How brands can navigate today’s ‘messy’ consumer journeys

  How brands can navigate today’s ‘messy’ consumer journeys

For a long time, we have believed in and planned linear consumer journeys. This is an example of a linear consumer journey:

Something comes to the attention of the consumer. They develop an interest in it. Then they desire it. Eventually, they act by purchasing it. Attention. Interest. Desire. Action. This understanding was articulated by Elmo Lewis in 1952. And over the years other models were developed mirroring Elmo’s. Below is an example from McKinsey & Company.

In the last 20 years, however, various organizations involved in research have been showing consumer journeys to be less and less linear – even “loopy”. See this example from 2009.

As our Chief Strategy Officer Sumanta Ganguly says, today the consumer journey is not only non-linear or loopy but also messy. In other words, people are involved in never-ending loops of decision-making.

Why? The internet, coupled with digital fragmentation, has opened to people a deluge of information about everything so that “consumers compare not just price but everything” – Sumanta Ganguly. He explains that:

“As they go through the process, they are continuously going back and forth and at times thrown off their path-to-purchase completely into unrelated content.”

At Ogilvy Africa, we call this ‘messy’ path to purchase the messy middle.

The messy middle has made marketing extremely challenging; getting consumers to move with a brand from awareness to purchase has become more expensive and requires more creativity.

Brands’ intense competition for consumers’ attention, coupled with the existing myriad content paths, have made consumers more choosy, less loyal, and therefore less predictable.

“There is no way to solve for the messy middle but to orchestrate the messy middle.” – Sumanta Ganguly, Chief Strategy Officer, Ogilvy Africa

As a brand, the solution is to place yourself in the messy consumer journey and steer it strategically in a direction that favors your brand.

This needs a mindset shift in how leaders think about ‘consumers’ and the role their brand plays in the lives of the ‘consumers’.

Brands no longer wield choice power over ‘consumers’; consumers wield the power to choose over brands. Therefore, the engagement between brands and ‘consumers’ today is a partnership – of convenience or worldview. It is a constant negotiation between the brand the ultimate decision maker – the ‘consumer’ – to journey together the extra mile each time the ‘consumer’ chooses.

To achieve this shift, leaders must first think of users, not consumers.

Consumer implies a finite state, the end goal being spending money. A user implies a continual journey, focused on taking various actions over various potential sessions.

​Thinking Consumer puts the brand at a disadvantage because you will constantly be trying to get consumers to purchase one more time. Thinking user puts you in constant engagement with them, places your brand in their life moments, and commits your brand to memory.

The user’s life is filled with experiences which influence their decision-making. Their life moves in never-ending experience loops.

This provides more opportunities for brands to increase their mental and physical availability in the life of the user.

How do you place your brand in the loop? By constantly being available in the cultural and spending moments in the life of the user.

The proliferation of data today makes it possible to ‘sense’ or predict moments in the life of the user, individually and in mass. Engaging users with a clear point of view in each of these moments places your brand in the infinite loop.

Marketing is becoming increasingly complex. Users are hyper-stimulated and there is almost no ‘new’ marketing to them. One big idea is just one of millions of others directed at them.

‘One big idea’ thinking certainly works in some cases. But much more is needed to spark and sustain meaningful engagement with users. In fact, users respond to many smaller ideas engaging in their life moments.

Users are human beings with needs, struggles, ambitions, and other things happening to them every day. The tragedy of marketing is that brands have mechanized users in their strategies by thinking of them as completely rational beings who respond to clicks-and-baits, generalized content, and attention catchers.

The core of effective marketing is treating people as people so that, for instance, brand X is not only communicating to marketing directors; the marketing director is perhaps also a dad and cycles on weekends; can the brand find him in his moments as a dad and hobby cyclist?

This kind of engagement only happens if you understand your users’ passion points. If you engage their passion points, a simple tweet could be more powerful than a brand/product advertisement.

Burger King, for instance, leveraged President Trump’s tweet to draw massive engagement – over 384.8K likes and over 11.7K replies.

That is the power of engaging with users’ passion points and moments. Little ideas, big results.

Insights from data can help brands not only know the big ideas to communicate to users but also the key moments or passion points through which to connect and engage with users.

One dynamic to keep in mind is that users’ behaviour and attitudes are constantly changing based on external influences, such as political changes, and internal influences, like growing into more responsibilities. We believe that ethically obtained user data can help brands evolve with users on both individual levels and in mass.

Furthermore, brands can quickly leverage emerging moments, no matter how brief, to engage with users on a daily basis – like the ‘hamberders’ moment shared above. At Ogilvy Africa, we use FEED, our proprietary tool that leverages tech and human creativity to sense/tell moments and passion points and generate engaging content in minutes on digital platforms.

If you found this interesting and you would like to engage further on FEED write to [email protected] and we can schedule a call.

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