The Five States of Awareness According to Eugene Schwartz’ Breakthrough Advertising

by Lynn Swayze // September 10 // 0 Comments

Let’s say you’re a consultant, advisor, coach, solution provider, or head of an agency or firm and you have one task:

Attract more qualified, ready-to-buy leads for your business.

Yet when you stare at your computer screen to write some new marketing, you’re stuck.

  • What do you write in blog posts?
  • What kind of content do you hand them?
  • How do you package your offer?
  • What should you write in that subject line?

As difficult as it may seem in the moment, the truth is these questions are not unanswerable. And to prove it, I’m going to turn to our trusty, long-dead white guy copywriting guru Eugene Schwartz. He’s a favorite among direct response copywriters for a reason, and by the end of this blog you’ll understand why.

(I hope, anyway.)

So I’ve previously written an article about eleven lessons we can learn from Eugene Schwartz. These lessons were pulled from his two books on advertising and writing: The Brilliance Breakthrough and Breakthrough Advertising.

To recap, those lessons are:

  1. Your Buyers Think in Images and Stories.
  2. Create an Image in Your Buyer’s Mind.
  3. Your Buyer has Hidden desires. Your Job is to Tap into Them.
  4. Buyer Awareness will Tell You What to Write in Your Marketing and Advertising.
  5. Formulas Won’t Work For Long.
  6. Simplicity is Clarity …
  7. … But Monotony is Just as Distracting.
  8. Three Steps to Channeling Desire, per Eugene Schwartz.
  9. There Exist Two Kinds of “Emotion-Definers”. Use Them.
  10. Slash the Adjectives – Sometimes.
  11. Next to Awareness, the State of Sophistication is A Factor In Marketing Success.

Of all of them, number four is the most important takeaway as far as I’m concerned. That’s because you can have the greatest writing in the world, but if you aren’t talking to the buyer in the frame of mind they’re in and addressing problems they care about, then you won’t get as many conversions and you should.

(womp, womp #SadTrombone)

Which is why I believe the prospect’s state of awareness is the answer to the marketing content questions probably plaguing you right now.

According to Eugene Schwartz’ book, Breakthrough Advertising, the five states of awareness are:

  • 👁️Unaware
  • 👁️Desire Aware
  • 👁️Problem Aware
  • 👁️Solution/Provider Aware
  • 👁️Most Aware

Eugene Schwartz “Awareness Levels” turned into a flow that helps you understand copy.

We’ll explore each one, and then we’ll talk about how to write content to each state.

Awareness State 5: Unaware

In the Unaware State, your prospect doesn’t know they need whatever solution you offer. They also don’t really know they have a desire for the benefits your solution offers…. let alone if they have the problem you solve. They don’t know their website sucks. They can’t see they’re overweight. For example, maybe they don’t even know that they really want to avoid hefty fines for a non-compliant website… because they don’t know that ADA compliance is a finable offense! Until you tell them this, you can’t sell them on compliant websites, can you?

If you really want to reach this market (it’s not recommended, but it can be done), do it with content that gives identification to their need, projects a hidden desire, starts with a universally accepted image, or exploits a hidden fear…. and then lead the individual step-by-step until they come to see the problem they didn’t see before.

Honestly, don’t try marketing to this stage. It doesn’t work, at least not really for consultants. Better to leave that to the ecommerce peeps.

Awareness State 4: Desire Aware

Stage: Desire Aware, TOFU 

Goal: Get them to recognize that the path to their desire lies in solving a specific problem 


  • Assessments and Quizzes!  
  • Broad topic overviews (e.g., white papers, books)

Explanation: In this stage, your potential buyer is aware of their desire for more/better/faster (something), but isn’t feeling anything beyond this. Traffic at this stage has volume but has lower buying intent. Any CTAs should be content/assessments which get them to see that the path to their desire lies in addressing ONE specific problem. Content at this stage is more educational, broad, curiosity-driven, and entertaining; content ideas may also be tangential to your main service. 

The buyer is aware of a desire. . . often hidden or unstated. . . that they really want. Note that no one wants to pay for high ticket coaching! But they want to look amazing at Christmas when they roll into the family gathering in a hot new car. . . and then tell Uncle Joe to shove it.

They want to have enough money to stop worrying about bills and start spending a bit more frivolously.

They want to feel respected, important, valuable, and intelligence.

Get it?

Your product has to fit into desires, and how you display those desires is really less about your product at this stage and more about being creative and catching their attention.

Schwartz says of this stage and headlines: “Acknowledge that desire – reinforce it – and/or offer the means to satisfy it – in a single statement in the headline of your ad.”

Awareness State 3: Problem Aware

Stage: Problem Aware, MOFU 

Goal: Get them to recognize that their painful problem should be solved with one specific solution (TYPE: e.g., by hiring an agency, by switching agencies, by using specific software, etc.)  


  • Assessments and Quizzes!  
  • Get this lead magnet that’s very specific to a pain point
  • Watch this video

Explanation: In this second stage, the reader has a very specific and painful problem. . . but doesn’t quite know how to solve it. At this stage, there are a lot of potential ways they could solve the problem, including NOT DOING ANYTHING.  

Content at this stage should be focused on PROBLEMS, including how to solve everyday problems/pain points and other “how to” type of content. Searches will start to become very intent-based here.  

This is my favorite stage of all, because this is where the marketing magic happens. Buyers in this state are feeling their pain and looking around for something, anything, to ease the pain. As a consultant, this is where most of your marketing should be done.

Awareness State 2: Solution/Provider Aware

Stage: Solution Aware, MOFU/BOFU 

Goal: Get them to recognize that the ONLY solution for them is the PRODUCT your sell (e.g., “of all the agencies out there, XYZ agency is right for me!”)


  • Book a Call  
  • Request a Quote 
  • Get an Info Kit 

Potential Solutions you’re competing with: 

  • Doing NOTHING 
  • Doing it in house 
  • Hiring a direct competitor 
  • Solving the problem a different way (e.g., different tool or path) 

Explanation: In this state, readers are aware that solving the ONE PAINFUL PROBLEM is the key to getting what they want. . . and now they’re looking for potential solutions. Note that “solutions” means ways to solve the problem, not necessarily particular brands. So they don’t know yet if they want to hire an agency, get a consultant, do nothing, or do it in-house, they just know they need more expertise.  

Here is where I differ a bit with Eugene Schwartz’s states. I believe there is a state in between “solution aware” and “most aware” called PRODUCT AWARE. I believe that first a buyer needs to know exactly what KIND OF SOLUTION they should choose, and then they become aware of the specific provider/brand for that solution. Schwartz didn’t really come up with a stage for this, other than maybe the “most aware” that’s #1. (see next section’s note)

Awareness State 1: Most Aware

Stage: Product Aware, BOFU 

Goal: Get them to take action NOW.  


  • Book a Call  
  • Request a Quote 
  • Get an Info Kit 


  • Too much risk switching providers 
  • Not enough proof to justify the involvement
  • No offer / unattractive offer 
  • No time to act now, might do it later
  • Not enough buy-in
  • Not enough ROI for the risk

Explanation: In this stage, they’re already convinced of their problem as a path to their desire, the one solution that’s best to solve their problem, and have learned more about YOU as the best product. Now, it’s time for them to ACT.  

In my understanding, this is what I call PRODUCT AWARE. But Eugene Schwartz, master of marketing, has it differently. According to Schwartz, in the Most Aware state, the buyer knows your product, knows who you are, knows what it does, and knows they want it. In the consulting space, this is the person who’s probably had a sales call or two. They’ve attended your webinar. Maybe they’ve talked to you about a potential project but just hasn’t pulled the trigger yet.

Lynn’s Recommendation: This is where marketing really turns into sales enablement! The work done at this stage will likely to be heavily influenced and managed by your sales team.

Putting it All Together: The Messaging Gap and You

I could spend an entire course talking about this, but for now, let’s just say that there is HUGE GAP between one end of the awareness spectrum to the other, and it’s your job to get the buyer to own the gap and move forward on their terms.

I sometimes explain the awareness stages by talking about the “Messaging Gap”. The messaging gap is the gap between where your future buyers are now… and where you are. Your messaging has to bridge that gap. I write about that in the Marketing Messaging Gap and How my Client Made $1 Million Dollars with the Gap.

What you need to do is make sure you’re coming up with content that meets each stage. This is part of what I do in my Marketing for a Year system, but also what we come up with in my OfferTherapy University course on the same name.

For you now, just know that it’s likely you’ve created A LOT of content in one stage or another. Take a look and count all your marketing messages, and see where you land. Chances are, you’ll be able to easily see where there’s a huuuuge gap.

If you need help with this, I can be hired to help assess your gap, ideate new blog/content/video/ad ideas, and optimize your positioning so you’re on track. Contact me to learn more.

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