Mikhail has pointed me in the direction of a report published yesterday on WARC by McKinsey which articulates what I suspect many of us have know for a long time... that - in general - consumer purchase behaviour is non-linear and certainly not a funnel.
their study, conducted across three continents and involving qual then nearly 20,000 quant participants, found that purchase behaviour was "changing dramatically" mainly due to an increase in consumer empowerment. we touched on transparency of product on these pages recently when we had to explain to poor Michael Bay that advertising can't make good products bad, but the extent to which this information is significantly affecting consumer behavior as a whole is now becoming very apparent.
according to David Court at McKinsey, decision making has four stages... (1) ongoing exposure during which time people "see and hear about brands", followed by (2) a trigger which instigates someone to then consider a narrow range of brands and explore and evaluate their options - during the course of which they come across more brands.
notice the reversal of the funnel - it starts narrow and gets wider during the decision-making journey... brands that seek to reach consumers at the point which will most influence their decision take note.
(3) is the moment of purchase - where the final decision is actually made - and this is followed post-purchase by (4) a loyalty loop. Mediation is a big fan of research into loyalty and what's brilliant about this study is that it goes beyond purchase to evaluate what happens afterwards.
it identifies active loyalists (our traditional view) who then won't consider other brands, but this person is much less common that one demonstrating passive loyalty - where a brand will be automatically considered next time but not exclusively. the following diagram from McKinsey sums it all up:
this is really important for anyone planning media and communications... I've feared for a while that at the back of a lot of planners (and indeed marketers) heads is the AIDA model telling them that as long as they get enough awareness up front the rest will follow. this is dangerous thinking. according to this report media that is always on, as well as on demand play fundamental and ongoing roles on schedules which should be consumer-decision rather than campaign based.