Astute observers, notably Paul Chaney, Mark Bonchek and Cara France, have focused attention on the reality that the bellwether model of the Marketing Funnel has lost much, if not most, of its former relevancy.

It’s not that the four pillars of the Funnel: Awareness, Interest, Desire, and Action, are no longer factors. Just as brands are certainly not dead, the fundamentals of awareness, interest, desire, and the purchase are still very much with us.

But what has changed − quite dramatically − is the way in which these elements drive purchase. What once was funnel-like, linear consumer behavior has undergone a sea change. Driven by the social media phenomenon, the consumer decision process has morphed into a multi-dimensional maze of pathways and loops, with entries into the process at any point…at any time. Difficult, if not impossible, to understand with the “old kitchen” funnel analogy.

At the core of the digital reality are the now vast, ever-growing sources of influence and information available at the click of a mouse or the touch of a screen. The Google searches, the myriad of online reviews, the Facebook recommendations from friends, experts, blogs, users, and the like have become instantaneously available, “go to” resources for learning and making informed purchase decisions…looping in and out, backwards and forwards…so in the newer digital media reality, the consumer process is circular, not linear.

Another critically important difference: Push versus Pull marketing.

In Funnel-world, consumers were at the tail end of the marketing process, being pushed along the decision process by traditional advertising and promotional activity. But in the digital, social media reality, consumers are now at the center of the Funnel, being pulled to trusted information sources and brand websites while still being marketed to via various channels.

As Mark Bonchek and Cara France point out, marketers and marketing models must recognize the:

  • new non-linear “path to purchase” environment
  • multi-dimensional nature of social influence
  • ongoing relationships beyond individual transactions.