The Marketing Hourglass: Reimagining the Traditional Funnel


Marketing is no longer about blunt and obtuse, but curvy and multifaceted. In the ever-evolving marketing landscape, the transformation from the classic funnel to what is now widely known as the “Marketing Hourglass” marks a significant shift in how businesses approach customer relationships. This evolution reflects a deeper understanding of consumer behavior and the importance of ongoing engagement beyond the point of sale. Enter the marketing hourglass, a better visualization of marketing for 2023 and onward.



The traditional marketing funnel, a concept that has been around since the early 1900s, visualizes the customer journey as a linear process. It starts with awareness at the widest part, narrows down through interest, desire, and finally leads to action at its narrowest point – the purchase. This model served well in a simpler time when marketing was predominantly about attracting customers to make a one-time purchase.

Today, however, the marketing funnel is broken. Instead of a linear journey, consumers, especially those in Gen Z, engage with brands in a far more dynamic and multifaceted way. They demand authenticity, engagement, and alignment with their values throughout the purchasing process. This shift has effectively shattered the traditional funnel model, rendering it outdated for contemporary marketing strategies.


Gen Z, a demographic renowned for its digital savvy and skepticism towards traditional advertising, has been instrumental in breaking the classic marketing funnel. Their hyper-awareness of marketing tactics and a strong preference for authentic, value-driven content means that they don’t follow the predictable path of awareness to purchase. Instead, they seek out brands that resonate with their personal identity and social values, often relying on peer recommendations and social media influence over traditional advertising. This shift requires marketers to rethink their approach, focusing more on building relationships and communities rather than merely pushing consumers down a sales funnel.


In today’s dynamic market, where customer experience and brand loyalty reign supreme, the funnel model falls short. This is where the Marketing Hourglass comes into play. It extends beyond the purchase, emphasizing the importance of post-purchase phases like retention, loyalty, and advocacy. The hourglass shape represents not just the journey towards a sale but the continued relationship after it.

The upper half of the hourglass still mirrors the traditional funnel. It’s about creating awareness, sparking interest, and nurturing the desire, but with a more nuanced understanding of these stages. Today, these phases are increasingly influenced by digital channels, social proof, and personalized marketing efforts.

The neck of the hourglass – the point of sale – remains critical. It’s the pivotal moment of transition from attracting a potential customer to securing them as an actual customer. But unlike the traditional funnel, the journey doesn’t end here.

This is where the hourglass widens again, symbolizing the expansion of focus to include customer retention, satisfaction, and loyalty. Post-purchase, customers should feel valued and continue to engage with the brand. This stage is crucial for fostering repeat business, generating positive reviews, and encouraging word-of-mouth referrals.


In the realm of marketing, the evolution from a traditional funnel to an hourglass approach is more than just a conceptual shift; it’s about innovative, real-world applications that redefine customer engagement. A sterling example of this transformation is Lululemon’s “Align Legging Dupe Swap” campaign. This initiative not only captures the essence of the hourglass model and its importance, but also sets a new benchmark in fostering brand loyalty and customer relationships.

Today, however, the marketing funnel is broken. Instead of a linear journey, consumers, especially those in Gen Z, engage with brands in a far more dynamic and multifaceted way. They demand authenticity, engagement, and alignment with their values throughout the purchasing process. This shift has effectively shattered the traditional funnel model, rendering it outdated for contemporary marketing strategies.


Lululemon, a brand synonymous with high-quality athletic apparel, took a bold step with its Dupe Swap event, challenging the traditional marketing funnel and embracing the hourglass model’s principles.

The campaign started with an intriguing offer, targeting past customers. An email inviting previous customers to participate in the swap was the first step, building loyalty interest among a customer base that likely left the brand for cheaper “dupes” and had a more distant purchase history with the brand. 

This is where Lululemon’s campaign started going to work. It replaced the traditional transaction with an experiential swap (a targeted campaign towards the lower half of the hourglass). ‘Ex-customers’ could exchange their knockoff leggings for a pair of genuine Align leggings, turning a potential one-time traditional transaction into an unforgettable experience that increases brand perception.

The genius of the Dupe Swap lies in its post-purchase impact. By allowing customers to physically feel the difference in quality, Lululemon not only converted dupe buyers into repeat product users but also fostered a deeper appreciation for the brand. This move was likely to translate into increased loyalty, word-of-mouth promotion, and ultimately, more sales.


Lululemon’s strategy acknowledged a growing trend among Gen Z consumers: the acceptance and celebration of knockoffs. By inviting these consumers to trade their dupes for real products, Lululemon effectively turned a challenge into an opportunity. 

The Dupe Swap wasn’t just about giving away products either; it was an experiential campaign that allowed customers to physically engage with the brand. This hands-on experience is invaluable in building a tangible connection with the product and the brand.


By converting dupe users into genuine product enthusiasts, Lululemon effectively expanded its customer base. This approach goes beyond the traditional sales-focused funnel, prioritizing long-term relationships, loyalty and lastly, use of the marketing hourglass approach.

Take a look at this email from LuluLemon and how they used customer lists of previous buyers to expand the bottom half of their marketing hourglass.

The hourglass model recognizes that the real value lies in building lasting relationships. It’s not just about the first sale but about creating a cycle of repeat business and referrals. It encourages an integrated marketing approach, combining traditional advertising with content marketing, social media, and customer service, ensuring a consistent and compelling brand experience at every stage.


With the hourglass model, it’s important to consider that metrics extend beyond sales figures to include customer satisfaction scores, retention rates, and the quality of customer interactions. Feedback becomes a powerful tool for continuous improvement.


In the Marketing Hourglass framework, brand identity is not just a supporting element but a central component that influences each stage of the customer journey. From creating initial awareness to building lasting relationships, a strong, consistent brand identity is key to engaging customers in today’s complex and ever-changing market landscape. It’s about creating a brand that customers not only recognize but also relate to and advocate for in their communities.


The shift from a funnel to an hourglass in marketing represents a fundamental change in how we view customer relationships. It’s a shift from a transactional mindset to a relational one, where the value of a customer is measured not just in a single purchase but in the ongoing relationship and the advocacy they bring. In this new era, brands can create deeper, more meaningful connections with their customers, leading to lasting loyalty and advocacy. In the world of marketing, it’s no longer just about attracting and converting; it’s about engaging, delighting, and forming enduring relationships. Lululemon’s campaign is a shining example of how to do just that.


Contact Bald Agency today and embark on a journey towards a stronger, more impactful brand presence.