Notes on The Consumer Decision Journey

I wrote this comment on Steve Schildwachter’s blog Ad Majorem — and wanted to preserve it for my own reference over here.

“The crux of what the Consumer Decision Journey shows us is that the purchase decision is itself shifting from media-driven “brand awareness” and in-store “activation” to consumer-focused Active Evaluation in social networks, the blogosphere and self-directed media experiences.

Hardcore shopper marketing folks may disagree. But that’s a great starting point for a vigorous discussion.

However, 80 percent (or greater) of purchase decisions are still made at shelf — the critical point of decision remains constant. Understanding and mastering “retail” is critical for agency practitioners in that light.

Ultimately, integrated campaigns need to “pull” the consumer toward brand assets (social objects) throughout the self-directed, asymmetrical, non-linear course of Active Evaluation in order to close the sale on the aisle.

In sharp contrast, attempting to push consumers down the purchase funnel now looks inefficient and costly.

Agency practice leaders need to change their mindset from channel planning to experience planning that is informed by context planning, brand planning and content strategy.

Channel planning was how we weighed the relative value of each spoke on a spider chart. It led to divisive and artificial estimates of each channel based on its own perceived ROI. Hence, digital received (and often still receives) less than 10 percent of the total budget.

Meanwhile, consumers’ purchase decisions are increasingly being formulated by exposure to blogs, comments, reviews and social network content.

There’s a big disconnect, and I’ve heard from more than one client-side executive recently that they find themselves “way ahead” of their agencies on this matter. Agencies don’t realize that they’re giving their clients the impression that they’re either unwilling or, worse, unable to adjust to the new normal that consumers are defining for themselves.

But the CDJ is itself very new. And it’s not a panacea for correcting everything that’s wrong with integrated marketing circa 2010.

Agencies and clients still need to formulate a planning model that converges media, brand, context and content strategy to identify how brands should “inhabit the world” with consumers in order to provide true Depth On Demandâ„¢ as they enter into and explore the non-linear pathways of Active Evaluation.

Otherwise, we just don’t know what to build for a brand to engage with and activate consumers by pulling them toward brand experiences (assets like branded content and branding applications) along the journey toward the purchase decision.”


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