August 14, 2023

The '5 Stages of Awareness' Ad Copywriting Framework (with examples)

Hannah Peritore

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The duo Strategy Ad Copy Methodology

When I first started writing ad copy, I had no particular direction.

Every campaign was a smorgasbord of somewhat random concepts thrown at the proverbial wall.

Few stuck. Most were garbage. (It’s all garbage in the beginning, no?)

After refining our copy process at duo over the last few years, we’ve developed a system that produces incredibly consistent results for our clients.

And it’s all structured around Eugene Schwartz’s ‘5 Stages of Awareness’ copywriting framework.

The 5 Stages of Awareness Copywriting Framework

Depending on your product or service, your ideal prospects are all over the map in terms of their awareness about the problem your product solves… let alone knowing about your product itself.

💡 Tip: It's crucial to understand your audience's awareness level and tailor your messaging accordingly.

Legendary copywriter Eugene Schwartz published the ‘5 Stages of Awareness’ copywriting framework in his bestselling book Breakthrough Advertising.

The 5 Stages of Awareness Copywriting Framework

So, here they are, the 5 Stages of Awareness:


These prospects are completely unaware of their specific problem or need, and haven't even realized that they require a solution yet.

They need engaging, educational content that encourages an ‘ah ha’ moment, and pushes them into the next stage.

Problem Aware

At this stage, prospects become conscious of their problem or need.

They recognize the existence of a problem, but may not fully understand it or its implications.

Problem-aware ad copy focuses on pain points and stokes desire for a solution.

Solution Aware

People in this stage are aware that solutions to their problem exist, and they’re actively seeking information and exploring potential options.

Here, you’ll want to provide proof that your product can solve their problem.

Product Aware

At this point, individuals are aware of your specific product or service as a potential solution to their problem.

They’re evaluating your product and comparing it with alternatives—so your copy should focus on what sets your product apart and the results they can expect to get from it.

Most Aware

In this final stage, prospects are ready to make a decision and take action. 

They are highly aware of your product's benefits, features, and how it can address their problem.

They just need a final push to make the purchase—which you’ll give them through time-sensitive deals, discounts, and incentives.

Writing Ad Copy for Each Awareness Stage

You can think of the stages as a spectrum.

Similar to a customer journey map or a sales funnel, prospects range from completely oblivious to the problem your product solves… to thoroughly aware of the problem and multiple solutions to it—including yours.

And it’s the copy’s job to meet each prospect where they’re at… no matter the stage of awareness, step of the journey, or phase of the funnel.

We’ve mapped every asset we create for our clients to the 5 Stages of Awareness. 

Let’s go over each in detail with examples.

The ‘Unaware’ Stage of Awareness

Blissfully unaware of how much better life could be with your product—prospects at this stage aren’t looking for a solution…

Because they don’t know they have a problem—yet.

You need to write ad copy that shows them how bleak the status quo truly is, and opens their eyes to a better reality.

💡Tip: Ad copy at this stage does not sell. It educates.

It’s important to plant the seed early and ‘water’ it with follow-up ads as prospects become more and more aware.

Take this ad, for example, for a company that provides short-term financing for roofing contractors.

Unaware Ad Copy Example

Here, we’re calling out a BIG problem: the death of the Ideal Customer Profile’s (ICP) business. 

Remember, unaware ads are education only—no selling.

All you’re trying to do here is create engagement so you can build a remarketing audience, and continue educating your ICP until they’re ready to make a purchase.

And you do that by giving away a free resource. Any resource—so long as it’s providing value.

In this case, it’s a guide. Oh, excuse me… an ultimate guide.

This ad is a good example of the unaware stage because it…

  1. Calls out the Ideal Customer Profile specifically 
  2. Makes the prospect aware of a problem they might not know they have
  3. Positions SquareDash as a trusted source of information

Now it’s time to ruffle some feathers with a pain-point ad or two.

The ‘Problem Aware’ Stage of Awareness

Prospects in the problem-aware stage are, as the name suggests.. ahem.. aware of the problem they’re facing.

They’re usually frustrated with the specific pain points your product solves.

But, they don’t know solutions exist yet.

So, as you might have guessed, ads in this stage still need to educate the prospect on the problem—and you can do that very effectively by calling out the main pain points.

Here’s an example of a pain-point centric carousel ad we put together for a company that helps companies retain more customers with their anti-churn product.

Problem-Aware Carousel Ad Copy Example

We find that carousel ads perform particularly well for calling out pain points, because the frustration just keeps building and building as the slides progress.

💡 Tip: This is a good example of the ‘slippery slide’ concept in copywriting, the technique of writing persuasive copy that smoothly guides the reader to the end and compels them to complete a desired action.

In this case, all we’re hoping for is some form of engagement.

Because, again the goal in the problem-aware stage isn’t to sell, it’s to…

Move the prospect into the solution-aware stage; drive engagement through clicks, likes, and comments, and build your remarketing audience.

If you’ll notice, slides 1-3 call out specific pain points; 4 and 5 share the solutions; 6 builds mystique around a way to automate the process; and 7 prompts them to learn more in the free resource.

This ad is a good example of the problem-aware stage because it…

  1. Starts with an ‘open loop’ in the first slide that encourages engagement to ‘close the loop’
  2. Uses statistics to legitimize and emphasize the problems the ICP is facing
  3. Teases an automated solution (that just so happens to be what we’re selling)

Now that you’ve riled them up with pain points, it’s time to highlight the solution to all those problems (your product).

The ‘Solution Aware’ Awareness Stage

At this point, your ICP should be hyper-aware they have a problem that needs solving—it’s time to hit them with a solution-aware ad highlighting the main service you offer.

These prospects are actively seeking out solutions to their problems, so in this stage you need to clearly state exactly what it is you do.

But just like math class, the solution isn’t enough.

You need to show your work. You need to prove why your product is the best possible solution to their problems.

For example, here’s an example of one of duo’s solution-aware ads highlighting the main service we offer. 

Solution-Aware Ad Copy Example

The copy is clear and concise—promising a benefit and simply stating exactly what we do (and for who)... helping to further personalize the ad so it better resonates with the ICP.

At this point, we’ve moved out of the spoon-fed-education portion of the awareness stages.

However, most prospects in the solution-aware stage likely aren’t ready to buy yet, which is why the CTA invites them to ‘Learn More.’

💡 Tip: It would be completely inappropriate to have a ‘book a call’ or ‘buy now’ CTA at this point in the awareness funnel.

Like asking someone to marry you on (at best) the third date. Timing is everything, and (for most people) that ain’t it.

Instead, solution-aware ads like this one should route to your homepage, or, better yet, a hyper-targeted landing page.

This ad is a good example of the solution-aware stage because it…

  1. Makes a big, bold, benefit-based promise
  2. Says exactly what our product is
  3. Calls out our Ideal Customer Profile
  4. Invites them to learn more about us

From here on out, your CTAs can (and should!) get more and more direct.

The ‘Product Aware’ Awareness Stage

At this point, your ICP is aware of your product as a potential solution to their problems.

Now they’re looking for reasons to trust you over the other guys.

In this stage, your copy needs to differentiate your product from the competition, and show your ICP how they will benefit from choosing you.

Your ad copy should highlight what sets your product apart and the kinds of results they can expect from using it.

Stay away from features. Nobody cares about them.

Think of it this way: people don’t buy cameras because they have a particular number of pixels. People buy cameras to take the most beautiful photos of their kids, pets, adventures, and loved ones possible—people buy cameras to collect memories.

💡Tip: You want to communicate how your prospect stands to benefit from what your product does—not what it literally does.

Here’s an example of a product-aware ad for an non-emergency medical transportation booking software for care facilities.

Product-Aware Ad Copy Example

For you to understand the punch this ad packs, you need to know that usually booking NEMT is a 30-45 minute process.

So telling the ICP they can do it in 3 minutes or less is astonishing and irresistible.

At this stage, your prospects have gotten to know you enough that your ad copy can comfortably use a more direct CTA. In this case, the product is free for this particular audience, so we went with the always-compelling ‘Try Free.’

You might use something like ‘Get Started’ instead.

Regardless, effective product-aware ad copy makes a big promise for what your ICP stands to gain by using the product.

Testimonials are also great to include at this stage of awareness—especially if you have quotes from customers that showcase your expected results.

This ad is a good example of the product-aware stage because it…

  1. Tells the ICP exactly how they will benefit from the product
  2. Juxtaposes the expected result of using the product with a well-known pain point
  3. Makes a big promise about how quickly the product will deliver results

And now we’ve reached the selling stage of the 5 Stages of Awareness.

The ‘Most Aware’ Awareness Stage

Finally, your prospects are ready to buy!

They know your product. They know the benefits. They’re ready to make a decision…

All they need is a good enough reason to buy now. A little push. And you can push them with offers.

FREE trials, LIMITED-TIME discounts, the promise of BONUS features for the first 200 people that click on the ad—whatever it is, just make it juicy enough for them to ACT NOW.

💡Tip: Keep in mind, just because you say the deal is for a limited time… doesn’t mean it really has to be for a limited time.

You can simply use artificial scarcity to trigger their FOMO and knock those fence-sitters solidly onto your side.

Here’s an example of an artificial-scarcity-driven ‘act now’ ad from another client of ours.

Most-Aware Ad Copy Example

Just super direct, no nonsense, scarcity-driven copy, emphasizing the incentive (it’s free for a limited time).

You’ll notice the CTA is to book a call rather than to buy now. The majority of times in B2B, this will be the case.

Often, B2B companies have custom pricing and packages, so the conversion we’re delivering there is a demo, rather than a purchase. Still, the same principles apply.

This ad is a good example of the most-aware stage because it…

  1. Directs the ICP to complete our most desired conversion action
  2. Uses artificial scarcity to compel the ICP to act immediately
  3. Says ‘free’ eleven times, highlighting the value of getting started now

At this point, the copy has done its job, and it’s sales’ time to shine and close the deal.

🎁 Free Giveaway: Steal our entire Paid Advertising Playbook—built around the 5 Stages of Awareness—right here.

And that’s how you write ad copy for the 5 Stages of Awareness and effectively market to your ICP at every step of the buyer’s journey.

Now you may be thinking... that’s all well and good, but what is your actual, nuts-and-bolts, step-by-step, ad copy writing process?

📖 Recommended Reading: Head over to my article How To Write Persuasive Ad Copy: a Step-by-Step Copywriting Process to see my 8-step ad concepting and creation process.

Better yet, hire us, and I’ll write your ads for you.

Book a call to see how duo can completely transform your paid advertising funnel with remarkable strategy, creative, and execution.

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