Marketing From The Other End Of The Funnel

Marketing From The Other End Of The Funnel

BY  Joel Rubinson

Traditionally, new product marketing assumes first-time purchases arise from an orderly chain of events. The effective commercial starts the engine turning by generating brand awareness, which begets interest, desire, and finally consumer action, with planned purchases popping out the other end.

But often, consumers actually start at the other end of the funnel. They bring their needs and impulses to a retail setting looking for an immediate solution. In ways that behavioral economists talk about, shoppers spontaneously make sense of their choices, frequently buying something they never knew existed before but that they assess will best meet their needs in the moment. How often does this happen? More than half of first-time supermarket purchases are unplanned events, according to shopper insights R&D research I conducted, and the largest source of awareness for new products is not TV or social media, but in-store exposure.

So how do brands start marketing from the other end of the funnel? First, realize that the shopper’s mind is a prediction system, constantly operating, sensing hints or semi-conscious triggers called “cues” to anticipate how well a product will match desired outcomes in the ABSENCE of prior knowledge about that alternative. Shopper cues come from packaging, price, ingredients, the parent brand name, what something is next to on the shelf (e.g. gourmet coffees are easy to understand if they are near Starbucks on the shelf), signage, and the retailer (e.g. being sold at Whole Foods immediately cues product healthfulness). Not all cues are equal, so marketers need to learn which cues are the most important in the shopper’s mind for the benefits they want to signal.

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