Whether you’re in research, marketing, sales, or product, it’s likely you’ve heard of a brand funnel. While the original brand funnel resulted from the sales process, it’s since evolved to become a pivotal input to a company’s strategy.
Defining a Brand Funnel
Traditional brand funnels assess consumer’s brand awareness, consideration, purchase, repeat purchases or favorite brand, and loyalty. They get the name “funnel” due to the nature of them—as the total number of consumers enter a brand funnel the size of the pool of consumers narrows as they progress through it.
Formally defined, a brand funnel is a consumer-centric framework for illustrating the theoretical journey customers take towards brand loyalty.
The goal of most brand funnels is to describe the different stages of a customer’s relationship with a brand:
- Awareness: Potential customers have heard about or come in contact with a brand.
- Consideration: A potential customer develops a deeper relationship with a brand and seeks more information about it.
- Purchase: The prospect now becomes a customer trialing a product of the brand.
- Repeat Purchase or Favorite: The customer likes the brand or product and decides to purchase the brand again.
- Loyalty: The customer only purchases that specific brand; so if the brand is unavailable at a store they will seek it out elsewhere.
Today, that is still the goal of most other brand funnels—though they may go by other names. For example, the brand love curve, purchase funnel, purchase journey, marketing funnel, customer journey, conversion funnel, and brand pyramid are just some of the other names used for a brand funnel.
Brand funnels have since expanded beyond the sales process to act as a more strategic tool for brands. Brands can use them in a variety of different ways to assess their place in the market, identify problems or opportunities, and determine the tactics they need to use to solve those problems or take on new opportunities.
Different Types of Brand Funnels
Since brand funnels have evolved into such a strategic source of information, they’ve adapted to be specific to different industries and types of products. Although, many still follow a similar structure and have qualities that stay consistent from one to another.
Most often brand funnels will vary based on the different stages or customer touch-points a brand may have with their specific customer. A widely known type of brand funnel includes the AIDA model. The AIDA format, as you might guess is an acronym that stands for awareness, interest, desire, and action.
The AIDA model is commonly used by marketers and advertisers to understand and guide efforts specific to a brand communication. The ultimate goal in using an AIDA model is to ensure a communication, such as an ad
- Captures attention or acts as a source of awareness
- Piques the interest of viewers
- Creates a desire specific to the brand or product in question
- In the end, gets them to act on that desire
Another example of a brand funnel that has been customized is in the case of a content funnel. Content marketers follow a similar funnel that breaks down in the following way:
- Attract or Discover: potential customers discover a brand’s website, social post, or blog, etc.
- Consider: the customer is evaluating and learning more about the brand
- Convert: the customer downloads content or engages with the brand
- Close: the brand communicates directly with the customer and they make a purchase or further engage
- Delight or Retain: the customer and brand maintain a relationship through frequent content engagement
A content funnel broken out in this way helps marketers determine what types of content assets they need to use at which stage in order to move the customer through to a sale. Either way, brand funnels are ideal for any type of process where lead or sales conversion is necessary—such is the case with marketing, advertising, and sales.
Customizing Brand Funnels
We prefer to customize our brand funnels based on industry. For example, when establishing a brand funnel for a CPG client, we take an approach of awareness, trial, purchase, favorite, and loyalty.
However, depending on the client’s needs, this can be modified. If the CPG client is in durable goods, then the brand funnel may adapt to be awareness, education, purchase, favorite, then loyalty.
So as you can see, brand funnels can be adapted in a wide variety of ways. But funnels should also be customized based on the frequency they are conducted. The frequency of assessing a brand funnel will depend on the type of business and where the focus of the business is currently being placed.
For example, brands that are newer may place a lot of their focus on marketing activities to raise awareness. As a result, they’ll likely be assessing their brand funnel regularly to see if they are achieving their goals. However, other brands may determine due to external market factors that they need to regularly evaluate their brand funnel to understand how brand perception is being affected.
How to Measure and Interpret the Brand Funnel
Understanding what a brand funnel is, and how it can be modified to fit your needs hopefully seems fairly clear—because the more challenging aspect of brand funnels is how to measure and interpret them.
To start, when you are able to time your brand funnel’s measurements properly, they become most valuable. Specifically, the goal is to conduct a tracking study—or studies that evaluate a brands health over time—alongside your brand funnel framework.
So after establishing the right brand funnel, determining how often to conduct them is the next step. We noted that the type of business and where the business is at in its life are two means for determining frequency. But several other factors play into when you should be measuring your brand funnel:
- Launching a new product
- Entering a new market
- Executing a major marketing or advertising campaign
- Increase volatility of an industry or category
The brand funnel should be measured before and after each of the activities above to help brands discern what area their efforts had the greatest impact on or failed to impact. For example, a marketing campaign could impact awareness, while launching a new product may have more of an impact on the brand’s consideration or trial.
After deciding when to measure the brand funnel, how do you actually go about doing so? While we can help with that, it all comes down to capturing and interpreting conversion rates or ratios. Conversion rates are a result of absolute scores and the conversion from one stage in the funnel to the next.
Absolute scores, when it comes to a brand funnel, are the total percentage of people who fall into one stage of the funnel (e.g., 65% who are aware of the brand or 58% who have tried the brand). The conversion rate would then be the number of people who converted from one stage to the next.
In the case above, the conversion rate from awareness to trial would be 89% or 58% divided by 65%. When you translate the absolute scores into conversion rates, it becomes easier to identify where a brand is converting best, and where they could use improvement.
Taking a look at conversion rates through the entire brand funnel, you can easily identify where the greatest room for improvement lies. Sticking with the case above, everything is converting pretty well, except from purchase to favorite, which is only converting 38% of customers from one stage to the next.
This could mean that while consumers are trying a product, it’s failing to encourage them to repeat their purchase. Such a finding could mean a brand needs to reassess product features or better position themselves against the competition.
As a result, we recommend measuring your brand funnel against competitors in order to identify gaps or the difference in your conversion rate performance against others in your market. In fact, put this brand funnel against a competitor or set of competitors, and even more value would be added—especially if you find one brand in particular is converting much higher from purchase to favorite than yours.
Together, absolute values and conversion rates allow brands to start to think strategically about what specific areas need to be addressed, and more importantly, what specific tactics to use to address them. Further, it helps brands prioritize which areas to focus on first by adding a data-driven approach to the brand funnel.
In other words, a brand may be able to identify that they need to increase awareness, but learning that converting from trial to purchase is more of a problem, they likely would know to focus on that first. Otherwise, efforts would be wasted in a promotional campaign.
How does this help marketing and brand tactics? Brand funnels are not only identifying what areas need to be addressed, but essentially explaining when, in the customer journey, brands need to reach customers. As we know, reaching customers at the moments that matter most can be more important than the tactics being used.
If you wanted to take a brand funnel to the next step, you could also incorporate a timeline to the various stages. This would help identify how quickly you are converting customers from one stage to the next, and determine the total life cycle of customers from the first stage to the last.
However, this can be challenging to accurately capture as it’s more often than not based on respondents self-reported data. But it can be insightful to help understand what stages may be taking longer than others.
Importance of the Brand Funnel
Obviously the driving factor for using a brand funnel and measuring it regularly is to help brands understand their customers and how to grow. Marketers and brand managers can rely on brand funnels to help them make difficult decisions. Such questions that can be asked of brand funnels include
- What opportunities do I have to gain an advantage over my competitors?
- When should I communicate with customers in their customer journey?
- Where can we improve?
- What’s not working?
- What’s working and what should we continue doing?
While there are plenty more questions a brand funnel can answer, it’s easy to see they are far more impactful than just using it for the sales process or for sales teams. It can provide a measure of brand health specific to a variety of metrics and areas of strengths and weaknesses—and provide valuable insights to an entire organization.
Measuring a brand funnel consistently means a brand can track their performance based on a variety of factors that are most relevant to them. And evaluating them against competitors, a brand can understand their bottlenecks in relation to the market, and what competitors may be focusing on.
In the end, brand funnels are the “status update” into a brands health that guide where efforts should be focused. Used effectively, they can move a brand towards a stronger brand equity—or more value being derived from a brand that can translate across more products.
Thus, brand funnels are an essential tool in an organization’s toolbox if they want to assess their brand health, growth opportunities or blockers, and when to leverage tactics to address them. Reach out to us if you’re interested in learning more about the brand funnel, and how we implement brand tracking studies across a brand funnel relevant to you.
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