Is the Funnel Dead?

For years now my agency has been using a variation of the classic purchase intent funnel (AIDA) which was originaly presented in 1898, to describe consumer behavior and to open a dialogue about objectives. But lately, I have been wondering if we're not making a mistake doing so. There's an interesting article over at the Harvard Business Review website that questions the relevancy of the funnel in today's world. I'm immediately cautious whenever I hear, "things have changed" or "In today's world." It smacks of the old dot com bubble days when every Powerpoint presentation begain with "We're going to change the way the world..." Then you fill in the blank with everything from " their laundry" to "...find a mate." And I certainly don't want to jump onto a band wagon just because it's being driven by the HBR. 

I do think we must not forget 2 important truths from "today's world."

  1. The access to and influence of product reviews, particularly from friends has moved the brand decision to much earlier in the decision process. This means effective brand stories, built on deep consumer insights are more critical than ever.
  2. The proliferation of brands and knockoffs has made is necessary to narrow the search before it even begins. 

Perhaps a better metaphor would come from the video gaming world. Almost all gaming has an element of collecting, either guns, powers, or some sort of jewels. To my mind, there are four jewels that must be collected:

  1. Recognition
  2. Relevance
  3. Regard
  4. Relationship

Each jewel must be collected before the next one is available. Meaning, you obviously have to have the jewel of recognition (that the brand exists) before you can collect the jewel of relevance. However, each jewel becomes more valuable than the preceeding one. High regard is more important than relevance since a product can be relevant but held in such low esteem that it doesn't matter. 

The good news is that each succesive jewel is harder to lose. It's fairly easy for someone who just learns that a brand exists to have the jewel knocked from their hand by a bad product review of a friend. However each jewel has a magical quality since, like a smile, you can give it to someone else without losing it yourself. That is the core task of the modern marketer, create communication which is worthy of the target audience to pick up, value and then give away. 


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