Given that "brand" lives mainly at the top of the funnel, and DR at the bottom, you would think a tight connection would be essential. Yet, insertion orders seem to be handed out by marketing goal, where each tactic is optimized. In way too many cases, the connection between demand-generation and closing the sale seems academic, or at best, slow-mo.
What does make sense are the conclusions of a 2012 Advertising Research Foundation study that showed that consumers, as they enter a category, are exposed to almost every kind of channel, and often not in the sequence you might expect. There are dozens of “funnel” models extant, too. People are always in some state regarding their propensity to buy something.
The problem is not the funnel itself — it’s the choice to apply a funnel-based goal to an audience not defined in those terms. Even worse is marketers’ inability to see when consumers change states, and to respond appropriately.
Former P&G CEO Bob McDonald once said that the golden rule was a low bar. Treating others they way you would want to be treated falls short — if you can, treat them the way they want to be treated. The way forward in advertising is to do just that. The sticky bit is to figure out how consumers want to be treated, and then treat them that way.
No one will argue with the idea that demand-generation comes first. The vast majority of advertising (by spend) aspires to communicate a brand idea to potential category buyers. The term demand-generation, itself, is a concept that inspires hope (and incredulity!), as though there is a giant machine that can generate demand like electricity.
Apropos to a world of consumer-in-control and one-to-one media, we should be thinking about (and to some extent, are) sensing the state of consumers regarding their propensity to buy something, and responding immediately with a gentle nudge in the right direction. That option is not even conceivable without fast and fluid media integration.
Months vs. Milliseconds
How long is the time lag between need formation, interest and purchase? How long should it be? An integrated infrastructure handling duties at both ends of the funnel can exploit opportunity immediately if given the latitude to do so. By comparison, how long does it take to push data back to a marketing cloud, do an analysis, budget and schedule another campaign, and then implement that? Months?
The vaunted “sense-and-respond” loop has a half-life that corresponds to the impulse-driven, immediate gratification sensibilities of a Web-raised, time-starved, low-attention culture. Did someone hover over your ad for five seconds, or, perhaps look at content explaining the category? Maybe it’s time to send an offer.
We might call these events insights, but they are fleeting. They are whispers, or telltales that happen in one microsecond, and are gone in the next. Where was that person just before the signal, or just after? Did they just buy a dog? A marketing cloud that can’t sense and respond in sync with the consumer looks more like a marketing fog! And the fog gets denser when we look at events in isolation.
You snooze, you lose.
Only the computer sensing the signals and enabled to respond is ideally placed to capitalize on signals of interest, attention, or intent. The Web is a natural genius at sensing, but connecting the sensing and the response is craftsmanship. When a signal pops, we have to be ready, right now — not weeks afterward.
So these signals are little moments of truth, and the further your insight drifts in time and space from one of those moments, the less likely it becomes that the response will do any good.
By all means use a funnel concept to connect the dots. But in the pursuit of sensing and responding at the speed of the marketplace, disparate media vendors and processes won’t hold a candle to one well-integrated machine.