AIDA -- Teaching New Dogs 
Old Tricks
                                                  

While “AIDA” is not a trick, but rather an acronym representing a cognitive hierarchical template of buyer motivation, and the dogs are, in fact, the legions of empathetic and sincere sales and marketing people that serve your industry — AIDA is indeed old! It was first introduced as a sales tool in 1898 by marketing pioneer, E. St. Elmo Lewis. He created the acronym to describe the four mental phases of person-to-person selling for the burgeoning US life insurance industry.

The acronym became more widely recognized in 1927 when it appeared in The Journal of Applied Psychology, in an article titled, “Theories of Selling,” by Edward K. Strong. This was the era when radios were found in over 2.5 million homes and advertising jingles for soap, tobacco, and coffee brands competed to be heard. AIDA became the cardinal rule upon which all future advertising would be written.

It wasn’t until the 1992 movie, Glengarry Glenn Ross, with Jack Lemon, Alec Baldwin, and Al Pacino, that most of us would hear of it. Blake, the sales manager (played by Baldwin), famously explained it:

A – Attention;
I – Interest;
D – Desire; and
A – Action.


Today the popular cable series AD-MEN is based upon the 5th Avenue premise of these simple 4 letters. 

As the theory goes (and it does not go without its detractors or modifiers), the letters represent mental phases through which the purchaser passes in response to an environmental stimulus as part of the buying process. Those that would malign the acronym point out that human cognition is very complex and is hardly understood in scientific circles, much less by people in marketing. Recent neuro-behavioral discoveries, however, could refute those naysayers. In addition, the fact that the acronym is so often modified—for instance by adding a C for “Conviction” after the Action stage (AIDAC), and/or an S for “Satisfaction” (AIDAS or AIDACS) — demonstrates the universality and adaptability of the original concept, regardless of how people choose to spell it. So, no matter your position in the debate, it behooves all of you “dogs” to pay AIDA some mind.

Neuro-Marketing
New cognitive marketing theories developed through MRI brain scans and environmental stimuli have given strong support, if not empirical evidence, that AIDA is based on physiological fact not fiction. This scientific brain mapping activity shows the decision process to purchase or not to purchase is conjointly resolved by the three parts, or realms, of the brain. Each part encases another—similar to a wooden Russian nesting doll, called a “Matryoshka doll.”


These parts are:
1. The cortex, the intellectual and most recently evolved part, responsible for learning, logic, language, and judgment. It surrounds the next older. .
2. The limbic system, the emotional manager responsible for our feelings, moods, memories, and hormones.
3While “AIDA” is not a trick, but rather an acronym representing a cognitive hierarchical template of buyer motivation, and the dogs are, in fact, the legions of empathetic and sincere sales and marketing people that serve the timeshare industry—AIDA is indeed old! It was first introduced as a sales tool in 1898 by marketing pioneer, E. St. Elmo Lewis. He created the acronym to describe the four mental phases of person-to-person selling for the burgeoning US life insurance industry. 


The acronym became more widely recognized in 1927 when it appeared in The Journal of Applied Psychology, in an article titled, “Theories of Selling,” by Edward K. Strong. This was the era when radios were found in over 2.5 million homes and advertising jingles for soap, tobacco, and coffee brands competed to be heard. AIDA became the cardinal rule upon which all future advertising would be written.

It wasn’t until the 1992 movie, Glengarry Glenn Ross, with Jack Lemon, Alec Baldwin, and Al Pacino, that most of us would hear of it. Blake, the sales manager (played by Baldwin), famously explained it:

A – Attention; 
I – Interest; 
D – Desire; and 
A – Action.

As the theory goes (and it does not go without its detractors or modifiers), the letters represent mental phases through which the purchaser passes in response to an environmental stimulus as part of the buying process. Those that would malign the acronym point out that human cognition is very complex and is hardly understood in scientific circles, much less by people in marketing. Recent neuro-behavioral discoveries, however, could refute those naysayers. In addition, the fact that the acronym is so often modified—for instance by adding a C for “Conviction” after the Action stage (AIDAC), and/or an S for “Satisfaction” (AIDAS or AIDACS)—demonstrates the universality and adaptability of the original concept, regardless of how people choose to spell it. So, no matter your position in the debate, it behooves all of you “dogs” to pay AIDA some mind.

Neuro-Marketing

New cognitive marketing theories developed through MRI brain scans and environmental stimuli have given strong support, if not empirical evidence, that AIDA is based on physiological fact not fiction. This scientific brain mapping activity shows the decision process to purchase or not to purchase is conjointly resolved by the three parts, or realms, of the brain. Each part encases another—similar to a wooden Russian nesting doll, called a “matryoshka doll.”. The amygdala, or R Complex, which controls our responses to hunger, temperature control, fight-or-flight, fear, and survival. This almond shaped most inner organ is often called our reptilian (hence ‘R’) or lizard brain, because it appears in similar form from our earliest evolutionary relatives.

The process we call decision-making involves three basic phases: the input or sensing phase (hearing, seeing, smelling, etc.); the cognition phase (filtering, memory referencing, emotional attachment, imprinting); and the output or behavior phase (measuring, judging, making a decision, and, finally, a response), which hopefully leads to a signature rather than a hasty exit.

The brain’s role in this highly complex process is far from understood. Leave it to be said that it has a strange likeness to our AIDA model and hence its importance, as the neuro-behavioral discoveries mentioned earlier have demonstrated. You'll find more information on advertising and brain studies here: The Advertised Mind,  (2005, Millward-Brown), showing how this process may work.

AIDA
Attention (Awareness)

Just like it says: “Look Here,” or “Listen Up,” or “Hey, You!” If you don’t first get their attention it doesn’t matter what follows. In the late 1890s, when E. St. Elmo Lewis first devised AIDA, it was a lot easier to be heard. In our 24/7, iPod, noisy, and intrusive world, we can be bombarded with over 1200 advertising messages per day. All but those that interest us at the moment are filtered out. So whether it’s a billboard, a telemarketing call, or a timeshare presentation, “breaking the pact,” or getting your audience’s awareness or their attention, is not just important—it’s everything!

The Lizard Brain provides an initial filtering and omnipresent role as the gatekeeper and referee of the purchase process. In the first moments of contact the amygdala determines if the sensory signals represent something of interest or of danger. Based upon memory recall, this Lizard Brain grants attention and trust or fright and flight. It then maintains a watchful eye during the communications, or it may call for an abrupt end to the proceedings. This is called “buy or bolt” in timeshare sales.

Rhetorical questions referencing loss, or inferring a material shortfall or elements of fear are direct appeals to the Reptilian Brain. As are matters relating to better health, lifestyle, or an attractive appearance, which are aimed at survival and species propagation, clearly the realm of the amygdala.

Once you’ve gained their attention, it is all about showing that you care and can be trusted. Your empathy builds rapport and puts the guardian Lizard Brain at ease.

Interest
This is where you make feature-rich appeals to the rational brain. You want to explain the why of your product in a way that makes sense. The importance of this was recently demonstrated by a Stanford University study, “Neural Predictors of Purchases,” by Brian Knutson. It demonstrated how the circuits in the cortex were excited by the anticipation of gain or loss, and how others were deactivated when encountering excessive prices. You want to demonstrate the net “gain” they will receive through ownership. As you engage in the rational thinking of the Interest phase, the cortex becomes highly involved with measuring, dissecting, comparing, and rationalizing. And just as easily it provides excuses, apologies, and alibis to your spouse.

Each stage of AIDA is essential to the decision-making process. Interest gives weight where urgency may be lacking. For example, investing in a child’s college fund may not be urgent, but it is important.

Desire
Your appeals need to offer compelling emotional benefits that will energize and motivate the customer: third-party stories illustrating how others have used the product; how the customer can realize their dreams; succeeding where the customer has not—things within the domain of the limbic system.

This is where the emotions, as well as real pain, are felt. Urgency is the measure of potentiality between the hurt felt and goal realized. It does not have to make sense like the Interest phase. It doesn’t even have to be real, so long as it hurts!

Psychologists have repeatedly shown how the emotions of the limbic system can trump reality. In the now famous blind cola taste tests, Pepsi was normally chosen the favorite, but when the brands were revealed before tasting, Coke was the decided winner. Coke’s branding, social influences, associated memories—all limbic stuff—were more important than the facts. The limbic world is an illusory one.

Action
The Call to Action, as it’s termed by Madison Avenue, is the final but often forgotten step in AIDA. You’ll find it at the bottom of every direct mail piece (“Act Today!”), at the end of every infomercial (“Call Now!”), and on every e-commerce Web page (“Click Here!”). And like Pavlov’s dog, we do!

You cannot be afraid to ask for the customer’s order—Action. The well-crafted AIDA is like the artful brush strokes of a famous painter. Confidently guiding a needful and qualified customer to the point of taking action, then asking them to do so is a true sign of customer service. We’ve all wandered store aisles without being waited upon, or brought to the point of decision without being shown the way. If you’ve presented your product correctly using AIDA, you cannot “hard close” an able and agreeable customer. After all, it’s your job and the real reason they came.

Selling is just the flip side of buying. Both the salesperson and the customer must pass through the stages of AIDA together, as if waltzing across the dance floor. The best way to do this is to sincerely believe in what you say, and say it in the right order: AIDA.

A Century After
It’s been 110 years since E. St. Elmo Lewis first combined those now-famous four initials. And still science is discovering how truly profound and accurate they are. Even as we unravel more and more secrets of the mind, the overriding fact remains that to apply this simple concept and fulfill our roles as “sales dogs”—new or old—we need only apply: Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action.