Forget the Funnel: Branding in the Digital World

Thanks to the World Wide Web, consumer behavior has changed more in the last 30 years than it has in centuries, going back to when we bartered with chickens and goats in the open-air markets of Ancient Rome.

The global community has adopted online technology at a dizzying pace. To put it in perspective, reaching 50 million users took automobiles 62 years; the telephone 50 years; television 22 years; mobile phones 12 years; the internet seven years; Twitter nine months; and Pokémon Go? 19 days. Here’s another fun (or depressing) fact: More video is uploaded to YouTube in one week than all three major television networks combined have broadcast since they began over seventy years ago.

For brands to remain successful in today’s fast-paced, web-driven world, they need to adapt to the way consumer behaviors change with technology. For most of the 20th century, brand marketing relied on the “funnel” philosophy. Consumers began with many choices, narrowed it down to just a few and then chose one. Brands strategically marketed throughout that funneling process to increase the chances for consumers to choose their product or service. Mission accomplished. Marketing successful. Next funnel.

That funnel philosophy is quickly becoming obsolete. Today, consumers no longer choose brands in that predictable way. Instead of going from many to few to one, the process is now more holistic and subjective. You might have three different cars you’re considering buying. After going online and reading some consumer reviews, you now have seven cars in mind, none of which were the original three. Then you read a blog post about an executive from one of the car companies promoting a social issue you disagree with. You do more research and narrow it down to four. Then you see on Twitter that one of the car companies donates a portion of its sales to a non-profit you support. Sold.

In today’s funnel-less world, how is it possible to market your brand? The first step is to change your mindset from selling products to building relationships. Nike doesn’t sell shoes; they sell a lifestyle. Apple doesn’t sell phones; they sell an ecosystem. You become a “Nike girl” or an “Apple guy.” You believe in them as brands, not just sellers of products.

That type of brand loyalty is not limited to huge, multinational corporations. Hiland Dairy, for example, has developed strong brand loyalty because of who they are and how they behave. People are loyal to Hiland because they recognize the good they do for their communities and they respect their dedication to using locally-owned farms for their ingredients. They align themselves with Hiland as a brand, not just as a company that sells the milk they enjoy.

Your organization has a brand. The perception of who you are and what you do is your brand. It’s nearly impossible to accurately assess that from within your organization because your point of view is not the same as that of your potential consumers. At Envoy, we get that. We’ll partner with you to identify and shape your brand into one that will connect you with the people you want as your brand advocates. It’s what we do. Let’s talk.

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