For decades, branders looked at consumer touchpoints using the funnel metaphor. A funnel, with its wide top and narrow bottom, was a good model for how the buying process for most products used to work. Typically, consumers began with a large array of possibilities (the top end of the funnel) and gradually pared down their choices to a small group, and finally to their purchase choice (the narrow end of the funnel). With a treasure hunt you are given a treasure map, compass and clues to find your way along the route.
Marketers directed most of their money to the two critical touchpoints, the top and bottom ends of the funnel. Big dollars went toward mass-market advertising, including TV commercials and print ads, in an attempt to build brand awareness on the largest scale possible. Marketing money was also earmarked for promotions and product placement at the other end of the funnel—in stores—because in-store touchpoints are particularly powerful and can change everything.
Studies show that up to 40 percent of consumers change their minds because of something they see or learn at the point of sale. The visual experience alone—the way a product looks or the presence of a prominent and intriguing display—can sway the consumer’s decision. Shoppers can also be influenced by what a salesperson says or by a great deal offered by one of the brands they are considering.
During the “funnel decades,” marketers were in control. Branding was a one-way communication from company to consumer. We call that push marketing, because the marketing message was pushed toward consumers. In the “push” era, it wasn’t easy for consumers to get comparative information or to voice their opinions directly to a manufacturer.
Consumers were forced to rely on the marketing messages pushed at them in advertising, what they experienced at the point of sale, and what they heard from friends and associates. Most people had little contact with a brand after purchase, other than the experience of using the product (or an interaction with customer service if something went wrong). All was status quo in the branding and media world until the rise of digiworld.