decision-making, planning

How we buy what we buy: what McKinsey have learned about our non-linear non-funnel decision-making processes

Funnel Mikhail has pointed me in the direction of a report published yesterday on WARC by McKinsey which articulates what I suspect many of us have know for a long time…  that – in general – consumer purchase behaviour is non-linear and certainly not a funnel.

their study, conducted across three continents and involving qual then nearly 20,000 quant participants, found that purchase behaviour was "changing dramatically" mainly due to an increase in consumer empowerment.  we touched on transparency of product on these pages recently when we had to explain to poor Michael Bay that advertising can't make good products bad, but the extent to which this information is significantly affecting consumer behavior as a whole is now becoming very apparent.

according to David Court at McKinsey, decision making has four stages… (1) ongoing exposure during which time people "see and hear about brands", followed by (2) a trigger which instigates someone to then consider a narrow range of brands and explore and evaluate their options – during the course of which they come across more brands.

notice the reversal of the funnel – it starts narrow and gets wider during the decision-making journey…  brands that seek to reach consumers at the point which will most influence their decision take note.

(3) is the moment of purchase – where the final decision is actually made – and this is followed post-purchase by (4) a loyalty loop.  Mediation is a big fan of research into loyalty and what's brilliant about this study is that it goes beyond purchase to evaluate what happens afterwards.

it identifies active loyalists (our traditional view) who then won't consider other brands, but this person is much less common that one demonstrating passive loyalty – where a brand will be automatically considered next time but not exclusively.  the following diagram from McKinsey sums it all up:


this is really important for anyone planning media and communications…  I've feared for a while that at the back of a lot of planners (and indeed marketers) heads is the AIDA model telling them that as long as they get enough awareness up front the rest will follow.  this is dangerous thinking.  according to this report media that is always on, as well as on demand play fundamental and ongoing roles on schedules which should be consumer-decision rather than campaign based.


4 thoughts on “How we buy what we buy: what McKinsey have learned about our non-linear non-funnel decision-making processes

  1. Hooky says:

    Cheers Chris, v interesting.
    The potential Achilles Heel of this model in action is that it would be easy to perceive that the biggest economic value is in creating ‘Trigger’ moments that force re-evluation, which is of course what marketeers and agency people alike love to do most.
    In reality the interesting opportunities here are in the moment just before and just after purchase, depending on whether we are looking to break or cement a habit, and also depending on the category/financial relationship.
    For me the second of these is the big one – the importance of what happens in your relationship with a brand for the first couple of weeks after you’ve bought it for the first time. Not, alas, a high priority on many brand marketeers lists.

  2. Good stuff indeed.
    “Down with Awareness!!!”
    Or at the very least, “Along at a steadily improving rate with Awareness!!”
    I wonder though… in a world of infinite choice, media fragmentation, niche communities and the like, is there really one sort of model that can map out something like this..? There will undoubtedly be many, many ‘exceptions that disprove the rule’.

  3. It’s interesting to see McKinsey starting to notice the ‘Trigger Event’ economy.
    I would argue that people have always bought based upon ‘Trigger Events’ but it was not until recently the something ‘Triggered’ McKinsey’s understanding.
    I have always agreed with the AIDA (Awareness, Interest, Desire, Interest) model but understood that it is a ‘Trigger Event’ that creates the desire that leads to the action.
    ‘Trigger Events’ are as applicable to B2B sales as they are to B2C.
    The specific ‘Trigger Events’ may be different but the analogy stays the same.
    Craig Elias
    Creator of Trigger Event Selling™

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