A quick history of the path to purchase/consumer pathway

A chance mention on Twitter led me to dump this presentation into my blog. It was designed as a discussion piece and is not exhaustive in terms of the history of pathways. The original client this was produced for was a financial brand but the techniques and applications are universal (and i’ve since applied it to other categories effectively).

My view on pathways is the presence of common stages that represent the fixed “nodes” of a model however the way an individual navigates between these nodes is up to them. The natural implication is that there will be some pathways which are very important (most pass through them) and others where fewer people wander. As with all there is a strategic decision to be made on which to concentrate on…

The classic AIDA model

The wonders of AIDA – Dis-proven in a majority of cases, its over 100 years old (not that old things are bad) but the existence of multiple evolutions suggests it doesn’t quite do what we need it to do

Lavidge et al – Hierarchy of effects = Awareness→ Knowledge→ Liking→ Preference→ Conviction→ Purchase

Modified AIDA = Awareness→ Interest→ Conviction →Desire→ Action (purchase or consumption)

AIDAS Model = Attention → Interest → Desire → Action → Satisfaction

AISDALSLove model: –Awareness→ Interest→ Search →Desire→ Action → Like/dislike → Share → Love/ Hate 

Image result for awareness marketing funnel
This bloody thing

It’s linear. You skip from stage to stage and everyone does it. Conceptually useful to a degree but not in the least bit representative of real life. The use of “conversion” measures to detail how many move from stage to stage also brings with it huge problems as you get analysts making ridiculous statements like “you need to increase awareness by x% to increase consideration by y%”. Also do you really go from Advocacy to Awareness?

Ummm – where is the influence of communications? I don’t want to overstate the impact but comms in all its guises must have some sort of impact? no?

Surely this is just a new way to sell a product? And by product i mean Googles ad product

Another google product but missing a very important stage….

At least the passive stage (out of market) gets mentioned here. It is where most of the time is spent (unless you are a milk brand or maybe bread)

Taking advantage of low involvement processing (Heath) is key when it comes to communications.

“Passive assimilation” = The default state of consumers not in the “purchase pathway”. An out of market conversation aimed at building memory structures in order to pre-empt in-market and post-trigger moments in a brands favour (hang on, isn’t that the role of branding comms in general :))


PWC attempt to wrap this all up neatly but what happens when you purchase? No “retention”/customer comms opportunity (this may not be a problem though, thats for the brand to answer)


Mckinsey build a feedback loop but little in the way of that important “passive assimilation stage” (or active if your brand is strong). Also uses the word Loyalty which always sticks in my throat…

Which brings me to this one. The infinity loop

Customer Journey: Funnel or Continuous Loop? | Fridge

Many agency groups have “developed” this one so they can plot all their services and also to suggest that the process is never ending, continuous (constant investment required, natch) but as a mental model its worth remembering that, like the debunked “funnel” ITS STILL A LINEAR PROCESS! Really winds me up this one. Conceptually incorrect and factually incorrect too.

Authors own

My initial stab including stages of commonality with some elements of natural chronology but as with western literature you read it left to right (no feedback loops) which can lead to the classic linear fallacy of pathways

Authors own

My current model = The interconnected nature of the hexagon and the various connections between allows for the complex nature of the journey to purchase to be articulated. I hesitate to call this modern as its probably always been this way! The number of “stages” or nodes can be varied by category to become representative (as can the labels) but; the concept remains the same. If developing into a tool/technique then this can also be quantified using both quantitative research (if you have the time and money) but also qualitatively in a similar way to many diagnostic strategy tools. From a representation perspective the importance of the lines (based on volume) could be thickened, bigger lines = more important. There is also the fixed and linear nature of some of the pathways e.g. purchase is always followed by post-purchase which could be enhanced by a “one-way arrow” vs the two-way nature of some of these routes. In this way prioritisation can be made on what pathways to invest in to drive the most difference. If you are able to do comparative analysis vs. a competitor or category you can then benchmark relative performance as an additional prioritisation technique.


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