The Shifting Consumer Path In A Connected World

Last week we looked at the New Consumer Path Today we are going to look at how this has been impacted in a Connected World.

In the aware phase, consumers are passively exposed to a long list of brands from past experience, marketing communications, and/or the advocacy of others. This is the gateway to the entire consumer path.

A consumer who has previous experience with a brand will likely be able to recall and recognize the brand. Advertising driven by companies and word of mouth by other consumers is also a major source of brand awareness.

Aware of several brands, consumers then process all the messages they are exposed to creating short-term memory or amplifying long-term memory and become attracted only to a short list of brands. This is the appeal phase.

Memorable brands—with wow factors—are more likely to enter and even go higher on the short list. In highly competitive industries where brands are abundant and products are commoditized (e.g., the consumer packaged goods categories), brand appeal must be stronger. Some consumers respond to brand appeal more than others. Youth, for example, are usually among the first to respond. That is why they are more likely to be early adopters of new products.

Prompted by their curiosity, consumers usually follow up by actively researching the brands they are attracted to for more information from friends and family, from the media, and/or directly from the brands. This is the ask stage. Consumers can either call friends for advice or evaluate the short list themselves. When they decide to research some brands further, they might search online product reviews. They might also contact call centers and talk to sales agents for more information. They might also compare prices and even try out products at stores.

Today, the ask is further complicated by the integration of the digital (online) and physical (offline) worlds. As consumers browse through products in-store, they might also search for information on their mobiles. Since consumers may go to multiple channels for more information, companies need to have a presence at least in the most popular channels.

At the ask stage, the consumer path changes from individual to social. Decisions will be made based on what consumers take away from the conversation with others. The brand appeal needs confirmation from others to allow the path to continue. Brands need to trigger the right amount of consumer curiosity. When the curiosity level is too low, it means that the brand appeal, although existent, is rather low. But when the curiosity level is too high and consumers are “forced” to ask too many questions, consumers are confused about the initial message they encounter.

If they are convinced by further information in the ask stage, consumers will decide to act. It is important to remember that the desired consumer actions are not limited to purchase actions. After purchasing a particular brand, consumers interact more deeply through consumption and usage as well as post-purchase services. Brands need to engage consumers and make sure that their total ownership and usage experience is positive and memorable. When consumers have problems and complaints, brands need to pay attention and make sure the consumers receive solutions.

Over time, consumers may develop a sense of strong loyalty to the brand, as reflected in retention, repurchase, and ultimately advocacy to others. This is the advocate stage. Active advocates spontaneously recommend brands they love without being asked. They tell positive stories to others and become evangelists.

But most loyal advocates are passive and dormant. They need to be prompted by either a query or a negative advocacy. When they do encounter such a prompt, they feel obliged to recommend and defend the brands they love. Since loyal advocates take risks to recommend certain brands, they are also more likely to buy more of those brands in the future.

CMO Perspective: Mark Parker – Nike

Nike stoked controversy when it revealed an ad starring NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Created by Wieden+Kennedy, it featured the American footballer alongside the strapline: ‘Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything’.

Kaepernick has become a divisive figure in the US. As many people have supported as criticised his decision to kneel during the national anthem to protest racial injustice. His inclusion in the 30th anniversary campaign for Nike’s ‘Just Do It’ motto has similarly split opinion.

A survey of UK and US consumers conducted by Toluna for Marketing Week reflected this division. In the US, 31% of those questioned said they had heard “mostly” or “overwhelmingly” positive comments about the campaign, compared to the 45% that said they had heard negative responses. Some 33% said it had led to them viewing the brand more favourably, 30% less favourably and 37% that it had no impact. And on purchases, 28% said the campaign made it more likely they would buy from Nike, 26% less likely and 46% that it had no impact.

However, drilling down into those results suggests Nike’s targeting has worked. Those aged between 18 and 34, who are more left-wing and who come from the BAME community are more likely to be Nike customers, support NFL players ‘taking the knee’ and think brands should take a political stance. And they are more likely to say the comments they’ve heard about the campaign are positive, that the campaign has positively impacted their opinion of Nike and that they are now more likely to buy from the brand.

Nike has stuck to its guns, with CEO Mark Parker telling analysts on a results call that the company is “very proud” of the campaign, which features “inspiring athletes” including tennis star Serena Williams, American footballers Odell Beckham Jr and Shaquem Griffin, and skateboarder Lacey Baker, as well as Kaepernick. He also claimed it has driven “record engagement” with the brand and a “real uptick” in traffic and engagement both socially and commercially.

“We’ve seen record engagement with the brand as part of the campaign,” he added. “Our brand strength is a key dimension that contributes to the ongoing momentum that we’re building across the Nike portfolio. That’s really how we look at it; it is how do we connect and engage in a way that’s relevant and inspiring to the consumers that we are here to serve?”

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