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One of many models that analyse and measure the customer's journey from ignorance to purchase. The AIDA model is simple, which partly explains its longevity and widespread use. The model was developed in 1898 by St Elmo Lewis in an attempt to explain how personal selling works. The model laid out a sequence that describes the process a salesperson must lead a potential customer through in order to achieve a sale. The stages, Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action, form a linear hierarchy. In order to be motivated to actually make a purchase, customers must progress from being aware of a product's existence to being interested enough to pay attention to the product's benefits and advantages, to having a desire to benefit from the product. Lewis believed that the fourth stage, Action, would come as a natural result of movement through the first three stages.

Although Lewis's work was primarily focused on helping the personal selling process, it was avidly taken up by marketing and advertising theorists over the next half-century. The action stage became the ultimate goal of all marketing and all advertising. This is also fundamental to the understanding of the hierarchy of effects theory. Later theories distinguished the role of marketing as moving the consumer to action from that of advertising, whose main purpose was to move the consumer through the sequence towards action.

If the seller can successfully gain the consumer's attention, then the next stage is to stimulate interest in the product. For example, what special features or benefits does the product have? What special needs does it address? How might it satisfy any one of the needs and wants that the consumer might have? During this stage the consumer develops a reaction to the product, usually either favourable or unfavourable. If the response is favourable and the advertisement is successful in awakening interest, it then attempts to create in the consumer's mind a desire to purchase. It does this by successfully connecting the benefits of the product with the consumer's needs and wants. This is often the most difficult aspect of advertising design. Portraying a product in an attractive manner that stimulates interest in consumers is the easier part; it is more difficult to persuade consumers to buy it. Advertising rarely makes the sale on its own. So, this phase of advertising has to both show consumers that there is a product available which will satisfy their needs, and show them that they can satisfy that need by purchasing the product in question. This leads to the final stage, action, where consumers actually get up, go out, actively seek the product, and buy it. See also dagmar; three orders model.

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