The Customer Journey: From Awareness to Advocacy




Customer Journey and Customer Experience

A customer journey begins with the first contact between a potential customer and a brand touchpoint, rather than just the interaction or transaction in the encounter between the customer and the product or service. In other words, the customer’s experience (CX) with a brand is not only about the buying experience or customer service. The experience starts long before the customer buys the product, and continues long after. The customer journey, thus, encompasses all the touchpoints the customer might have with the product, such as brand communications, interaction with the brand’s salesforce, product usage, customer service, and conversations with other customers. “Companies must orchestrate all these touchpoints to deliver a seamless CX that is meaningful and memorable for the customers” (Kotler et al., 2021).

getting the attention of a walking female shopper

The customer path

The AIDA Framework

Generally, customers get on a common path in their journey towards, and also before and after buying and consuming products and services, whether in the physical or digital world. Traditionally, the customer path is mapped in the AIDA framework pioneered by E. St. Elmo Lewis through a slogan he introduced in 1898: attract attention, maintain interest, create desire, and later adding the fourth term get action. From then on, the AIDA framework became widely used to describe the customer path: attention, interest, desire, and action.

Related article: Close More Sales: The 3 Stages of the Buyer’s Journey Explained

The Four A’s

Dr. Derek Rucker, Professor of Marketing at Northwestern University, offered a modification of AIDA that he calls the four A’s: aware, attitude, act, and act again. In this framework, he simplified interest and desire into attitude and added a new stage, act again. He aims, here, to track post-purchase customer behavior and measure customer retention, while considering the act of repurchasing as a strong proxy for customer loyalty. Basically, from this new framework’s perspective, customers learn about a brand (i.e., they become aware), like or dislike it (attitude), decide whether to buy it (act), and decide whether the brand is worth a repeat purchase (act again).

woman with shopping bags taking photos with her phone outdoors

The Five A’s

For Kotler et al., the four A’s needed updating in the era of connectivity. Philip Kotler himself, Professor Emeritus of Marketing at Northwestern University, is known for popularizing the definition of “marketing mix” and for helping create the field of social marketing. With the rise of social influence and personal decisions essentially being social decisions, in Marketing 4.0 (Kotler et al., 2017), one is introduced to the five A’s: aware, appeal, ask, act, and advocate. To understand this updated framework, they pointed out some observations. For example,

“Customers who need more information will search for it and connect with other customers with better knowledge and more experience. Depending on the bias shown during the conversation, the connection either strengthens or weakens the brand’s initial appeal.”

“The initial appeal of a brand is influenced by the community surrounding the customer to determine the final attitude. Many seemingly personal decisions are essentially social decisions.”

“If the customer is happy with the brand, he or she will be willing to recommend it even when currently not using it.” Thus a new definition of loyalty.

“When it comes to understanding brands, customers now actively connect with one another, building ask-and-advocate relationships. Netizens, in particular, have very active connections in customer forums.”

“In other cases (e.g. in scarce and highly popular categories), loyal advocates might not necessarily be actual buyers. Tesla products, for example, are well advocated by non-buyers.”

(Related: See Rucker’s June 2021 Forbes article on Phil Kotler and the evolutionary stages of marketing, “The Evolution Of Marketing: A Candid Conversation With The Father of Modern Marketing”)

two female influencers vlogging makeup demo

Segmentation, preparedness, strategies

Three influences

In the five A’s framework, the ultimate goal is to drive customers from awareness to advocacy. The customer’s decisions, however, across the five A’s are usually formed by “a combination of their own influence, other’s influence, and outer influence”: the “O Zone (O3).” (See Kotler et al., 2017). In relation to the framework of this customer path, that of the five A’s, the most experienced customers usually have the stronger own influence. The strength of each of the influences is also, in turn, influenced by the different states of digital maturity, different wants and needs in relation to differences in generations, and, basically, different life stages.

Big data, micro-segmentation, customer persona

In order for companies to accomplish the ultimate goal, especially in the era of connectivity, omnichannel interactions, and socially informed decisions, they may need to rethink their approach to designing and delivering CX, one that is worth advocating. Segmentation lines may have already been blurred and strategies may already be outdated. Meanwhile, though, the rise of big data, today, has opened up new possibilities for companies to collect new types of market data and perform micro-segmentation, even that of the “segments-of-one” customer profiling to tailor fit their approaches and messaging to a unique, individual customer persona. Here, “segmentation becomes more dynamic with big data, which allows marketers to change strategy on the fly” (Kotler et al., 2021). For Kotler et al. in Marketing 5.0 (2021), “in the digital era, the problem is no longer the lack of data but rather identifying the ones that matter.”

female shopper relaxing at home looking through a window

Designing the Customer Experience

Thus, companies need a new kind of preparedness in meeting potential customers. Marketers, sales, IT, back-office: each can no longer just work as separate teams but together to design touchpoints and develop CX that would not just have awareness as the objective, but advocacy.

Thus, finally, in the customer journey, CX has become the primary driver of business results. Today, it is through a customer journey worth experiencing and advocating that companies can continue to generate revenue. Rethink ways of creating value and meeting business results by paying attention to that which is gaining more and more economic value, the experience, and delivering a frictionless customer journey.

Related articles:

How AI Has Revolutionized Customer Service

6 Consumer Trends to Keep in Mind for Online Marketing 2022


Kotler, P., Kartajaya, H., and Setiawan, I. (2021). Marketing 5.0: Technology for Humanity. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Kotler, P., Kartajaya, H., and Setiawan, I. (2017). Marketing 4.0: Moving from Traditional to Digital. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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