Leave Auntie AIDA alone - understanding consumer buying behaviour

  • The esteemed consultants at McKinsey have been burning the midnight oil to come up with the startling revelation that consumer purchases are, wait for it, needs and wants driven.

    Yes, it’s true. In its recent paper on the
    Consumer Decision Journey, McKinsey challenges the linear progression of consumers from awareness to purchase and now says that consumers start with a trigger event that spurs them into action: they decide they need or want something and then set about finding it.

    Well, knock me down with a feather.


    The disturbing thing, beyond the fact that people are actually paid to come up with this stuff, is that Mckinsey is confusing the psychology of buying with a marketer’s approach to intervening in the process.


    The linear progression that McKinsey challenges is based on AIDA Awareness, Interest, Desire & Action.


    To my knowledge, nobody has ever maintained that this is how people buy. We have understood since Maslow was a boy that human actions are based on fulfilling needs. When we have a need, we set about fulfilling it at a speed dictated by the urgency of the requirement and the degree of risk in the decision.


    A marketer’s challenge is to intervene in the process and create a purchase of their product at the highest possible price. This could involve stimulating an impulse buy or making sure that the brand is on the consideration list for a more measured acquisition.

    ‘A’ stands for ‘attention’ or ‘awareness’ and makes AIDA a good guiding principle when developing the approach to anything from a new brochure to a long-running multi-media campaign.

    In the context of a shop, AIDA can mean grabbing attention with a compelling display and then turning the initial curiosity into desire with a great product and packaging. This, in turn, should lead to the action of a purchase.

    A brochure or a website, be it B2B or B2C, should follow the same principle. The creator must find the compelling Home page or cover message that encourages the reader to delve deeper and deeper until action is taken.

    Awareness comes into play for the more complex decisions when the purchaser may decide to explore the market. A marketer needs to create awareness to ensure the product or service is in the consideration set in the first place. This awareness could be created by brand advertising or a face-to-face relationship, either way it is a necessary pre-curser to interest in the marketer’s product, the decision that it’s the right solution and the action of purchasing it.

    AIDA remains valid and has its place for those that understand it. To claim insight from the revelation that purchases are needs and desires driven is like proclaiming the Earth orbits the Sun.

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