AIDA. Attention, interest, desire, action. It’s the classic copywriting formula, studied and used by almost every copywriter on the planet. Well, I’m not a fan. Not because it isn’t accurate, and not because it doesn’t work. If your writing can get attention, grab interest, create desire and prompt action, then you’re doing a lot of things right.
If your writing isn’t doing these things, however, then I don’t think AIDA will help you very much, because it doesn’t do enough to explain how to do any of these things.
The best way to learn is by example, so let’s look at a promotional failure and see how it conforms to AIDA but still doesn’t work.
Text-Message Loan Sharking?
I recently received a text message from a number I didn’t recognize. It read:
Coming up short between pay-days? You can solve the problem NOW with a $300–$1000 INSTANT–Advance! Respond YES if interested, NO–to–STOP
Now, obviously, I didn’t text back the anonymous sender with a “Yes.” I didn’t text them back with a “No” either. I called the number to tell them that I don’t appreciate unsolicited spam marketing. But no one answered; the call went to a voicemail box that was full.
I was unimpressed before; this sealed the deal!
Let’s see how this piece of marketing stacks up on the AIDA scale, something that is taught even in digital marketing course:
A for attention Sure, the text message got my attention. After all, text messaging is an interruptive medium; you’re bound to get the attention that way.
I for interest Okay, I’ll play along. Let’s say that I am, in fact, coming up short between paydays: the message would have my interest. So far, so good.
D for desire Also good. If I’m broke and need cash, then I’d definitely want an advance.
A for action Well, the message called for action (“Respond YES if interested”), but it didn’t lead to action. Fail.
What Was Missing? Why Didn’t It Work?
The missing element in this campaign was context: who are they, why are they contacting me, and why should I trust them?
Context is a critical component of effective messaging. Without it, an action likely won’t result, even if you call for it.
The trouble with AIDA is that it implies that attention leads to interest, which then leads to desire, which in turn leads to action. But a piece of the puzzle is still missing: context.
AIDA doesn’t give you all of the ingredients that combine to result in action — which is what you ultimately want!
A Better Model: 6 + 1
This model is a little more complex, which is a good thing.
Complexity is important — critical, even. And in this case, it involves information that AIDA lacks but that is needed in order to write effective copy (unless you’re one of those people to whom it comes as naturally as speaking). Here, then, is the 6 + 1 model, with six steps plus one extra thing you’ve got to cover along the way.