Bradley Nickel

Online Marketing Guy |

5 min read

The Key To Paid Traffic? Knowing Your Customer’s “Awareness Level”

There’s one HUGE mistake many marketers make when creating the ad copy and landing pages they’re sending traffic to.

The problem is they present the same message to everyone. They use the same copy that works on their email list — people who are familiar with them and their product — as they use on their cold traffic landing pages and display ads — people who are NOT familiar with their company or product.

Someone on your email list already knows what you are about. They’re familiar with you, your views and your products.

However, someone coming from cold traffic is a complete stranger. They have no reason to trust you. You need to build trust in your ads and landing pages. This goes beyond adding authority and social proof. You need to structure your copy based on the “Awareness level” of your product in the market.

So, how do you structure your copy differently for the perfect stranger, differently for the person who’s been on your list for one week, and differently for the person who’s been on your list for one year?

Eugene Schwartz and The 5 Levels Of Customer Awareness

In comes the King of Copywriting…

Eugene Schwartz.

Schwartz wrote the bible of copywriting, Breakthrough Advertising. Although it was published back in 1952 (when people still thought you could “burn off fat”) the lessons still apply today.

In chapter 3, Schwartz outlines a concept that he calls the 5 States of Awareness. This is how aware the people in your target market are of the products and solutions that exist in your specific niche.

This awareness affects EVERYTHING… and it should permeate throughout all your marketing channels.

You can use it on social media.

You can use it in your email list.

And you can apply it to your display ads and landing pages.

Here’s how it works:

The 5 States

There are 5 States of Awareness that change how you present your sales message.

They are:

  1. Most-aware
  2. Product Aware
  3. Solution Aware
  4. Problem Aware
  5. Unaware

Awareness Level #1: Most Aware

In the “Most Aware” stage, your prospect is familiar with your product and whether or not they want to buy it. At this stage your prospect only needs to know the bare minimum.

Writing copy for prospects at this level is the easiest of all. They just want to know what the “deal” is and where they can buy one. Prospects who are Most Aware don’t need to know the back story of your company, they require little social proof (if any) and they don’t need to be educated on the benefits of your product.

The iPad is a great example. Apple doesn’t use persuasive copy to explain why someone should buy the iPad. People already know what the iPad is and whether or not they want it. Apple only markets the iPad based on price and new features (the “deal” as mentioned above).


Apple (Macbook Air)

There’s no explanation behind what a MacBook Air is or why they should buy it. The price itself is enough to make the sale.

Awareness Level #2: Product-Aware

Prospects in the “Product-Aware” state are familiar with your product and its features, but are not sure if it’s right for them. Prospects in this stage are usually looking for specific features/benefits that make your product better than your competition’s.


American Express

Everyone knows American Express offers credit cards. But how do they know if an American Express card is right for them and right for their spending habits? How do they know the American Express Platinum Card is better than anything Visa or Mastercard offers?

American Express differentiates itself by giving better perks (miles, no fees for the first year, rewards, etc.)



Most people who have the problem that Cialis solves has already heard about Cialis and what it can do. Therefore Cialis does not state the benefits or even what the pill does in their advertising. They assume prospects already know and understand. They’re simply trying to convince their prospects to buy THEM instead of Viagra (or any other competitor) by offering a 30-day trial.

Awareness Level #3: Solution Aware

Your prospect knows the results they want and they know that solutions exist, but they’re not aware your specific solution exists.

Let’s use the weight loss market as as example…

Someone’s overweight and they want to lose 10 lbs. They know there are LOTS of solutions out there. Fad diets, pills, “Stairmasters”, belly vibrating machines, etc. They’ve got a problem, they’re aware there are many potential solutions, but they don’t know which solution is right for them.

These customers just need to be convinced that your solution is the best for them. The best way to do this is to use proven claims and social proof: case studies, badges, testimonials, highlighting the unique “mechanism” that differentiates your product, etc.


The landing page above shows Jillian Michaels, a celebrity personal trainer from The Biggest Loser. Celebrity social proof/authority is super powerful. A lot of people have seen the show she’s on and the results she’s helped her clients achieve. Her celebrity status is enough that they don’t even have to give a whole lot more information on her methods.

Awareness Level #4: Problem-Aware

At Awareness Level #4, your prospect knows they have a problem, but they aren’t aware any solution exists. In other words, the prospect recognizes they have a need, but not that there is a product that can fulfull that need.

Many new products fall into this awareness level.

The key to selling to prospects at this awareness level is to let them know you feel their pain. The headline and copy will contain some sort of anxiety or pain that the prospect might be going through. This is used a lot in the dating and health markets.

Capture Him

Capture Him is a product that teaches women how to “catch” the man of their dreams. The assumption behind this ad is that some women have issues with finding a partner that will not stray from them. A lot of women might not have an issue with finding someone, but they might have a problem with getting him to stick around for the long-term. There are a lot of dating sites/information on how to MEET people… but there is little known advice or products that teach people how to hold on to the people they meet.

Notice how the ad here reflects on the pain of of women not being able to “hold on” to a man. It reflects that the advertiser has empathy for the prospect and understands their situation. This empathy creates a bond between the prospect and the advertiser.

Awareness Level #5: Completely Unaware

At Awareness Level #5, the prospect has no knowledge of anything except their own identity, beliefs or opinions.

At this level, your prospect…

  • Does not know about your product.
  • Does not know there is a “solution”
    • And might not even know (or hasn’t identified) they have a problem.

This is the most difficult but most scaleable level of customer awareness. The unaware market is the mass market. And since it’s a mass market… they sky’s the limit

You must tell them what problem they have they’re not aware of and how your product can solve it, but in a way that doesn’t make it completely obvious you’re about to pitch them an offer. You must create the demand by using stories and parables.

This is often done with a long-form sales letter or (more comonly) a video sales letter. The key is not to scare the prospect away. You make no pitches or promises out of the gate. Instead, you echo an emotion, an attitude, or some dissatisfaction that plucks people out from the crowd and pulls them together.

Many nutraceutical companies and newsletters use cold traffic very well at this level of awareness.

For example, Keybiotic: (1)

This ad leads to VSL that sells a Probiotic supplement. The story behind the ad is there exists a parasite that is infecting the American public (possibly YOU) and causing all sorts of health issues.

A lot of advertisers in this space use fear as the main driver. Whether or not you agree this is ethical or not, fear is one of the most powerful human emotions. It can create a demand where there no longer was one.

While someone might wake up, look in the mirror and think, “I need to lose 10lbs”, they’re probably never going to wake up and think, “Today’s the day I buy a Probiotic. The story of the “American Parasite” sells them the benefits of a product they never thought they’d need through a story surrounding something that scares most people.


Knowing the awareness level of your market is one of the fundamental components of running a successful paid advertising campaign. All your ad copy, landing pages and follow-up sequences must be based on what Awareness Level your prospects live in.

Bradley Nickel

Online Marketing Guy |


  1. This is an absolutely brilliant example of the 5 levels of awareness.
    Well done Brad.

    • Thanks for the comment Jen-Lars!

      I’m happy you liked it.

  2. Love your article, thank you Brad !

  3. This is very true: most paid traffic converts less than organic traffic – and the reason why is the awareness level – great article!

    • Thanks for the feedback Christian!

  4. Brad and Mike the articles you guys have had of recent have been amazing…i look forward to them as premium cold paid traffic content available at any price rhnx

  5. Hello Brad,

    I knew about the levels but the examples you showed are brilliant.

    Just a quick question; I am looking at the ad for “Capture Him” and I wonder, is it possible to advertise this type of products using Adwords as an affiliate?


    • Hey Desmond,

      The short answer is no. Adwords has become very volatile for affiliates. You can no longer do direct linking or have “lower quality” landing pages that lead to affiliate offers.

      There are ways affiliates can use Google Adwords, but it has become more complicated than just setting up a landing page with a link to an offer.

      Check out our post on Affiliate Review sites to see how a few affiliate advertisers use the Google Display Network:

  6. Thank you for this great blog post with examples and banners.

    • We’re glad you liked it! Thanks for your feedback.



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