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By Will Ostedt

By Will Ostedt, TPG Executive Vice President and Creative Director

An experienced fisherman will tell you that some fish will bite a baited hook when they are hungry, some bite it because they are curious, and some bite it because they are angry. The fish’s motivation can literally change with the wind, water temperature, cloud cover, air temperature, and a myriad of other reasons that most of us will never care to understand.  But, the fisherman just keeps trying different areas of the lake, and different baits and lures until they find the right combination. Even the smallest tug on the tip of a fishing rod is enough to develop a strategy for landing that world record clunker. They patiently work all areas of the lake with all different types of baits and lures.

Marketers can take their cue from the fisherman. Recognizing that the reigns of purchasing power have shifted to a new, more digitally savvy generation, and that conversion is now a consumer’s journey, no longer the brand’s, it may be that you need to cast your net differently in your effort to reach targeted consumers — and heave the traditional marketing funnel aside.

The Pathfinder Model

The powerful brand that once proudly led legions of followers down a road to conversion has been trampled and pushed to the side by a faster moving generation of consumers that know precisely where they want to go and how they want to get there.  

Not for the weak, the new path is filled with sharp, jagged turns, zig-zagging roads, strewn with bright and shiny distractions and is lined with the charred remains of once great brands that fell victim to a lack of focus and refusal to adapt.  Only those that are nimble, agile and able to stay the course will complete the ultimate test of brand survival.

As a brand, you must realize it is no longer your path, it is the consumer’s path and you should be lucky enough to join them on their journey. Your days of building paths are over. Now you are a pathfinder.

Defining The Audiences

The Pathfinder Model of Marketing assumes that there are always three basic groups of consumers, each with different motivation and knowledge levels as it relates to problems and solutions.

Visualized as concentric circles, the outermost rung is those audiences that are unaware or indifferent to a specific problem. They have very little motivation to fix a problem that does not exist in their minds and therefore, has minimal knowledge of any potential solutions. We refer to this low motivation and low knowledge audience as the Educatables, as they require messaging that educates them on the primary problem before they will become interested in learning about a solution.

The middle rung is occupied by groups that are highly motivated by a problem, but they have minimal knowledge of the available solutions. We call them the Persuadables, as they should be more susceptible to messaging that guides them to a solution for the problem they face.

Finally, in the innermost circle, is where the Convertables live. These are groups of people that are highly motivated by a problem and possess a high knowledge level of the available solutions. Because this group has a pressing need and is likely in the process of weighing the pros and cons of each solution, successful messaging is usually focused on communicating the features and benefits of your solution.

By defining the audiences by their motivation and knowledge levels, we can then develop marketing strategies for each rung and aim to turn Educatables into Persuadables, and Persuadables into Convertibles.

Message Casting

Start by casting a set of messages to the outer rung of Educatables, until you find a section of the audience that nibbles. Analyze the response data to determine the first step on the path. At the same time, develop a set of messages that resonate with the Persuadable audience and then do the same with the Convertable audiences.

Message Coding

Each message is assigned a code based on the variation of the message and the category of audience it is meant to target.  For example, a message coded as E3 might be the 3rd variation of a specific message that is targeting the Educatables audience. Message P2 is would therefore be a second variation of a message targeting the Persuadable level and so on.

Utilizing the response data that is easiest to ascertain through digital marketing tactics, we can make assumptions about an audience’s propensity to respond to certain combinations of messages. Each audience subset may have its own unique code based on the response and retargeting data for each message. For example, if we know that most of a target audience that responds to message E3 will then also respond to message P2, followed by message C1, then the messaging code is E3-P1-C1. Each code tells a story that can be recorded and stored with the supporting data for future use both online and offline as needed.

By analyzing response data for each message, and then implementing a retargeting strategy, we are able to see a clear, data-driven path to conversion.

Unlike the traditional funnel model, the Pathfinder model accounts for both, the change in the way audiences consume messages and the way they are targeted. The model allows and expects for deviations in the consumer path, in order to provide a more precise blueprint for finding the right audience and the right path forward.  

An Epic Change

The Pathfinder Model sees retargeting as a natural part of the journey and is not only aimed at audiences that have fallen off the path, or out of the “funnel,” while the traditional marketing funnel is about brands exerting control over the consumer journey. The Pathfinder Model is about letting consumers take their own journey, and being right there when they make their own decision to move to the next rung, while the marketing funnel remains restrictive.

As such, the Pathfinder Model is a freeform model of marketing that conceptualizes brand interaction and embraces consumer behavior to allow brands to form longer lasting and more loyal relationships with their consumers.

It is now the consumer’s journey. No longer the brand’s journey…