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Tom diSapia 

It’s time to flip the marketing funnel

It’s time to flip the marketing funnel

Strategy LeadersEcommerce, just like marketing, requires long-term investment to yield the best long-term results.

Looking back at Black Friday 2021, it looks like we didn’t quite reach the pre-pandemic sales that retailers both digital and physical wanted. This has been credited to no one wanting to wait a minute longer to unleash the deals. Very few kept their powder dry.

But the fact of the matter is that too many deals, promotions, and short-term mania – an approach that characterised much of 2021 – may end up damaging long-term brand building and future sales.

"How dare you challenge the prophets of promotion!", I hear you scream. Well, let me explain.

We live in the upside-down world – flip the funnel

A brand’s biggest media connection is often the product itself. The experience of the packaging, purchase and unboxing are critical in building enduring engagement. This is the purest expression of a brand.

Promotion is the gasoline. The accelerant of not only sales, but brand essence. Yet, if you can’t control the experience, then a drop in price can lead to a drop of future brand value. It might even be better to hold back instead of leaping forward with the first discount that comes to hand.

As we all know, the best brand/retail experiences are often where the brand has control over every aspect: just look at how Apple has turned the Apple Store into retail theatre at its most impressive, with boxes, bags and design all combining to create a high-value, highly-branded impact on the customer. It combines control of the environment, customer data and the connection back into the communications ecosystem.

Is the same going to be true of a brand that gives up control to a marketplace and sells its value proposition for a short-term boost? Will they also be giving up all their priceless customer data to a platform like Amazon instead of building it up themselves over a lifetime?

Ecommerce, just like marketing, requires long-term investment to yield the best long-term results.

Perhaps it’s time to flip the funnel and think about planning that starts from amazing commerce experiences that galvanise communities and strengthen a brand’s role in culture. That means better connecting the purchase and promotion with mid-funnel consideration and longer-term brand building.

Commerce is the catalyst for community activation

Commerce, whether physical or digital, can create experiences that galvanise communities. As you will remember, communities are how we reach the missing middle.

For example, RTFKT Studios’ recent sneaker collaboration with 18-year-old artist Fewocious sold over $3M worth of digital sneakers in under seven minutes. It credits the success to the ‘communities (that) organise and demand influence, they can move the world and turn the old guard on its head’.

We are now able to really connect the physical purchase to digital experiences. Or even the other way around, using meta product as a proving ground for the real world, as has been seen with Adidas already experimentingwith metaverse cryptocurrency. Perhaps this is the third space of product availability, with ‘Meta Availability’ connecting physical and digital together.

Commerce is an opportunity for cultural expression

What we buy is an expression of who we are. As inherently social animals we use products and brands as cultural signals – consciously or not. Some brands have seized that approach, avoiding the obvious route of 24-hour discounts and using Black Friday in such a way that stays true to their long-term values and brand strategy.

For example, Patagonia gave millions of pounds to charity, fitting in with its sustainable and ethical values. Skincare brand The Ordinary offered a discount across the whole of ‘Slowvember’, which ensured it stayed premium and had the added benefit of not causing sales spikes and stock challenges.

Tying it together for next year

Before the immense gravity of the next promotional event begins to pull them in, brands should plan across the full funnel, the three Cs of culture, community and commerce, to better balance short-term sales with long-term value.

Promotions like Black Friday are channels to ‘spend’ brand equity, so you have to ask yourself if the equity you are cashing in for a short-term sales boost will build back even greater in the long run.

Therefore, the key is to link all these commercial experiences, through community and cultural activations, in such a way to build lifetime value. These three Cs are inextricably interlinked and help brands develop long-term brand equity.

Tom diSapia, chief strategy officer EMEA at media agency UM

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