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white paper Planning to be heard: the right message at the right time on the path to purchase

Advertising works at the instant it is experienced. Therefore it makes sense to build the strategic framework not only around the brand-consumercompetition dynamic, but also around the mind-set of the consumer in relation to the advertising itself. This suggests that, in addition to the indepth understanding of how the consumer relates to the product and the brand, we need to understand how consumers relate to the advertising in terms of their interest (or lack thereof) in the product at the time they see the ad.

In order to develop this understanding, it’s useful to have a framework with which to view consumers and their purchase behaviour. People are, generally speaking, in one of three stages of interest in any product or service at any given time: passive stage, acquisition stage or decision stage.

Passive Stage most people are not in the market for most products most of the time. Their attitudes toward what we have to say about the product in our advertising is therefore passive: they don't care, and are very likely not to notice our advertising, let alone absorb any specific information. At best we can hope to engender enough interest in the brand to arrange for our product to be included in the consideration set at the time of purchase. 416.967.3337 www.proteanstrategies.com

Acquisition Stage at the time people consciously decide they need a product, they start to acquire information that will help them make an informed decision. When consumers are in this stage, they are actively looking for information, and are receptive to product facts and brand information. Many people are in this stage for some of the time -- the amount of time depends on the size and importance of the purchase: car buyers are in the acquisition stage for months, while toothpaste buyers are in this stage for minutes.

Decision Stage Having acquired as much (or as little) information as they want, consumers then enter the decision stage when they will make their final choice. At this point they are extremely susceptible to price and value related information very often


communicated at point of sale, or point of sale extensions such as flyers or sections in newspapers, etc. Effective marketing must account for each stage of the cycle, allocating resources to maximise the potential impact of the advertising on target customers as they move through the stages. This may be the most complex part of the marketing mix, but, if viewed in terms of these stages, it can be managed to accomplish specific goals. In terms of the advertising component, a strategic decision must be made as to the stage of purchase that each aspect of an overall campaign is targeted to. This will, in turn, inform and direct the content, tone and manner of the executions. This can be determined by addressing the following three questions concerning the target audience for the specific piece of advertising -- as opposed to the broader target for the product.

Question 1 Is the advertising directed at people who are actually not interested in the category, product or brand (passive stage) but who will, at some undetermined time in the future, be actively seeking out information? In this case, the advertising should do nothing more than persuade the audience that, when the time comes, it will make sense to consider Brand X. This is awareness advertising in the truest sense -- designed to establish a sense of the brand and it's potential. This is why awareness advertising, though essential, is generally not a predictor of sales.

Question 2

advertising should focus on specific product advantages, differences, etc. Brands which have done an effective job in the passive stage are at an advantage here because consumers will be looking for, and more receptive to, their message.

Question 3 Is the advertising directed toward people who know what they want, are aware of the advantages and benefits of the product, and are looking for a trigger to help them make their choice (decision stage)? Here the advertising is about the "purchase." The advertiser, normally a retailer, needs to close the sale by convincing the target that this is the time and this is the place to make a commitment. Once the strategic decision is made at which stage each advertising component is aimed, the planner needs to understand how the specific audience processes messages. Research should be directed toward an understanding of the purchase process: what the "passive stage" audience finds interesting about the category that the brand can latch on to; what "acquisition stage" consumers really want to learn that only the brand can tell them; and what are the addedvalue triggers that will close the sale for "decision stage" customers.

For more information on the Protean Path to Purchase & Customer Odyssey methodologies go to www.proteanstrategies.com Or call 416.967.3336

Is the advertising directed at people who have decided they need a product (acquisition stage), and are trying to learn which brand would be best? This Page 2


Laurence Bernstein is the founder and managing partner of Protean Strategies/The Bay Charles Consulting Group Limited. He has been a leading proponent of the “new order of differentiation� and has written and lectured on the subject of experiential branding and intrinsic/extrinsic research methodologies in Canada, the US and China. Laurence has held senior positions in major global agencies Saatchi and Saatchi, TBWA, Young and Rubicam. In addition he has worked on the client side with Westin Hotels and was the EVP of the Canadian Restaurant Association. Laurence attended the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and Cornell University in Ithaca, New York Protean Strategies is a Toronto based management consulting firm specializing in developing brand strategies and providing a full range of consumer research services. Since its inception in 1997, the firm has provided breakthrough strategies for leading Canadian and US brands, including General Motors, Fairmont Hotels, Canadian Tourism Commission, American Express, Dell Canada, Energizer Batteries, Unilever , Procter and Gamble, Allstate Insurance and advertising agency partners in Toronto, Calgary, New York City, Chicago , London, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Shanghai. Www.proteanstrategies.com 416.967.3337 Page 3

Protean White Paper -- Planning to be heard - the path to purchase  

Passive Stage Decision Stage Acquisition Stage most people are not in the market for most products most of the time. Their attitudes toward...

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