HomeDissertation:Rethinking BtoB Communications from the Perspective of Involvement

Rethinking BtoB Communications from the Perspective of Involvement

4.Reconsidering the AISAS Model

I shall now examine the issues mentioned in the previous section with reference to the AISAS® communication model proposed by Dentsu, with the aim of expanding further on this concept.

Boosted by the spread of broadband communications, Internet use came into its own in the early 2000s, making it increasingly necessary to gain a conceptual understanding of the direct and indirect influences of the net on purchasing behavior. Internet media specialists within Dentsu consequently devised and published the AISAS model in 2004 as a simplified representation of this new consumer behavior (see Figure 1).

The most famous among such models is AIDA, proposed already at the beginning of the twentieth century and conceived as an expression of sales and advertising processes rather than consumer behavior as such. The acronym expresses the steps of drawing the customer’s Attention, inspiring Interest, building a Desire to be satisfied, and leading to the purchasing Action.

In Japan another concept called AIDMA became well known during the 1920s. This refers to paying Attention to the product, having Interest in it, harboring a Desire for it, remembering it (Memory), and buying it (Action). The addition of Memory reflects the fact that there may be a longer time interval until the purchase, bringing the concept closer to the actual psychological change processes of the consumer or customer.

The AISAS model encompasses Attention to the product, Interest in it, Searching for it on the Internet or similar, performing the purchasing Action, and finally Sharing one’s opinion of it with others. It therefore differs considerably both from AIDA and AIDMA in the addition of the dynamic Search and Share items before and after Action. The Search item refers to the stage where a product has caught a person’s attention through an information program or an advertisement, prompting the person to look for information about it, or even for the advertisement itself, on the Internet. The Share item refers to uploading one’s review of a purchased product or of an interesting advertisement to share with others on the Internet. When such shared information is found by others during a search, an information cycle is created, and such net-based “word-of-mouth” is also covered by the model. At the time when the model was published, sites such as Facebook and Twitter were not yet as ubiquitous as they are now, but it can be said that the model reflects a foresight anticipating them. By adding the active elements Search and Share, the model goes beyond mapping the psychological change processes and acquires the qualities of a dynamic and bidirectional action model.

Besides being used by Dentsu internally, the AISAS model was taken up for example on the blogs of operators in the industry, which seems to have contributed to its wider acceptance. In my opinion, it may have spread also because many companies, in particular those engaged in mass media advertising, had come to realize the power of the net. The AISAS concept from the beginning included an awareness that actual configurations will differ considerably, depending on the product sector, the market situation, and the degree of involvement by consumers and customers. However, such finer distinctions tended to be sometimes overlooked, with only the basic framework becoming widely known.

While the model helped with an early clarification of the effects of social media and social network services (SNS), it also led to quite a few misunderstandings. One of these is related to the concept of the “active consumer,” which is a basic assumption of the AISAS model. This is similar to the concept of the “rational being” in economics, which is often criticized as an unrealistic assumption. Thanks to the net consumers and customers can indeed easily collect various information, but this does not mean that they are doing this actively in every field. Rather, they will sift through their particular areas of interest. This in effect makes them “occasionally active consumers.” Their areas of interest are limited, and in others they will follow efficient information activity patterns. But when there is a social problem or other major event in a specific field, interest may rise rapidly, and they may become active consumers also in that field.

Another misconception is to think of AISAS as a single, unified model. The concept of cross-media communication planning also was introduced at about the same time as AISAS. “Cross-media campaign planning to foster change and action in keeping with the AISAS flow” is an interpretation that goes a long way toward explaining the emphasis on the two “S” items that were missing from AIDMA.

With regard to searching, the question of how to reliably guide people who have shown an interest in a brand or product toward the company’s website or campaign site was being emphasized, and the importance of planning for a brand experience that can motivate site visitors and therefore (potential) customers into action was pointed out. With regard to sharing, the focus was on getting people to post favorable comments on social media, thereby aiming for a positive spreading and propagation effect. The risk of negative product reviews being posted, and the risk of a campaign being misinterpreted as stealth marketing, also was mentioned.

In any case, by stressing the Share and Search processes, the interpretation that AISAS ties all processes together into a consistent whole (regardless of actual fact) was being emphasized.

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