Posted by Marc Williams

A New Look at How People Buy: Introducing the Mobius Cycle.

People are smarter than ever before. As customers, they don’t fall into a nice, easy segmentation anymore, and the purchase path is no longer linear. And with an endless amount of resources, information and influences, they’re being stimulated in more ways. Nowadays, people can interact with a brand at any point within the purchase lifecycle. Not to mention, there has been a major convergence of paid, owned and earned media to add to the decision process. In fact, mass media is no longer the driving factor in awareness and brand perception. And even “new” media is no longer considered “new” ­– it’s all just media these days. For advertisers, this means that those influences we tried to control for so many years need to be rethought as marketers.

Introducing our latest creation: The Mobius Cycle.

This is a customer-centric situational marketing model that helps assess, diagnose and explain how he or she experiences brand interactions in a non-sequential fashion. Instead of looking at the lifecycle with a single point of entry, we looked at the entire process holistically. This gave us the ability to see how one segment affected and overlapped with the others, and determine the strengths and weaknesses within that cycle. We created six main areas of focus and looked at each element individually, analyzing the cycle as a whole to inform a complete marketing plan for any business model.


But how did we get here?

For years, we’ve used a variety of methods to describe and map the consumer purchase journey. One such method was the AIDA (awareness, interest, desire, action) model. And while we’ve enjoyed and understood the importance of this classic purchase funnel, we realize it has room for improvement. The major challenge was that customers don’t move in a linear fashion or from top to bottom as they once did! This model also required top loading the funnel with leads that would filter out, with absolutely no follow through. This was an adequate model for the days of mass advertising and media-centric agencies. But today’s customer has changed; therefore, advertising should not (and cannot) sustain a brand using these antiquated formulas anymore.


After considering the AIDA model, we moved on to McKinsey’s Consumer Decision Journey. This model looks at the customer journey in a cause and effect manner; however, it relies on a sequential foundation and is based on a goal of reaching consumers at the moments that most influence their decisions. As such, it leaves real value to marketers on the table and provides simply a map for when to interrupt people.

ZMOT Model_2

Progressing from McKinsey, Google created a model called the ZMOT model. The Zero-Moment-Of-Truth simply puts more emphasis on the consideration phase, which is something we wholeheartedly agree with (and is not unexpected considering the source). Unfortunately, this model does not address the whole picture of what’s going on with a brand through the entire purchase lifecycle.


Another strong influence of ours was the actual product itself.  To quote the book Baked In by Alex Bogusky and John Windsor, “the most powerful brand experiences and connections begin with the product.” For some reason, so many companies totally forget about this.

Our Mobius Cycle realistically defines how a customer’s decision is actually made. And when it’s applied to an actual brand, it can clearly identifiy the most important areas of focus by understanding customer touch points and their needs. It’s important to note that a customer can enter the Mobius Cycle at any stage; therefore, there is no beginning and no end. Ever. If applied correctly, this model can help you diagnose your marketing goals, and define areas of focus to strengthen your marketing objectives.

The Mobius Cycle segments at a glimpse:

PRODUCT: Your product constantly lives at the center of the cycle and affects every marketing conversation. You need to address this first. We have this sector running parallel to IMPRESSION and running throughout the entire purchase lifecycle.

IMPRESSION: This could range from anything from a referral, a review, an endorsement, point of sale, package design, an article, an ad, a website, etc. Often referred to as Stimuli. Again, this segments runs the entire length.

CONCEPTION: This is the segment where the customer need/want/desire/habit/interest is planted. It could stem from a hole in your shoe, viewing an ad or reading an article. It is the conscious and subconscious thought of wanting to buy something.

CONSIDERATION: Active evaluation and research of your purchase options. This may happen before a need (CONCEPTION) has ever been identified, or after viewing an ad or seeing a product.

PURCHASE: We define this segment as the actual act of purchasing. We also felt it was important to include purchase accelerators and direct-response drivers in this category that fuel purchase like coupons and limited-time offers. There is great overlap and sharing in this segment with Impression.

LOYALTY: What happens after the actual transaction is made. This segment includes all post-purchase experiences and perceptions of product usage. It can be a review you give a friend or simply how you feel in the morning. This is a very important segment, and it ties very closely not only with the product segment but also is a important driver into all other segments.

Stay tuned: In the coming months, we will be unveiling more case studies and examples of how this model can be applied. If you are interested in learning more or being a test subject, we’d love to hear from you soon!

Marc Williams
About the Author

Marc Williams

Amongst many other things in life Marc is an avid skier and sailor. As a former ski racer he likes to go fast and make big turns on hard snow. He is also the captain of Greystar, and one of the authors of his family's Northwest cruising adventures at When not on the water or in the mountains Marc owns and operates Hayter Communications and Williams Helde Marketing Communications. As a second generation owner, Marc has maintained the focus of the firm on Active, Healthy Lifestyles. Marc graduated from Western Washington University with degrees in Design and Illustration. He lives in Seattle, with two well above average kids, an amazing wife and two brother Whippets.