"You mean my whole fallacy is wrong?" -- Marshall McLuhan

When I attended my first communication theory classes in the 1970s, the name Marshall McLuhan loomed large. He’s the imaginative scholar who proclaimed “the medium is the message” and referred to media as “the extensions of man.” Was he talking nonsense, common sense or sixth sense? “I may be wrong,” he said, “but I’m never in doubt.”

Since McLuhan was born 100 years ago, I doubt that he anticipated the impact of online search, online communities and social media tools on customer buying habits. For example, in a recent article entitled The Funnel Is Dead, Long Live the Measurable Customer Narrative, Jen Evans describes a fundamental disconnect between buyer and seller strategies brought on by social dynamics.

While the seller tends to view marketing as a linear system of 7-9 steps in a “funnel,” the buyer takes a much more rambling and exploratory path to the goal. He or she prefers to research the views of other customers, see demonstrations, discuss or read opinions in relevant blogs, and check out competitive products online.

As a result, relevant marketing solutions need to be structured around customer behavior rather than carefully controlled timelines. Evans suggests setting up “measurement beacons” (content sharing opportunities) that shape and gauge the customer experience.

Evans calls it the “digital customer narrative.” McLuhan might have called it an example of “tribalism in the global village.” Or perhaps a “process of participation and dialogue.”

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