magazine for the luggage I wanted being sold at the store where I used to work.  I asked the driver to take me directly to the store.  Once I got there, I asked about the particular piece of luggage I had seen.  I bought it, got back in the cab, got home, repacked, and left again the next morning.

This experience with the AIDA trajectory illustrated two key things that contribute to successful marketing:

  1. Much of the AI part of the trajectory happens unconsciously.  I was only able to unpack my experience of that part of the process in hindsight and I was only interested enough to do it because marketing is my profession. The average person is unconscious of these two phases as they’re happening.  This is what makes tracking how successful we are in these phases so difficult.  However, what happens in this liminal state informs our decisions.  Whatever projects you’re chasing, know what motivates the decision makers and become associated with those positive motivations.
  2. “Decision” is the part of this trajectory when things become conscious.  Decisions usually happen in response to circumstances and occur in tandem with deadlines.  This is when we become conscious about the process and can start tracking it.  The end of a fiscal year, the start of a school term and the need to meet staff growth projections are all triggers that create deadlines that require decisions.  Whatever markets you compete in, know the attendant deadline drivers.

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