How McKinsey Views The Role Of The Funnel In Marketing Strategy


Marketing advocates of creative concepts can peacefully coexist with their number crunching teammates when the right funnel strategy is deployed.

That’s the perspective from the global consulting firm McKinsey. The organization has found that when the jobs of branding and analytics are put on equal footing, marketing results improve.

I recently asked McKinsey senior partner Julien Boudet and partner Kelsey Robinson to weigh in on how funnel strategy should be designed and executed.

Paul Talbot: How can an organization’s senior leadership pull together what we often see as two marketing camps… one focused on brand building and the other on performance-driven campaigns?

Julien Boudet and Kelsey Robinson: Brand building and numbers have always had an uneasy alliance in marketing but the notion that creativity and data are adversaries is outdated.


Two years ago, we surveyed senior marketing executives and tracked the performance of their companies. We found that ‘integrators,’ marketers who united data and creativity, grow at twice the average rate of S&P 500 companies.

But bringing brand and performance closer requires some changes:

Before undertaking all of the above, marketers should try a few tests to show the power and increased effectiveness when these muscles work together. This can go a long way.

Talbot: How should measurement challenges which can cast unflattering perceptions on branding be addressed?

Boudet and Robinson: There are new ways to measure brand building such as addressable TV/video, ‘brand lift’ studies done quickly at scale on mobile, and market-specific spend-up tests which can help prove the impact of brand spend on traffic levels.

Companies should look to derive which KPIs matter most from branding activity by doing correlation analyses and other analytics to identify which upper funnel measures are linked to later purchase and loyalty.

Talbot: When the organization’s CEO has come up through the ranks of finance rather than sales and marketing, do we know if the organization’s strategy tends to be more predisposed toward performance campaigns?

Boudet and Robinson: We haven’t studied this, though it is important that leadership (CMO, CFO and CEO alike) understand the risks they run if they’re only optimizing for and prioritizing high ROAS/immediate response lower funnel demand capture.

While performance marketing can be attractive from a measurement standpoint, it presents its own limitation, often focusing too much on short term impact.

For many categories, getting in initial consideration is often the most important battleground and one which performance marketing can’t easily affect.

Talbot: For a full funnel strategy to be articulated and executed, what needs to happen?

Boudet and Robinson: The CMO and/or leadership team needs to articulate the case for change with good supporting points that often include a low level or degradation in brand awareness, brand equities and an increase in the cost to acquire traffic or revenue from paid channels.

Having a strong partnership across marketing and analytics as well as with agency partners is key, as is ensuring creative can move at both the speed of the brand and high frequency digital in an integrated way.

Talbot: Any other insights on full funnel marketing strategy you’d like to share?

Boudet and Robinson: We view full funnel marketing as a full shift in mindset on marketing strategy, and we believe the majority of marketers have over-rotated either towards performance/demand capture or brand building/demand generation.

Very few are striking the right balance and truly approaching this as a full funnel integrated approach.

Minus strategy marketing staggers. I am a somewhat reformed ex-media business executive, with tours of duty at AOL, CBS Radio, and Nationwide Communications. I’m a fan