PR's role today's new consumer marketing funnel driven by GenZ

The new customer lifecycle model was first coined by Vogue Business when they declared “GenZ broke the marketing funnel.” A pretty bold statement, yet there’s evidence to suggest this is true. Rethinking the marketing funnel is serious business to anyone IN business, not just consumer products, but B2B too. And for all its recent changes, it turns out that the role of PR in the new consumer funnel appears in a couple of spots on the funnel, and this is important because it will increasingly dictate your PR strategy.


What is the New Customer Acquisition Funnel?



The old funnel model was a bit of a spray and pray, “just get my name out there,” kind of attitude. This was built around the idea that it takes 7-12 exposures to a brand or company before they even trigger interest or see where a product sits in their life. The old consumer awareness funnel relied heavily on advertising and search with PR support.

The new funnel acknowledges the overwhelming amount of media consumers are exposed to today, and seeks to trigger the searching instinct by being inspirational. Today, YouTube and TikTok lead the discoverability for GenZ, with 57% and 53% (respectively). Microtrends, or as I like to call them, Memetrends, such as Barbiecore are an example.

OLD FUNNEL: INTEREST: This phase is where brands seek to draw consumers in, and this happens via search or experiences. These were brand-defining moments because if a brand managed to cut through the noise, it was more important than ever that the brand is in the place the consumer was looking.

NEW FUNNEL: EXPLORE: YouTube and TikTok reign supreme. Despite the digitally centric nature of the new funnel, GenZ is very open to in person experiences, in fact, they even more important (so says 74% of them), but these aren’t necessarily events, they could be “try before you buy,” or in-store purchases. In this way, purchasing has been moved up the funnel, but it’s more of a “dating” rather than a “marriage” phase. Because try before you buy is simplified by the ease of online purchases. Make no doubt about it, though, in this phase, consumers research; they aren’t QUITE committed to the relationship yet, even if they have bought. However, they use places like Reddit and online magazines they trust (they know most review sites have been gamed) to see if the products fit their inspirational idea.

OLD FUNNEL: DESIRE: at this phase on the funnel, brands sought to create a lifestyle connection; be the humanity. Desire focuses on the brand’s ability to create the desire for the product vs the individual’s desire to connect.

NEW FUNNEL: COMMUNITY: New consumers are seeking community. It may be online communities where users help one another explore and engage with the products; it could be centering on a belief or inspiration. This is the trickiest phase, but if brands ignore this phase, they will stunt the customer’s journey.

OLD FUNNEL: ACTION: The goal. The end-point. The holy grail. Usually, action is buying, but maybe it is attending an event or some other conversion that extends the action phase and deepens the brand-consumer connection. 

NEW FUNNEL: LOYALTY: Today, brands that follow this formula have all the pieces in place to create loyalty. Keeping a customer will be the focus as opposed to acquiring NEW customers, but modern brands will rely on the new funnel to keep consumers engaged. For example, they may invite the brand community to participate in generative AI to ask consumers to help them inspire a new product design.

What is the Role of PR in the New Consumer Funnel?

In the new consumer funnel, PR is more pronounced because it’s always been about creating connections instead of conversions. Today’s consumer PR programs activate on a full range of media from influencers to journalists to consumer engagement or even branded content.

INSPIRE: Modern PR will still sit as part of the top of the funnel. From influencer engagement to media coverage and brand partnerships, consumer PR‘s role in the new customer funnel is critical. This is the relationship introduction phase; the nuances of this phase are second nature to PR experts. As PR has always done, PR in the new consumer funnel doesn’t rush in to demand a conversion; PR listens and shapes before offering to take the next step, and that’s a critical perspective of inspiration, and it’s squarely in the PR wheelhouse.  This phase might have PR input on a campaign that will make news, or create word of mouth. The desire of this segment is aspirational and it’s an invitation. Think of this phase as the invitation to tour of your dream house. In the planning . PR takes this activation one step further by inviting the relevant media to a VIP tour.

EXPLORE: Where consumer PR sits here is ensuring that the exploration phase includes credible media coverage. It could be reviews of the product, it could be features of the founder, it could be experiential. To continue the house tour example, this phase is where every room is filled with carefully considered and trending touches, and you can really see yourself living there. Before you leave, you’re handing a VIP gift bag that helps the consumer along to the next phase, Community. 

COMMUNITY: PR shines here. Community isn’t a one-way conversation. It’s not about “posting consistently”. It’s more like providing the structure and letting the community find, form, and build itself. This community is typically in a place where the consumer is. For example, Jones Road, a DTC makeup brand targeted towards GenX hosts a community in Facebook groups, while other brands may choose Reddit or Slack, depending on the brand or mindset. Communities may even happen on their own, like the Sephora Reddit where consumers trade reviews, and even vent Sephora frustrations. Sephora doesn’t look to shut this down. I suspect they monitor it heavily, but they don’t engage. If they did, it would spoil the nature. It’s to Sephora’s credit that it has this restraint. Continuing the dream home tour analogy, this is the cocktail party after the tour, where you meet other people like you, maybe you meet the architect, and here her inspirations and share how others can us this design philosophy.

LOYALTY: Here, PR helps set the tone, incorporates Inspiration and Community, and uses them to create loyalty. For example, maybe the tour dream house, imagine everyone is invited to tour the house for special holiday decor that changes seasonally and is different every year. That’s a Loyalty activation, and something PR excels in doing. This phase could very possibly have an angle the creates media opportunities regularly as well. 

Consumer PR is here to stay. It’s seen its fair share of changes over the decades. As consumer PR evolves, so will Avaans Media. Talk to us today about using the new consumer funnel to your greatest advantage.