The Advertising Funnel

The advertising funnel is a tool used by non-profit and for-profit organizations and corporations around the world.  It is a fairly simple and straightforward philosophy on how to maximize advertising potential.  The basic idea is to start with a wide advertising scope and slowly narrow it down.


The advertising worksheet available here only has three categories, but the principles are exactly the same.  The concept is to begin your advertising campaign with only the hope of making people aware that your organization or event even exists.  This basic awareness step is the reason for product placement in movies, billboards along the road, and many television commercials.  You want people to know about you so that the next time they see an advertisement they have a context from which to work.

After the basic awareness, you want to narrow your advertising a bit so that fewer people may be reached, but they will gain a deeper understanding of you.  This type of advertising seeks to make people understand what your organization or event is, not just that it exists.  For example, a mascara company might want to have an advertising campaign that makes the entire country know they exist, but then they will focus on women of a certain age.  This smaller group will be told more about the product and why it stands out; most men or children don’t need this information.

Once this smaller demographic understands the basics, your advertising should narrow even farther to the point where people feel they know enough and are eager to choose you.  Getting to the point of preference or purchase can be difficult, and so often counts on much more individualized encounters than previous advertising schemes.

Let’s take a common advertising need and use it to explain the advertising funnel step-by-step.

Summer Camp Advertisement

Now, this is a fairly large need, but as it relates to most campsites it will be our example.  Using the advertising funnel above, a possible advertising ‘plan’ would consist of:

Awareness: General mailings, bulletin inserts, information available in schools and churches, campsite apparel worn in various recruitment locations, other mass settings.

Opinion: Brochures mailed out to previous campers and their families, brochures in schools and churches, church visits by camp staff, campsite apparel worn by significant role models.

Consideration: Church and youth group visits by camp staff, particularly with Q & A times available after, days when church groups visit the campsite, tours and open houses.

Preference: Small group Q & A, phone calls, campsite visits and interactions on camp, personal relationships with staff members, recommendation by pastor or youth leader.

Purchase: Individual conversations, individual visit, previous positive camp experience.

The advertising funnel is not a guaranteed perfect advertising plan, and many places are able to do just fine without it. But the point of the funnel is to encourage a thought process that organizes advertising choices into a varied approach that connects with a wide number of people.

Related Work:

Advertising Checklist

Advertising worksheet


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