Brand Strategy

The Path to Purchase is Dead. Long Live the Path to Purchase.

Share This

Bill Winchester


Share This

Brand awareness is often expressed as a graph, chart or data point. Of course, this is one way to look at the consumer path to purchase.

Do people know your brand? Simple. Awareness precedes preference and all that stuff that’s been hammered into us again and again.

It’s great because who doesn’t love to be able to see if the line is going up or down? And we can run pre and post analytics. There’s nothing really wrong with this. We need to be able to know if we’re going in the right direction.

When the path to purchase is a squiggle

But what if we thought of brand awareness a different way. Not by the number of people aware of your brand or product or even what they’re aware of. What if we measured it by what happens the moment people encounter it and become aware of it for the first time?

Or even better, before they’re even thinking about it in any way. Why? Because in an on-demand world, the time between a first glimmer of awareness and a purchase might be collapsed into a very short amount of time. Not months or days but minutes or even seconds.

This brings me to the path to purchase where awareness often lives in our neat little graph world. Traditionally, we expressed the path to purchase as a funnel or a straight line. In the old world, when people actually drove to stores to buy things this might’ve been somewhat true, plus it makes a nice PowerPoint slide and an easy way to imagine how people move through the world. Unfortunately, it’s bullshit.

The path to purchase is a snaky, crooked wandering system that looks like someone trying to start up their ballpoint pen. And the consumer might join it anywhere. That’s because as much as we’d like to have neat charts, people don’t think in straight lines.

What this means for awareness is it can happen anywhere on that scribbly line. Arrrggghhh, there goes the neat chart.

The questions your brand needs to ask

What this change in thinking means is the experiences you create need to encompass the entire brand journey, including random encounters before people are even thinking about your brand to actually buying it to advocating for it.

An audit of where, when and how people encounter and engage with your brand is a good first step.

Questions like:

  • Where are people likely to first encounter the brand? What is the first impression?
  • Does the industrial design of the product attract or repel people? How does it compare to the competition?
  • Does the packaging provide more than an on-shelf experience but also an “opening” experience? Or a sharper question: Are you letting Amazon own your brand when people open the box?
  • Is the voice and personality of the brand consistent and enchanting? Does that personality flow through every touchpoint?
  • Are you creating experiences that invite consumers to participate with your brand or are you constantly in “send” mode?
  • Is your search optimized? Do you know where people are going when they encounter your brand online?
  • Are you embracing earned and owned experiences or is everything you’re doing paid advertising?
  • Is the online purchasing experience seamless and easy?
  • Do you have any post-purchase reinforcement in place?
  • Does your social invite consumers into the brand or does it simply broadcast out (making it essentially advertising, which no one likes)?
  • Do you have a system in place to track reviews and respond to negative reviews?
  • Do you have ways to delight people at unexpected moments?

Preparing for an on-demand world

There are many deeper questions that are all part of our channel planning and path-to-purchase process and help identify places where you can have the most impact.

If you haven’t done a similar deep-dive exercise, don’t wait.

Tracking brand awareness as a graph line or chart is not going to go away. But thinking about it as a moment in time that is tied directly to the aforementioned circuitous path to purchase may be another valuable way to have your brand be more prepared for the on-demand world.

Bill Winchester


Has actually won a bagpiping contest.

What’s your brand strategy?

Is your brand positioning clear? Is it based on meaningful consumer insight and emotion? Do you have a plan for leveraging your brand strategy for growth?If you aren’t sure, you might need our help. Lucky you, we do free 15-minute consultations. Sign up below and Lindsay will be in touch soon.
Get My Free 15-Minute Marketing Consultation

Brand Strategy

Brand strategy isn’t something we do from time to time, it’s one of the cornerstones of our business. So we think about it a lot.

learn more


We've been growing brands for a long time. You could be next.

About LSB