Consumer Decision Journeys (CDJ) to increase brand presence in consumers’ Initial Consideration Set (ICS)

Based on the Consumer Decision Journey framework, suggest some ways by which brands can improve their chances to be in the consumers’ Initial Consideration Set?

McKinsey’s Consumer Decision Journey (CDJ) – while well-recognized as the industry standard in marketing theory and application – may have less relevance in an increasingly “digital” world.

The concept of the Initial Consideration Set (ICS) – the products, brands and companies that a consumer first recalls once triggered or prompted by a need or desire – doesn’t well reflect the modern reality of consumers who are continually interacting with brands online and through “connected” devices and platforms. Gone is the notion of a singular “moment of truth” or purchase decision; consumers are constantly exposed to both consumer-driven and company-driven messaging and feedback that shapes their ICS. It’s difficult to become part of the initial ICS, as research shows that consumers can recall only a few brands. For companies excluded from the ICS, the greatest opportunity for entry exists during either the “active evaluation” or “post-purchase” stages, when customers may discover alternatives during comparative analysis and research.

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In the advertising and web consultancy industry of which my company is a part, different approaches to online and offline marketing have become critical to success. Offline, word-of-mouth and referrals remain the most successful tactics: new business pitches and proposals are initiated by introductions between past friends, colleagues, and acquaintances.

Online, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is key, with the new adage “content is King” proving truthful. Most leads generated online come from prospective clients performing simple web searches, proven by our Google Analytics tracking. Unique content, such as articles, blog posts, and white papers, demonstrate subject matter and industry expertise and position individuals and the company as thought leaders and experts: critical characteristics for professional services firms. Cross-linking to legitimate sources and other verified web properties from large customers or brands has also proven to be important: providing examples, links, demos and portfolios to relevant previous work builds brand image, credibility and legitimacy, and also helps improve technical search ranking and indexing.

The implementation of this variety of optimizations and strategies would certainly improve the position of any similar company in the industry in entering the ICS, however the challenge remains to find the appropriate balance of investment (time and expense) compared to the potential return. Significant effort and expense can be invested into the activities to optimize digital or online messaging, content and exposure; thus it is important that companies thoughtfully consider the channels and content that will be most relevant to customers along their journey.

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