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[A version of this post originally appeared in MediaVillage.]

Television has long been considered an effective vehicle for brand marketing and a core part of the marketing funnel. Today, we know the linear construct of the funnel doesn’t accurately represent the behavior of multi-screen, always connected consumers.

Almost 280 million people (85% of the U.S. population) will use the Internet at least once a month this year, according to eMarketer. Sixteen percent of U.S. internet users will go online using only mobile devices, and that number will grow to 19% by 2022. Eighty-two percent of U.S. internet users will regularly watch digital video, with many young people shifting their attention from cable to YouTube or streaming platforms like Netflix.

Consumer behavior has continued shifting with technological innovations, and so has the path to purchase. A consumer’s buying journey now has multiple paths, and brands must rethink how they engage audiences and sequence their messages. For example, consumers can easily bounce between the awareness and education stages due to online research and social engagement before coming close to the purchase stage. Eighty-two percent of smartphone users research in-store purchases on their phones before buying, and 45% read reviews before making a purchase. Consumers have many options at the purchase stage, too — they can visit a store, use a browser, a mobile app, or even a voice assistant to complete a transaction.

And consumers are hyper aware of the breadcrumb trail of preferences they are leaving, and in return expect a personalized buying experience that’s linked across all of those avenues. Data provides a path of information, and marketers have to decide what to do with it.

Why the immersive nature of TV is valuable to marketers

It’s television’s ability to emotionally connect with audiences that makes it much more than a brand awareness vehicle – it’s a versatile medium effective at reaching people in the digital age. Today, “TV” refers to an experience more so than a specific device sitting in the living room. And that experience can be found on-demand, on digital devices, and connected to catalogs of programming for any interest or topic.

But TV’s place as the most immersive medium is cemented. Viewers tune in expected to be drawn into another world. They know for the next hour they’re giving the programming their full attention, and they want the story arc, not just the story. Viewers come back, episode after episode, for weeks. Aside from music maybe, TV is the only media experience in which people expect to be transported emotionally to another world.

Evolving from awareness to something much more

TV has historically been used for brand lift, awareness and share of voice. But, as technology has transformed the journey to buy, it has also changed the way television can influence and measure. Today’s television – data-driven and targeted – can refresh and reinforce messages to specific segments, foster loyalty and advocacy, educate during the research phase, and sell products.

It’s time for agencies and advertisers to take a fresh look at TV’s purpose in the advertising mix. As consumer purchase behavior has evolved, TV advertising has adapted to be more relevant, targeted, measurable, and flexible. In a world where the consumer buying process spans multiple screens, TV can drive better return on ad spend (ROAS) than ever before.

In the next few posts in this series, we’ll explore the different stages of the customer journey and the role of TV advertising at each stage.

Next, see the Awareness stage of the customer journey.

After Awareness comes the Preference stage, where marketers can use TV advertising as an education and consideration tool. Data is vital to reaching consumers at the Purchase stage and engaging meaningfully with customers at the Advocacy stage. Finally, see the conclusion to our series here on TV’s importance in the context of evolving consumer behavior.