Commentary

Climbing Out Of The Funnel

Each time I read that as a consumer I am "on a journey through the funnel,” I suddenly feel exhausted. Not just from the "journey" either, but from the increasingly tired notion that each time I buy something I go through various "stages" of abstract notions like "awareness" and "desire" before I slap down my credit card. Moreover, every "funnel" is different, making me feel insecure that I am not "researching" enough, or that if I never reach "loyalty" I am a shallow, self-centered and uncaring consumerist.

That this model — which "mapped a theoretical customer journey from the moment a brand or product attracted consumer attention to the point of action or purchase” — was developed in 1898 certainly gives one pause, since everything else about marketing and advertising seems to change at the speed of broadband.

The great thing is that because the model has supposedly "evolved" to take into account all these changes, you can add one to your PowerPoint totally customized to whatever supports your own business model — and your audience (when they aren't checking email or Snapchat) will simply accept your model as valid, even if there is a stage that says "and then he stops and thinks about how this purchase will impact how younger women will regard him each time he drives down the street."

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Thanks to online shopping (and Amazon Prime one-click, to be sure) I generally make a purchase within about 15 seconds. If I think the same item can be found elsewhere for less money — still with free shipping — then add another 10 seconds to make the transaction. There is hardly time to make a journey up or down anyone's funnel. And by the time I have hit "submit purchase,” it is too late (with the exception of those annoying retargeted ads that lots of folks label "creepy") for anyone to get me to "consider" or "become aware" of alternatives. Perhaps I have left a data trail that tells marketers I am a "buyer" of this or that, but they have no idea whether it will be three days or three years before I am moved to replenish that item.

With the exception of metrosexuals — who might be extinct, since hardly anyone talks about them anymore — this is pretty much how men shop: Walk into the store, wander the aisles until we find what we came in for, put it in the basket (grab another thingy or two that we hadn't intended to buy that day because you can never have enough tarps or garden hose), and hit checkout. If the line is long and the checkout displays have more cool thingies, we grab one of those, too. When we get home and our wives give us heat for the thingies, we are sorely tempted to point to their closets, where dozens of "well-considered" items hang untouched since they emerged from the shopping bag. But unless we want to miss several innings of the game in combat, we refrain.

You might argue that we do not make substantive purchases like clothes and cars with such impulsivity, and you would be utterly wrong. Unlike folks of the female persuasion, men take no joy in perusing all of the options, perhaps stopping for a light lunch of arugula and pears. We would be perfectly happy never to set foot in another retail store, and resist the notion that we need a new jacket or sweater because our old ones are "ancient."  And frankly, we don't care that pleated pants or faded jeans are no longer "in." If they still fit, we are wearing 'em.

I have to admit that marketers have a slight shot to influence my next auto purchase, but no more so than the reviews of people who already own a model that has made "the consideration set." And all the marketing in the universe won't help if the dealer doesn't hit the TrueCar price (or better).

My purchase "journey" is not much of a journey at all. It is more of a sprint — and the winner gets an extra beer for a job well done.

5 comments about "Climbing Out Of The Funnel".
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  1. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, June 25, 2015 at 4:15 p.m.

    What an odd post - to so clearly misunderstand the marketing reasoning and value of the funnel as a model for considering the state of affairs in a market. Of course, the writer isn't really a true consumer. Because no consumer is told their in a funnel (at least I've never seen it in 30 years) and if they are, the marketer who does it will reap their just deserts... The writer only considers the funnel because they are involved in marketing.

    But, then, I suppose I should stop my old fashioned distaste of people hyping themselves via the "everything has changed" hype even though nothing has changed. After all, this type of hype only leads companies to waste millions. And I will give credit - this is the an attack on strong marketing I haven't heard before. So maybe it should get kudos for creativity.

  2. George Simpson from George H. Simpson Communications, June 25, 2015 at 4:47 p.m.

    Doug, you are an agency CEO AND a writer. This is mostly satire. If there is a point to be made it is that the stages of the funnel seem pretty fungible and that for most routibe purchases there is not much time to move buyers up or down said funnel.

  3. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, June 25, 2015 at 5:13 p.m.

    George:  I might merely say a CEO who is very, very tired of the tripe that marketers have foisted on clients in the last decade or so. And it continues...
    Here are my thoughts on your comment:  Your comment is exactly what the funnel models are NOT about. In some direct mail work, there are fairly literal funnels built based on observation of results and assigning specific creative elements that are highly effective at building velocity for consumers moving through those funnels.
    For high value, high margin purchases (a very large part of the economy), consumers do (at some level) end up progressing through the stages we might find in the model. But rather than consider the funnel as literally as you do (I've never worked with anyone who considered it that literally), the funnel model helps us consider communication challenges and craft messages that increase purchases in the end. Hmm. Funny. That doesn't sound at all like what you describe.
    For low value consumables? Yup. There certainly isn't any long process consumer go through to decide on a Snickers. I'll maintain that there remains value in comparing why consumers don't buy a product with stages in the funnel for your analysis. Some people (perhaps yourself) live their whole lives only with consumables.
    It's just sad that broad pronouncements are made (and yours isn't the first - funnel bashing seems to be one of Marketing's latest stupid fads) that will mislead clients into massive wastes of money. 
    Appreciate your reply. 
    Cheers...

  4. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, June 26, 2015 at 11:44 a.m.

    Said by a man: Women shop; men buy.

  5. Gene Keenan from TCF, June 26, 2015 at 9:20 p.m.

    Funny piece! There have been numerous studies done now that show that the funnel as marketers think of it doesnt really exist and perhaps never existed. The Microsoft Red study is one that posits this reality. It is much more of a non-linear experience than the funnel. That said the funnel is still very useful in thinking about messaging. The New Shopper - Microsoft Advertising

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