What Triggers a Purchase Decision?

I finally bought a portable speaker last week. I’ve been thinking about it for ages – browsing the electronics sections in stores, sporadically looking online for reviews and recommendations, noticing what other folks were using, and thinking about how and when I might want to use a speaker instead of my headphones. The thought of adding one more gadget to my already overlaoded travel case has kept me from pulling the trigger and actually buying one for probably two years. Until last week. And, being a marketing geek, my experience got me thinking: What was it that caused me to finally decide to make a purchase, and how was I influenced along the way?

As marketers seek to maximize their return on advertising invesment, there is a lot of ongoing discussion about attribution. We would like to put our marketing dollars where they are most effective – and so we would like to understand how the various tactics we use influence consumer behavior. Most people recognize that it doesn’t make sense to give all the credit for a “purchase trigger” to the last thing that happened just before the actual purchase. Lots of things could have influenced my purchase:  It might have been an ad delivered on Facebook, or a recommendation on Amazon, delivered to me because of prior browsing behavior. It could have been a helpful sales person; I remember looking a a display of portable speakers in a Verizon store a few months ago while my husband was buying his new phone – if a salesperson had started talking to me, I might have bought one then (or maybe not). It could have been seeing a speaker used by a collegue during a presentation.

In my case, the final trigger was a print ad in an airplane magazine. The ad emphasized a extra feature that I hadn’t even considered in my thinking: it added a microphone so it could also be a speaker phone. And that was the trigger for me – it pushed me over the edge of indecision and I made the purchase. I didn’t even bother to  look for other speakers with the same feature – I just typed in the URL in the ad and bought the darn thing. (By the way, I bought a  JBL® Flip Bluetooth Speaker – and I love it.) So should that ad get all the credit for my purchase? Should JBL move all its advertising dollars to print ads in airplane magazines?

JBL will know where that purchase came from, because the ad included a specific URL. They were  in the right place at the right time with the right message. But it would be a mistake for them to give all the credit to that ad, because of all the other factors that influenced my ultimate choice. A recent study from the Advertising Research Foundation highlights this challenge for brands. As digital and social media have become part of daily life, consumers are constantly in a state of what the ARF calls “passive shopping”; opinions and ideas about brands and products are being formed constantly and unconsciouosly, and often in ways that are not in the direct control of the brand.

This study is consistent with findings by McKinsey a few years ago: we should no longer use the model of a purchase funnel, but move to a model they call the Consumer Decision Journey. CDJThe purchase funnel implied that consumers systematically narrow their choices, and that marketers should push messages to consumers during each stage. McKinsey’s model emphasizes that consumers may actually expance the number of brands they consider during each phase of this journey, and are influenced but sources beyond the brand’s control.

The EVP in charge of the ARF study study summarized the findings: “digital and social media have fundamentally changed the purchase process – our sources, our view of markets, our emotional response, everything”.  All marketers have limited budgets, so it is impossible to truly be everywhere. So what can we do to adapt to the changing purchase process?

1. Be everywhere. Study your consumer’s behavior, and identify all the possible ways they develop opinions about your brand. The ABF study found that 78% consumers end up purchasing the brand they had in mind when they began active shopping, so it is critical for the brand to be thinking about how they can connect to consumers before they are actively shopping. There was no one

2.Surrender control. Amplify your reach beyond paid media channels. Embrace channels that the brand can’t directly control; be as intentional about your owned and earned media plans as you are about your paid media plans. Your objective is no longer to directly deliver your brand message to a large number of people. Rather, your objective is to have others talk about your brand – hopefully in a way that you want them to, but recognizing that they won’t always say what you would like them to say.

3. Make it matter. Brand content must be meaningful and impactful – this is what stimulates a reaction in the recipient. Give your consumers a piece of shareable content that expresses their own thoughts, but in a way that is better than they can do it themselves. And that means that there is no longer “one” message, but many messages, some of which are not even created by the brand. customized for situations and needs that are meaningful to small segments of our consumer base. React to consumer social behavior in real time to the greatest extent possible.

4. Connect the dots after purchase.  The ABF study showed that for grocery items in particular, post-purchase consumer behavior was most influential to the overall purchase decision process. Brands should identify ways to encourage consumers to talk about their brand and product experiences in a way that can be seen by other consumers. Even when feedback is negative, the brand builds trust with its consumers by allowing them to see the brand listening and responding.

5. Make online and offline work together. As my own purchase shows, consumers use whatever channel for purchase that makes sense at the time. For immediate needs, and in some categories, the consumer must go into a physical store to buy a product. For other products, consumers can make their purchase in either a virtual or physical store. By understanding all the touch points a consumer may encounter along the way to purchase, the brand can increase its chances of triggering the final purchase decision.

I”m a bit surprised that I haven’t heard anything from the JBL folks since I bought the speaker. I bought it directly from the URL in the magazine ad – not through a third party retailer – so they have my name and email address. It would have been so easy for them to send me an email asking about my experience with my purcahse, and perhaps encouraging me to write a review or make a comment in one of my social channels. They missed a chance to hear my opinion about how the the product could have been better for me (the carrying case only holds the speaker and not the charger). They missed the chance to make a connection with me. It’s not that I will rule them out in future purchased, but they have missed the time to establish that loyalty loop.

I Get By with a Little Help from my Apps

At the IAB Expo yesterday, Melanie Varley and Andy Wasef of MEC made the case that the only way to be creative is to put mobile first. The growth and ubiquity of mobile devices require brands to consider mobile experience first. As we do so, we will build better user experiences in all channels.

Designing for mobile means designing for utility and fun; considering the user’s mindset and making the interface as intuitive and transparent as possible. This morning, as I was on way to the airport, I experienced a great example of how brands build their brand by building great mobile experiences.

I was on a hotel shuttle to LaGuardia, and folks were going to all different airlines. @Delta flies out of several terminals there; a couple on the shuttle knew their flight number but not the terminal, and were worried about missing their flight. I used the Delta app (already on my phone) to look up their flight and find the gate number within a few clicks. They were relieved, the driver was glad to be able to take them to the right place, and I enjoyed being able to help someone.

I’m not flying on Delta today, but I had a great brand experience with them anyway. It was one of those “frequent lightweight interactions” that the folks at Facebook often mention. This is how a brand builds a relationship with its consumers: by giving us something that makes our life easier, makes us smile, lets us express ourselves or help someone.

Thanks @Delta!

What’s the Point of Facebook?

Last month, the Australian Advertising Standards Board ruled that the comments of fans published on an brand’s Facebook page are actually advertisements and must comply with industry self-regulation and consumer protection laws. This ruling created a lot of discussion among social media managers and digital marketers. It felt like the common consensus was “how can they expect this of us? There is no way we have the resources to read every single post on our Facebook page!”

I beg to differ. Whether or not it is required by regulations, I firmly believe that if a brand is going to create and maintain a social presence on Facebook, the brand SHOULD be reading every post. That level of listening is the reason for having a social presence in the first place: Facebook allows a brand to humanize itself, to express its personality, and to be a “friend” to those who want a relationship with the brand. It allows us to hear what people care about – and the folks that have decided to “like” our brand on Facebook are possibly our most important customers. Why wouldn’t we want to listen to everything they have to say?

For Facebook to be effective with consumers, the brand’s comments need to feel “at home” in the news feed of those who have decided to “like” the brand. The brand’s posts should be like a lot of the other content that shows up in an individual news feed: things that make you smile, make you wonder, help you learn something, or give you a way to bear with a long line at the DMV. The comments posted by a brand’s friends on the page matter just as much as what the brand creates.

I often liken a brand’s Facebook presence to a cocktail party, and the brand is the host of that party. As a host, you don’t want to talk too much about yourself, and you want to help your guests to enjoy themselves. If you are hosting a party, and someone obnoxious is destroying the atmosphere for everyone, you would do something about it; inappropriate comments on your Facebook page can have the same effect as that obnoxious boor. They spoil the party for everyone. It’s the host’s responsibility to handle the situation.

I’m not saying that I agree with the Advertising Standards Board’s view that consumer comments on a brand’s page are “advertising”. But I am saying that the brand has responsibility for them, even if we didn’t write them. They are on our page – a page we created to build a community. We must treat our brand’s Facebook pages as a two-way street. It is not simply a vehicle for us to deliver our brand message to a flock of sheep. It is a place to get acquainted with real people, build friendships, have some fun together. We can’t allow ourselves the excuse of saying we don’t have the time to listen to our friends, or even those who are “posing” as friends: if that’s the case, then we should simply shut down the Facebook page. Unless we treat our friends as more important that the brand, we won’t be able to generate real consumer engagement anyway. We must find the time, the resources, the social management system – whatever it takes to allow our brand to be a real friend. Otherwise, what’s the point?

The Three Essential Elements of Your Brand’s Video Strategy

Video is an increasingly important element of brand communications. We all naturally are drawn to moving images – it is probably part of our DNA to keep us safe from saber-toothed tigers. Brands can develop all sorts of video to provide content that provides value to their customers and consumers. This post is intended to help you think about how to incorporate video into your marketing strategies.

Key Elements of Video Strategy

A brand’s video strategy must incorporate three elements of consumer behavior:

  • Discovery: Identify the mechanisms by which consumers will find and discover video content. Develop plans for the use of paid advertising, search engine optimization, and brand social and email communities to help consumers find the brand’s video content.
  • Content:  Develop a content calendar that provides value to the consumer, in the form of utility (making life easier), entertainment (making life more fun) or education (making life more interesting). In some cases, the content will integrate with the brand’s promotional calendar, but there will also need to be content that is relevant at any time of year. The catalog of content needs to be deep enough to allow for repeated and in-depth consumer engagement, and it needs to be portable, should users wish to consume it across different sites, devices, or platforms.
  • Context: The brand’s video content should be relevant to the channel; not all video belongs in all channels. The content calendar should be designed to entice consumers from larger-reach and/or paid channels into a deeper brand experience on a brand-owned property. Video content should be integrated into brand paid, owned and earned communications with consumers.

Who and Why?

Video consumption is growing at breakneck speed around the world; consumers see all video as content, and are more than willing to embrace and share content they find useful or relevant, regardless of source. This gives brands the opportunity to build affinity with the consumer by meeting their needs, rather than simply delivering a message. Statistics from ComScore and Forrester Research:

  • 181 million U.S. Internet users watched nearly 37 billion online content videos in April 2012.
  • US video ad views totaled nearly 9.5 billion, representing 1 in 5 videos viewed online in April.
  • More than 200 million people in the EU7 (UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Russia and Turkey) watch an average of 20 hours each of online video every month .
  • Duration of average video content was 6:20; average video ad was :24.
  • digital video ad spending in the US is projected to balloon by more than 250% from $2 billion in 2011 to $5.4 billion by 2016

“Online video” is becoming a misnomer. People watch video anywhere and everywhere, on whatever device and through whatever platform is most convenient. According to Forrester Research, 37 million US households currently own a connected device that enables them to watch digital video on their TV screen, up from fewer than 25 million in 2010. Media companies are beginning to package TV and online video buys together, and Nielsen and others are developing cross-platform tracking tools. As video ad networks begin to partner with TV manufacturers and cable providers, the lines between “TV” and “online” video will continue to blur, and brands will need to ensure that all brand, creative and media partners are collaborating very closely.

Where and When?

Google’s YouTube channel continues to be the #1 site, far outpacing other channels for number of viewers and the number of videos watched. Globally, YouTube has 3 million views per day with average time on the site of 20 minutes. Over 48 hours of content is uploaded to YouTube every minute.

Top   U.S. Online Video Content Properties Ranked by Unique   Video Viewers, April 2012, Total U.S. – Home and Work Locations; Content   Videos Only (Ad Videos Not Included)
Source: comScore Video Metrix
Property Total   Unique Viewers (000) Videos   (000) Minutes   per Viewer
Total   Internet : Total Audience 180,785 36,848,001 1,307.7
Google   Sites 157,663 17,022,226 434.8
Yahoo!   Sites 53,604 741,995 73.7
VEVO 49,479 674,183 57.9
Facebook.com 44,298 264,903 27.0
Microsoft   Sites 42,833 486,567 42.4
Viacom   Digital 41,247 501,100 58.9
AOL,   Inc. 38,925 496,400 54.3
Amazon   Sites 30,168 104,581 17.4
Hulu 28,233 901,060 228.5
News   Distribution Network, Inc. 27,005 186,956 75.2

Video content is now being consumed in “prime time” –  a big change from just 3 years ago, as shown in the solid line below.

Video viewing on mobile devices has tripled during the same time period. Using TV and online video together greatly increase the brand’s frequency of exposure to brand messaging.


Video content will be seen by the consumer as one of the brand’s products, not as an advertisement.  ComScore research (March 2012) has shown that professionally produced video content and user-generated product videos are highly synergistic, driving higher levels of sales effectiveness when used in tandem.  “In the campaign examined, professionally produced content and product videos drove strikingly higher lifts when used together than when either was used individually.

While marketers may already be familiar with the effectiveness of professional video content alone, these results suggest that even greater returns can be had by combining their use with authentic, user-generated content.” “We found that consumers perceived feature benefits as more believable when coming directly from the brand through professionally produced content, while the unbiased user-gen videos were more believable in verifying specific product claims, such as superiority and convenience. When used together, all of the perceived gaps get filled in and consumers become more confident in their purchase decision, resulting in better sales effectiveness from the advertising.”

The Road Map

Forrester recommends a process of content creation that is channel-agnostic until the end of the process. By thinking about all the places where a person might view content, and their frame of mind when they are within that particular environment, the same video shoot can yield several different angles for the same message, and create different “entry points” that can draw people deeper into the story.

Agile Marketing: Float Like a Butterfly

At a recent meeting, a speaker quoted Mike Tyson as saying “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”. As the market and our brand’s customers move at ever-increasing rates of speed, marketers must be able to quickly move and adapt their plans to avoid (and hopefully not in reaction to) getting punched in the mouth. Perhaps we should take a lesson from “the Greatest” Muhammed Ali: “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”.

Many companies operate using an annual planning cycle, and that’s not likely to change overnight. Boards of Directors and executive leaders need to have confidence that their marketers are not randomly chasing every bright shiny object, and are investing resources wisely. But consumers don’t operate on an annual plan: they are making new choices every day, and are always developing different ways of making those decisions. An annual plan can’t adapt to a new tool like Pinterest, which took off in a 3-6 month period and became an important new source of information for consumers.

By adopting a culture of agile marketing, marketing organizations can respond to market changes in real-time, and increase return for shareholders. Yes, you will plan for the year, but will be always evaluating what is working, what is not, and what new tools and channels are available, so that you can reallocate resources toward the most effective efforts and maintain relevance with your consumer.

How can marketers become more agile?

1. Gain alignment with top management on the high-level objectives and metrics for the year, and only develop detailed plans on a six-week or two-month basis.

2. Focus on what you are doing NOW – not last week or next week. Is it working? How are consumers responding? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, build the systems you need to get you those real-time answers.

3. Hour-long meetings become the exception, not the rule. Change your rhythm: meet more frequently, for shorter periods of time. Many agile marketers use a “daily scrum”: 15 minutes every day or every other day. Longer meetings only happen at the beginning of the project when the team is establishing the goals, and at the end when the team is distilling what they have learned.

4. Most of the marketing budget will go to what you already is working, but set aside a small but specific percentage of the budget for experiments. Be razor-sharp in defining what you are seeking to learn, and establish the success metrics before you begin implementation.

5. Test, test, test. Fail (and learn) fast. Maintain a “backlog” list of ideas that you want to test. Give team members the opportunity to “make a pitch” for funding for a small test of an idea they are passionate about.

Here are links to additional articles about agile marketing:




Woody Allen was talking about Your Brand

Woody Allen famously said: “80% of success is showing up”.  This is as true for brands as it is for people – the key to brand building in today’s environment is to be found by potential consumers when they are in a receptive situation. These days, each of us has an unprecendented level of control over the messages we receive. We can choose when and how to be entertained, get the news, or learn about what is happening with our friends. If we have a question, we can look up the answer. If we want to solve a problem, we can ask others who have faced the same challenge. As long as the source of the solution is credible, we usually don’t care much about where the solutions t comes from: it could be a person halfway around the world, or a brand that is in our kitchen pantry. Brand marketers need to find ways to “show up” in relevant places, with relevant content, to be successful in this evolving landscape.

We have all changed the way we consume media. Studies show that we actually consume more than ever, as the number of channels through which media is delivered has exploded in recent years. And because of this, brands are changing the way we market our products and services. Brand marketers can no longer choose the channels into which we place our messages and count on our messages being received. Brands must rely more on “being found”.  New phrases like “brands as publishers”, “content marketing”, “inbound” and “always on” are being added to our marketing lexicon to help us express these changing ways of marketing.

The premise behind these phrases is that marketers are moving away from an environment where the brand simply needed to create messages and deliver those messages to their consumers through a few mass market vehicles. Today the number of channels through which a message can be delivered has exploded to a size that makes it impossible for a brand to rely on placing its message in all the right places. We must make sure that the messages are compelling enough to be passed along to the channels we can’t afford to reach.

So how can brands be sure that they “show up”?

1. Understand your consumer’s decision journey and where they get information as they are considering and evaluating your brand and be sure that your content is in places s/he will be looking – at all stages along the decision journey, online and offline. Identify ways to “recognize” individual consumers as they interact with the brand at each stage and record each touch point.

2. Design content that will add value to the consumer’s life when they find it: make them smile, solve their problem, make their life easier. Provide consistent and relevant content at every stage in the journey, to increase the opportunity to be included in the consumer’s evaluation set and to reinforce a positive experience after purchase.

3. Identify the consumers that have entered the loyalty loop, and no longer go through the consideration and evaluation stages before they buy your brand. Develop strategies to help them advocate for your brand to others, in online and offline channels, and reward them in tangible and intangible ways for doing so. Seek to establish a relationship with them: listen to them, remember their birthday, let them get to know you – and I mean YOU, the real person(s) behind the brand, not some corporate entity. Help them to share their experience with and loyalty to your brand with others – in the thousands of channels a brand’s advertising dollars could never reach.

If Woody Allen is right, and 80% of success is just showing up, brands will be successful as they allocate their marketing resources to ensure that they “show up”.

Stop Targeting Your Consumers

Have you noticed how the language of marketing often sounds like we are in the military? In our marketing and media plans, we use words like “target” and “campaign” – it sounds like the brand is the aggressor and that the marketer’s job is to attack the consumer. I have a mental picture of a shooter in an arcade or a fair, firing at targets and knocking them down as quickly as they pop up.

As digital marketing allows brands to converse with their customers in increasingly direct ways, it is time to change our language – because words matter. What you call something influences your behavior towards it. As brand marketers, we have always sought to create an emotional relationship between the brand and the consume. Digital tools allow us to create content that is more personalized than ever before, and it is time to change our language to words that reflect a relationship.

In our personal lives, we meet strangers, who then may become interesting acquaintances, and some of those acquaintances become friends. Some folks say that strangers are just friends that they haven’t yet met. We often meet new friends through introductions by current friends. Brand marketers seeking to create relationships between the brand and the consumer should use the same kinds of language, recognizing that there are real people at both ends of the marketing communications – not “targets”, but potential friends of the brand.

A blog post by Jon Holden put it well: “Getting to truly know the people you are marketing for, and finding unique ways to tell their stories and connect on a personal level will go a long way to establishing trust and loyalty”.

So, how does thinking about our customers as friends and potential friends change our marketing plans? Here are a few ways:

  • Rather than defining messages the brand wants to send, we develop messages that our friends will want to receive: something that will be useful in their daily life, something that will make them smile or stimulate a new idea.
  • Rather than creating content for strict demographic or behavioral targets for our messages, we create content for the people who have told us they already have a relationship with the brand by signing up for email, subscribing to an RSS feed, and/or becoming a friend on Facebook or following us on Twitter.
  • Instead of creating a TV spot or video that is designed to be watched many times in one or two channels, we create a video that is designed to be talked about, passed along, changed, spoofed.
  • Our brand messages to our friends are designed with the understanding that they have a very brief shelf life, and we need many more messages. A relationship isn’t built by sending one present to a friend on a special occasion; it is built by small interactions every day, over time (and still remembering the special occasion with something special.)

Instead of “targeting our consumers”, brands need to “talk to our friends” and “invite our acquaintances” – and by creating valuable content for both our friends and acquaintances, we earn the right to be introduced to others. This allows the brand message to spread organically – to more channels, in a more credible way, than would be possible for a brand operating in the “targeting” model.

Don’t be shy. Go ahead, say “hello”.