In the December 2010 edition of the Harvard Business Review, David C. Edelman wrote an outstanding article on social media called “Branding in the Digital Age: You’re Spending Your Money in All the Wrong Places.” He points out that today’s consumers are connecting with brands in a fundamentally new way through media channels that are beyond manufacturer’s and retailer’s control.
Edelman points out that for a long time marketers assumed that consumers started with a large number of potential brands in mind and methodically winnowed their choices until they would decide which one to buy. After purchase, their relationship with the brand typically focused on the use of the product or service itself.
Now: The Consumer Decision Journey
Edelman goes on to say “New research shows that rather than systematically narrowing their choices, consumers add and subtract brands from a group under consideration during an extended evaluation phase. After purchase, they often enter into an open ended relationship with the brand, sharing their experience with it online.
Click here to read the full Harvard Business Review Article article (there’s a pay wall – but it’s worth it).
Jeremiah Owyang also draws attention to this new consumer lifecycle; he uses an hourglass funnel which goes into a little more detail but it’s generally the same concept as Enjoy-Advocate-Bond in the chart above.
There are many companies who have yet to build scalable social business programs so addressing these areas may still be difficult. However, once they do, they will be better able to arm not only their employees but their advocates with the knowledge and tools to help promote their brands after the point of sale.
It’s quite evident that brands need to start thinking strategically on how each of their social media channels will address these consumer touch points. Ignoring this new consumer journey means a tremendous lost opportunity.