It is odd that marketeers cannot easily revise the fundamentals of communication nowadays. Simplification got harder. That is not quite enough to explain why they cannot do it. In my opinion they do not rush it, because they make money using the old school techniques. Their way of business, their metrics and their picture of success depend on an old terminology. No matter if they are short on explaining the business results and make a proper planing forward. They can always blame the “new”; new media is complex, millennials are impossible, media is fractured, competition got tougher… They were together with their advertisers on the rush to digital as if it is the new gold mine and they failed, because they were short on understanding the dynamics. Then tried to make advertisers to think that digital was not as efficient as it is supposed to be. It couldn’t be, looking at the way you use it.
It is not just a new medium to manipulate. Don’t try to manipulate search results with a enormous content map and SEO. Don’t try to manipulate the content consumers share by seeding your in-spreadable digital videos or fake ones. Don’t invest your dollars into an impossible and irrelevant strategy everyday to blame the new. Don’t turn everything into junk.
Try to understand the new landscape and adapt. It is not that hard.
Think about the old purchasing funnel. It starts with awareness, then knowledge comes, consideration, preference leads to purchase. So the logic is -was- simple. You hear about a brand, you learn about it USP/benefit and get familiar to it, then when that USP/benefit becomes resonant we start to consider it, if the 4Ps are in order we grow a preference towards the brand and if things go right we make the purchase. And the order would be sequential. Since the media tools were only transmitting deaf messages, the only way to “listen” to the audience’s response was marketing research studies and the studies methodology was based on the basic requirement of brand awareness to question the rest. So as a first determinant, that would make the boss happy, professionals started to build the awareness of the brand as a priority. And since they were smart enough to know that “single mindedness is a must”, they just focused on having a top of mind awareness on major launch campaigns. After a short “popularity” hunt for a few years, they were starting to build an association to make that awareness gain a quality at last. And the results were magical! Because poor people started to learn what the f*ck that brand means for them! At last! And if that was a good reason, they were ready to make a more solid move! On that particular moment, the funnel should have done something to drive them to consider buying that product/service: an insight, a relevance point, a recommendation, a celebrity endorsement…. Voila! Everyone want the product now. But it was not over. Then to make the consumer not to go for another brand that may claim the same benefit and use another celebrity, brands learned to make the killer move: a promotion, a sampling, a beautiful and a very convenient store, an additional after sales service… Yes! It is done now.
Except a few exceptions it was impossible to start on a different step of the ladder. For instance, using a celebrity on a launch and making him/her make the product USP clear?.. People were either remembering the celebrities name correctly but not the brands, or they cynical about a new comer’s too loud and expensive attempt and not trust in the message. So briefly, the marketing world learned how to use the ladder and still using it with the same principles.
However, it is not behaving the same for so long. Think about Uniqlo in the early days of digital evolution. The brand was like the OK go of marketing world. They were very successful on creating awareness through digital. Their websites and web applications were the coolest marketing tools and made them become popular real quick. And those tools were leading to ecommerce. So it was a shortcut on the ladder, awareness directly leading to purchase, just with a few click and the brand rocked the world. They openned stores in Paris -the capital city of fashion- as a Japanese fashion brand. Their way of purchasing funnel was all in one. They created such a huge awareness and popularity that led the consumer to the purchase in one step. There was no time for the consumer to try to build knowledge or define a consideration set, a shortlist. No. It was an entertaining web site that led you to a product to buy. The rest was about product intrinsic.
Another design brand grew tremendously on the same period, with no owned-digital platforms that got famous: Muji. They weren’t spending their advertising dollars in building popular websites but investing in digital PR. So they got the opinion leaders attention, they started with the familiarity/knowledge step of the funnel. When opinion leaders started to admire the brand and elaborate its design edge, the others followed and consideration came simultaneously. Because those opinion leaders weren’t paid celebrities to lie, they should have been telling the truth. Muji have gone a long way with another different ladder. They didn’t start with “reach” and be famous in a day, but built a very quality reach instead of quantity. This authentic reach was spreadable and digital made the word-of-mouth that amplified real quick. much more quicker and effective than a mediocre TV ad can do.
And remember Apple‘s ipod launch. Apple didn’t start with a jingle. And even after; they had no best practices about their twitter campaigns, viral videos, websites, integrated ad campaigns… They kept having a press event (excuse my old terminology) with their leader’s amazing attitude and some revolutionary products. That was it. With Apple we started to follow unboxing videos, product rumours, leaked information, long queues… We run after the brand and the brand was almost doing nothing to seduce us. No fake ad campaigns, no celebrities… But again it was awareness, even through conventional media… through editorial “earned content”. It was a craze beyond any norms of popularity. Most of the people did have no idea -including me- why that new ipod was so revolutionary, there were already mp3 players around. Why an iPhone 4s was much more greater than a regular 4… They didn’t even leave a room for us to make a comparison among products. There were even no Apple Stores around those times, the 4P rule didn’t count. The ladder was again upside down; awareness was so overwhelming, and knowledge was full of brains and lust, nobody cared about the rest and became a consumer.
To come to a conclusion: Our old funnel needs a little restoration. Not only that decisions are not following the same funnel nowadays, but the ladder has to have new steps like; retention, comparison, adaptation… For me, the shape of the funnel is not even a triangle, i believe it needs to be a circle. Only with a circle, we can remind ourselves that our relationships with consumers do not end on the purchase, on contrary their relations with us authentically begin on that particular purchase moment and they start to speak about their experience with the product. Anyways, i will write about the new consumption circle soon. For now, i just want to give a few examples about today’s brands and strategies that can make the funnel upside down:
1. Invest wisely in awareness, introduce a very strong reason to be(lieve):
Chipotle did it with just one video that was aired once during Grammys. Nobody knew how to cultivate a better world by eating their products, and that didn’t matter. Then they started to make it
2. Invest in knowledge/familiarity if you really have an iconic aspect:
Oreo was not another cookie brand that run after a taste claim but they took their heritage granted and builded a new contemporary iconography around product experience: the dunk, the twisting, the lick… a very sexy set of product rituals. The brand did not only became more desirable but the product was rejuvenated to be relevant in this new wild world.
3. Invest in consideration if the you have many to offer:
What does Starbucks sell? Coffee, some deserts, a welcoming space, a personal touch… All of them, and all combined. The company was well aware that it was never about the products but the whole experience that the brand offers. You do not attract the coffee lovers if you are Starbucks, you attract everyone that needs a little break in a welcoming environment. Even if you would not sit there, the fact that your name will be asked is a part of that experience; it is personal, it is authentic and it feels good. Therefore consideration does not always come with one reason, if people cannot easily compare your products/services with others, then your ladder can start on consideration step.
4. Invest in preference if you have a little competition:
Amazon was never only a shopping portal, it was the wiki of the consumption since the very first day. You could find all the reviews and information about any product. Looking at the price on top was the only key determinant to buy that product through Amazon. But that was not the concern of Amazon, you already considered and purchased the brand Amazon for those amazing reviews and product comparison advantage. This stronghold now helps amazon to bring out its own technologies in market with a tremendous brand heritage. Kindle, Echo, Alexa… They are just a beginning. Amazon was very patient to be a primary hub for shopping for years, now it is time for them to enjoy their success.
These brands did not need jingles, long term celebrity deals, integrated campaigns… They had a strong business and an awareness about what they were good at. And they used digital to amplify those things but nothing else. As they were native digital citizens, or at least had native friends, they banged it.
I do not find it relevant to make strategies heroes and make them new norms on a way to create new commodity patterns. They had their unique way to make success, and for others it will be the same. A unique way to understand their strongholds and being off of the usual track.
There is no only one way of doing things right. There is no magic formula to copy.