The positive aspects of a downward marketing spiral

(c) Shuvaeva

We nearly always think that a downward spiral is a negative, a downturn, and a disaster. Not always. I disagree and make an exception when it comes to marketing and developing a ‘go to market’ digital cross-media or integrated strategy, selecting the media, and determining when to use that media to support your strategy.

I often explain to clients and students that a useful image to visualise when discussing the development of an integrated marketing program is a tornado-like spiral, with the top of the spiral being the starting point and the very lowest tip being the touch point that will end in a sales lead or inquiry – the action.

The ultimate goal of this pre-visualisation is to start your planning process with a defined strategy to pinpoint your end user, client, or customer. Then you can determine how best to assign needed legacy, digital or new/emerging media to fulfil the goals and objectives of your marketing or sales effort.

The rule of thirds

When I develop this spiral, I look to three defined distinct segments. Using a term stolen from the world of photography, let’s call it the Rule of Thirds. The top third of the spiral graphic illustrates the strategic segment of the planning and the media used.

[A note about the segmentation: I use a formula that redefines the definition of strategic, operational, or tactical media tools based on the needs of the clients, customer, and goals and objectives of the program. There is also some duplication and doubling up of the segments that the media may fall within.]

Strategic media: Media used for this first segment of the spiral approach include broadcast, advertising, interactive, experiential, sales promotion, personal selling events, exhibitions, analyst relations, investor relations, media relations, public relations, and SEO, SEM, or Internet-based marketing.

Operational media: The second or middle segment presents the operational section, a segment that links the strategic elements to the tactical elements and can include – but is not limited to – online, mobile, apps, print, out of home, direct marketing, direct mail, email, social media, events, POP/POS, educational marketing, wearable, trans media, personalisation, surveys, and activist media.

Tactical media: The lower and last section of the spiral is the tactical segment, which includes remarketing (retargeting), alternative media, guerrilla media, cultural jamming, crowdsourcing, social media, websites and landing pages, personalised direct mail, messaging, content, context, infographics, storytelling, SoMoLo, wearables, developing personas, and use of an omnichannel integrated media strategy.

I also explain to clients and students that this spiral can be used to define the action stage, the dialogue, and engagement stages of a modern marketing relationship. You can even define the push and pull aspects of advertising with this simple downward spiral model.

Perhaps even more importantly, by visualising the spiral you can focus your thinking on and direct your vision toward the most important end result for most marketing campaigns – the customer, the client, the prospect or the sale.

By interlinking the tools outlined above along the spiral graphic paths, you can support a range of marketing efforts – transactional, contextual, preferential, geographical, conversational, product, personal. You can now have a defined and adjustable strategy to begin the roughing out, or ‘comping’, of your cross media, digital, integrated marketing effort. You can even, if you so wish, assign value points to help you evaluate the ‘worth’ of your targeted media and better determine expectations for using these media.

Being creative with your interpretation and understanding of the positive aspect of a downward marketing spiral is the starting point of a positive marketing journey. Spirals let you see your marketing efforts three dimensionally, and you can use the spiral concept in multiple dimensions; multiple media, multiple tasks, and with planned multiple outcomes.

I am using the spiral shape here as a non-directional pointer. I use it simply to illustrate the need to hone or target your marketing with increasingly accurate tools, messages, content, and context to the individual end user at every stage of your marketing efforts. You have no doubt heard of 3D printing; well, this is 3D marketing.

Let’s see the model in action

Currently, I am developing a marketing strategy for a “dog/cat grooming franchise program.” The key demographics – customers, not franchisees – are radically different, yet in many ways share multiple ‘media/marketing’ similarities. Research indicates that there are two key customer segments – baby boomers and millennials – that are different yet in some ways very close to each other as far as media goes.

Using a modified customise-your-own version of the spiral graphic example, I was able to plot common use media such as direct mail, ads, email, social media, SEM and website (crossover media), as well as determine what quality level of that media to use. In addition, I was able to identify the types of interaction and, in some ways, control that interaction.

We determined that local dog and cat owners near the shop needed to receive direct mail. Current local animal owners needed special incentives. Inactive customers needed and used a different media (e.g. SEM, Yelp!, social platforms) that we tapped into to get them back on board. Local publications needed ads with incentives to attract pet owners who didn’t know about the new expanded services being offered by the franchise. The expected level of informative, relevant dialogue helped us design our proposed strategies so that they included a defined and measured level of future engagement.


The overall message is that you can use this spiral graphic concept as a tool that will help you to focus on the touchpoint, or end result. You should create your own three dimensional spiral that will look to marketing, which is, or can be, a multi-dimensional art form.

As a classic (1972) advertising commercial for Alka-Seltzer once stated: “Try it, you’ll like it!” Works for me.

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11 Apr 2016, 2:45 a.m.

This may be the longest article I've read that says absolutely nothing. The marketing funnel (not 'spiral') has been around since shortly after fire was discovered. Jamming in a bunch of nonsense buzz-phrases doesn't do much to impress, IMHO.