It’s called a marketing journey, but does it have an end?

Monday 09th, November 2015

In the good old days, we had just one model to explain how customers interacted with your brand. This was the AIDA model; every marketing rookie was taught that a customer had to first be made Aware of your product, followed by Interest, Desire and Action. At which point, you could safely look forward to your annual promotion and bonus.

But, that was all before the Internet upended things completely leaving little resemblance to what existed earlier. Now, we’re told that the customer has seized the power and it is up to us as marketers to follow her meekly.

The current thinking is that the customer goes through a rather more elaborate process. The stages are described as Consider, Evaluate, Buy, Enjoy, Advocate and Bond. The McKinsey Quarterly team’s article that first set out the process back in June, 2009 can be found here.

Let us take a look at each stage as it develops. The Consider stage has seen some debate. The earlier assumption was that customers would begin to eliminate choices till they’d arrived at the one they desired. The authors state that with the increasing world of choices, consumers now restrict the number of choices but this seems to be a glib assertion with little backing. We would argue that more than anything, customer choices tend to remain fuzzy and have if anything widened in scope.

At the Evaluate stage, consumers tend to add and remove their original basket of choices as each brand sends out siren calls of desirability. Ask any woman who has gone shopping for anything – perfume, garments, shoes – and you will discover that human nature remains unchanged. We are like kids in a candy store and we make our final decisions usually impulsively at the last minute. Till then, both emotion and rational minds are in exquisite conflict.

The Buy stage in the new scheme of things corresponds to the Action stage in the old model. It is worth noting that marketers have always known that a shift of decisions can happen even at the point of purchase. How well a brand is able to stave off a challenge from another brand depends upon how well the first brand resonates with the customer.

The three phases of Enjoy, Advocate and Bond that follow are what broadly corresponded to the word-of-mouth principle that was so prized of marketers of an earlier generation.

So, what has really changed? Not much, one suspects. The Internet and social media have made customers’ voices rather more audible. Where previously, a customer could vent her spleen at a call centre operator today’s customer can gain pleasure from knowing that her voice of dissent (usually!) will resonate with hundreds of others.

This is why all the talk of shifting budgets to the post-sale stage are gaining momentum. However, the basic tool for any marketer is to build the brand. A consistent brand voice and personality which have earned the trust of the customer will often help a brand acquire the resilience to fend off customer dissonance. That is a truly priceless asset.

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