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Should Marketers Continue Using the Purchase Funnel?

Posted On  May 16, 2012

Lately, people have been calling out the 114 year-old purchase funnel paradigm for being an outdated and inaccurate way of looking at a consumer’s decision-making process.  Some suggest ditching the purchase funnel completely and adopting a more circular model designed to address the numerous new types of media available to consumers.   Others are in favor of using a purchase “tunnel” in which consumers respond to information overload by picking a product or brand that has the simplest purchase process.

Critics of the purchase funnel are trying to tackle the issue of the rapidly changing purchase process that involves measuring the ebb and flow of different information sources that have influence on which products people buy.  Needless to say, this is a very worthwhile objective.

However, the funnel isn’t, and really never was, a depiction of a consumer’s decision process.   It is useful for evaluating the strength of a brand’s franchise at a given point in time and where the leverage is for increasing brand strength and profitability.  Where consumers are in the funnel relative to a brand indicates the “odds” of that brand being bought and what types of actions can be taken to increase those odds.

Answering the following questions about a brand will reveal the health of that brand and how it can be setup for future success:

  • How many potential consumers have heard of the brand?
  • How many potential consumers have tried the brand?
  • Do the consumers that try the brand want to purchase that brand again?
  • Do consumers consider the brand their preferred option?

Not only is the brand funnel a great way to measure your brand’s equity; more importantly, it points to what types of actions can best improve the strength of your brand’s franchise.   For example, if few people have heard of your brand, then getting the word out is key.  If your brand has a high number of people who have tried it, but few who plan to purchase again, you may have a product problem on your hands.  If you are one of the lucky ones that have a brand that everyone knows about and plans to buy over and over again, then the right strategic play is to give consumers more opportunities to buy your brand by introducing new related products in other categories.

We’re not suggesting that we should be stuck in an old paradigm without evolving it. We definitely think that how brand equity is measured, diagnosed, and acted upon needs to evolve over time (see our upcoming post on Relevant Clarity®), but that does not mean the brand funnel has lost all – or even most – of its benefit.

Let’s hear from you.  Are you using the funnel to measure the purchase process or brand equity?  Is the brand funnel useful in evaluating the strength of your brand’s franchise?  Let us know in the comments.

Written by LRW
For more than 45 years, LRW has been asking so what?® to help our clients achieve significant business impact. Learn more about us at


  1. Thanks Gabe, we agree. Have you used the model to find out something useful recently?


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