KATHMANDU: In the current digital age of the internet, it has been proven through several researches that the branding strategies of yesteryears no longer hold much water today. Marketing strategies initially were focused on spending heavily on creating brand awareness (advertising) and then influencing consumers to spend out of their pockets at the point of purchase. This is what marketers call a funnel metaphor, which states that consumers initially start at the wide end of the funnel by considering several brands and then gradually filter their options to one single brand and finally make the purchase.
So only two major touch points were considered — while creating initial brand awareness and while making the sale. Thus, all branding efforts were concentrated till the point of purchase and did not go beyond that. However the buying decision of consumers, coined as the Consumer Decision Journey (CDJ), is more of an iterative model of David Court et al. There are four main stages in this model — Consider, Evaluate, Buy and then Enjoy, Advocate and Bond. This model highlights other consumer touch points.
Consider: At this stage, the consumer starts with the choices or options available through advertising (paid media), review and advocacy sites and consumer initiated forums (earned sites) and in-store displays and information as well as manufacturer or sellers’ websites (owned media). This is one important touch point — point of influencing the buying decision of the consumer and still holds true today.
Evaluate: Here the consumer refers to product review sites, sites for product comparison, for example, Amazon.com as well as opinions of peers and consumer groups. This is another very important touch point, something that was not given much focus in the traditional models.
Buy: This is still a very important touch point, since a consumer who has decided to make a purchase of a particular brand, may opt out in the last minute if he or she fails to see consistency in the information received from the different sources and the physical product or service. It is very important that the information shared across various reference and retail sites be consistent and complete and updated on a regular basis or else the consumer will not believe much on any of the information that is floating ‘out there’.
Enjoy, Advocate and Bond: This is the fourth stage, something that was missing from all traditional models. Consumers today want to be associated life-long with their chosen or preferred brand. This has resulted in the initiation of several consumer forums and clubs where consumers share personal experiences of their respective brands. Such sites, also called earned sites, prove to be very important and powerful touch points for influencing buying decisions of consumers. This is where the marketing efforts of organisations should be focused on. Once a strong bond exists, the next time around, a loyal consumer does not go through the ‘consider’ and ‘evaluate’ stages any longer, but goes straight to the ‘buy’ stage.
Thus as per the CDJ model, marketing strategies of organisations today should not only focus on paid media advertising but also on earned media as well as owned media promotion and maintenance and thus extend the consumer relationship beyond the point of purchase and make it a life-long one. Loyal consumers would then translate to higher sales and better revenues.
(The author is the associate director at Ace Institute of Management Graduate School. He can be contacted through firstname.lastname@example.org)