Monday, July 07, 2008

Rethinking the concept of consumer intent

Back in 2005, we did an article over on the WireSpring blog about calculating the ROI for digital signs, and started out by describing an "awareness funnel" that took walked through a shopper's first moment of truth with an item -- from becoming aware that the product existed to actually purchasing it. It looked like this:
              / \
/ \ <- SALES
/_____\
/ \ <- IDENTIFICATION
/_________\
/ \ <- PREFERENCE
/_____________\
/ \ <- PERCEPTION
/_________________\
/ \ <- RECALL
/_____________________\
/ \ <- RECOGNITION
/_________________________\
/ \ <- AWARENESS
/_____________________________\

As I was reviewing some old blog articles from Advertising Age recently, I came across another description of the same concept, this time from the perspective of consumer intent. As the article's author Troy Young notes, "Intention is one or two steps before purchase and far removed from 'unaware.' Brand advertisers love intention, naturally, but the real magic is the part before intention -- moving a consumer from being 'unaware' to being 'predisposed'.... What the data show is this: In creating value for brands, we need to look beyond 'intent to buy' and toward 'intent to engage' with a brand message." Consequently, his funnel looks roughly like this:

              / \
/ \ <- SALES
/_____\
/ \ <- ??
/_________\
/ \ <- ?
/_____________\
/ \ <- INTENTION
/_________________\
/ \ <- PREDISPOSED
/_____________________\
/ \ <- AWARE
/_________________________\
/ \ <- UNAWARE
/_____________________________\


While Young states that "the real magic is the part before intention", from where I'm standing, I'd say the real magic is in fact after it, when you complete the 2-stage process, whatever it is, that converts a mere shopper into an actual buyer. Of course, Young notes that such a process will only happen when the purchase actually demands a decision - nobody's going through 6 or 7 steps to buy a can of soda or a pack of gum. But I guess that's the difference between a brand-focused guy like Young and a sales-focused guy like me: for the brand-centric, building the consumer psyche to the point where there's real intent to buy is the biggest challenge, and thus garners the lion's share of ad funds. That's why we see so many commercials for stuff, and none of them actually say "look, just buy me already!" We're instead finessed into wanting, desiring whatever it is -- a car, the latest clothes, a new computer. But very few actually take the direct route and say "buy me now." I suppose it's because unless the viewer has an immediate need for the product, the message is lost and there's no "residual" value. With a brand-centric message, on the other hand, each commercial, print ad, banner on the 'net or other marketing device builds on previous messages, essentially assuming in advance that the viewer doesn't want to make the purchase right now, but might need to in the future.

My funnel, on the other hand, is more heavily weighted towards the top. I assume that, being a good brand marketer, the product's already going to be in the hearts and minds of my viewers. My job is to figure out how to turn all of that goodwill and built-up brand recognition into an actual sale of the product. That's one of the reasons I like digital signage so much - it's hard to find a more direct route to shoppers, or a better place to put a message like "hey you! buy me right now!" -- in as elegant and beautiful a way as possible, of course.

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2 comments:

Robert Koolen said...

Interesting point, Bill. Traditional marketing thinking is that ads that try and do too much (in terms of your graphic: climb the pyramid from blissful unawareness to instant sale in one giant leap) will fail under the weight of their own ambition. Of course that traditional thinking, however much taught through experience, was also predicated on traditional media, many of which lacked the opportunity of instant consumer action by a captive audience, such as is typically associated with digital signage. So to the extent that we acknowledge that digital signage is indeed a new medium with its own characteristics and new opportunities, I fully agree with you we can and should indeed try to close the loop and get the sale. Any marketing that does not lead to sales at some point is waste, and the sooner we accomplish that the better!

Bill Gerba said...

Hi Robert,

Any marketing that does not lead to sales at some point is waste, and the sooner we accomplish that the better!

I think John Wanamaker is credited with saying "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don't know which half." I suppose I like this "new media" stuff because it does tend to focus on the top half of the pyramid, where it's a lot easier to see what's working and what isn't.