To understand how consumers learn about and take actions related to brands, for more than a century marketers have relied on the Attention-Interest-Desire-Action (AIDA) model, developed by Elias St. Elmo Lewis in 1902.

However, the growing influence of the consumer's voice in an always-on digital environment has made obsolete many of the assumptions that underlie that funnel-based view of how consumers and brands engage with each other.

Among the obsolete assumptions about the funnel are the following:

  • Engagement is a linear process with a distinct beginning and end.
  • Communications are initiated and controlled by the brand.
  • The only communications that influence the purchase are between the consumer and the brand.

If consumer engagement can no longer be explained by the brand-managed funnel, what construct accurately depicts the way that engagement occurs? And what types of engagement has the biggest impact on customer lifetime value?

Northwestern University's Spiegel Research Center set out to answer those questions, and the findings of its study have powerful implications for marketers.

Introducing the Consumer Engagement Engine

Northwestern's research showed that engagement in today's digital communications ecosystem works not like a funnel but like an engine where brands and consumers are synergistically interacting with each other in new ways that can have a powerful impact on customer value.

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image of Tom Collinger

Tom Collinger is the executive director of the Spiegel Digital & Database Research Center at Northwestern University.

Twitter: @tchere