Life’s a Journey, Not a Funnel. (Or Is It?)

Click on image to enlarge. © McKinsey & Company, 2009. All Rights Reserved.For years, marketers have described the consumer purchase decision process as a funnel—the wide end being our universe of choices, and the narrow being the things we buy. Sequential steps like “consideration” and “preference” lie in between.

It’s time to replace the funnel with a new metaphor—the Consumer Decision Journey—according to an article written by David C. Edelman in this month’s Harvard Business Review. That journey, as described by Edelman, includes a crucial post-purchase loop which informs future decisions and influences other buyers.

Frankly, I’m not fully sold by either “model,” since I believe a growing number of consumer choices—from the products we buy to the politicians we elect—start with a destination, and then rationalize backwards, rather than following a reasoned, step-by-step process.

Still, Edelman’s emphasis on the post-purchase loop—and the increasing importance of word-of-mouth and social media in making decisions—is spot on. While that may not be a new idea, the message bears repeating: Traditional media strategies are no longer enough to move consumers’ hearts and minds, no matter how you define that “journey.”