There are many ways to think about the sales journey. For example, there’s the traditional sales funnel (numerous versions), Google’s messy middle and the wonderful Hankins Hexagon. They all have their pros and cons. The Lazy Sales River reminds marketers that category purchasing is very fluid, that people in the category (and the number of people) changes over time and individuals only spend a small proportion of their time thinking about which brand to buy. It also illustrates why brand-building and activation advertising both have a clear role to play.
Here's how the metaphor works:
In most sectors, the vast majority of category buyers are not actively considering which brand to buy at any given time (up to 95% of them - see this paper). This means that marketers need to advertise to potential customers when they are outside of the purchase window so that when they enter it, they are already predisposed to the brand and more receptive to its sales activation. To remember this concept, I imagine category users floating around a lazy river. To promote my brand of delicious and refreshing soft drink, I have placed brand-building advertising all around the river (and in the wider theme park). The idea is that when fun-seekers need some refreshment, my brand will come to mind first and feel like an obvious choice. There is a 'ride-through' kiosk at one point on the lazy river so that people can buy a drink without even leaving the ride. Just in case my brand-building advertising isn’t enough to secure sales, riders can pick up money-off coupons just before they reach the kiosk.