The long game: How GE and Sony get and keep consumers’ attention

Durable goods brands have it rough. Everyone needs a washing machine. But when are they going to be in the market for one? Where will they look? From which retailer will they buy?

From automotive to appliances and entertainment, these brands are known for higher price points and technical complexity. As a result, they’re leading customers down a much longer, more tangled path to purchase.

“It could be 10 years before you buy a new refrigerator,” said Wendy Brown, web and social media manager at GE Appliances. The average is six years for a new car.

We spoke to marketers at GE, Sony and MagnaGlobal about how they keep consumer’s attention in that long interim between purchases, also known as the middle funnel.

Staying top-of-mind takes creativity
Unlike their shorter CPG counterparts, durable goods marketers’ campaigns typically last between 45 to 90 days, and that’s only when consumers are considering a purchase. Brands must stay front and center throughout this period.

To do so, Sony successfully deploys a format best known for direct response, display ads, at stages as high as awareness. Upper-funnel, general message ads may include high-impact tablet takeovers or videos while lower-funnel ads lean on price points and calls to action. Things get more complicated in the mid-funnel.

“The consideration timeframe for a TV is different than for a camera, and these are things that determine what metrics to look at,” she said. “Based on where we think they are in the funnel, we use different tactics,” said Kelly DeGuzman, Sony’s media and sponsorship marketing manager.

At Magna Global, Drew Sayer, director, programmatic specialist, says he too uses display for upper- and mid-funnel purposes, but then layers on behavioral or contextual targeting that allows for more efficient reach.

“Mid-funnel, we look for some indication that users may be coming to market at some point soon,” he said. “In automotive, some behavioral signals or contextual channels connected to life stage indicators like home purchase or new presence of children in the household can indicate that near-market state.”

In addition to first party data like length of ownership, for its automotive clients, Magna Global also aggregates third party data to help zero in on drivers ready to move onto a new ride, like repair purchases or new parts.

Staying social, keeping in touch
In addition to display, brands like GE are using content to link their brand with activities and ideas associated with their products.

“We’re able to pulse our social community members to get a handle on what subjects are of interest to them,” said Brown. “Whether it’s recipe content, how-tos, DIY tutorials; sometimes it has nothing to do directly with our appliances. It’s just about engaging with our users in areas of adjacent interest.”

And when GE does talk product, they make sure to hit the right mid-funnel messages. Brands may think that consumers are hungry for its newest innovation, but mid-funnel prospects could still be pining after a feature the brand introduced with its five-year-old models.

To account for this, Brown’s team highlights more than just the latest features in their messaging, and monitoring social media plays a big role.

“Consumers are going to share those features and benefits that are most relevant to them, so we want them to understand all the things that have changed over the last 10 years to make an informed decision. We need to make sure that we’re not just talking about the latest and greatest.”

Measuring mid-funnel success
So how do they know they’re hitting the mark mid-funnel? Content and ads that drive through to the website should spur interaction. “You can look at engagement rate, average time spent, average pageviews versus conversions,” said DeGuzman.

Other brands test display performance by using brand studies and metrics and connecting those to the online campaigns via tools to gauge awareness and consideration, said Sayer.

“Brand metrics tell you if you’re ultimately making a dent on user’s understanding of what the product offerings are…enough to make a decision,” he said. “They can be used for more manual optimizations and are starting to feed programmatic optimization.”

And brands are going back to the most primal metric of all: online and offline sales. Looking at sales against exposures provides useful closed-loop analysis. “Online media has typically connected to the click action and online conversions,” said Sayer. “But online also provides some value for brand exposure. When you can account for a viewable impression online and a household purchase offline, credit should be given to online exposure, even if it can’t be directly connected to some other online action.”

Successful durable goods marketing requires a paradigm shift to tackle the mid funnel.

“Funnel level makes a difference in the messaging urgency and the emphasis we give to near-market signals versus in-market signals,” Sayer added. “When you need to have a longer conversation with a consumer, there are other points you need to hit before the user gets to bottom of the funnel. It’s not just about flashing an offer in front of their face last-minute.

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