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Pinterest is garnering lots of attention these days, and for good reason. Pinterest’s core monetization model is built on advertising, but it would be a mistake to oversimplify the opportunity through basic comparisons to companies like Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Twitter. In truth, Pinterest has done something that few other platforms have done to date: It’s carved a spot for itself in the middle of the consumer consideration funnel and extended that strength to all stages of the customer lifecycle.

The top and bottom of the funnel have become increasingly challenging places for brands in recent years. At the top, with linear TV and other general awareness tactics, advertisers have long accepted proxy metrics around audiences and results — metrics that are increasingly untenable in today’s performance-driven marketing environment. Meanwhile, at the bottom of the funnel, direct-response-driven tactics on platforms like Google and Amazon are staking claim to the majority of credit when it comes to demonstrable conversions, simply because they happen to be the platforms to which consumers turn when they’ve already decided to make a purchase.

To date, the mid-funnel — where consumers turn for inspiration and are open to influence along their paths to purchase — has been largely shrouded from marketers’ view, but it’s this understanding that is increasingly vital to marketing efficacy and efficiency. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat have carved out positions here but Pinterest has derived its strength within the mid-funnel since day one, and it’s leveraged this position to develop a full-funnel solution of great value to brands.

More than 250 million people are now using Pinterest every month to immerse themselves in new ideas and deepen their engagement with their favorite hobbies. Interestingly, a full 97 percent of the most popular searches on Pinterest are unbranded — meaning searchers on Pinterest are truly in exploration mode. They haven’t made up their minds yet. They don’t know exactly what they want. Instead, they come to Pinterest to be inspired, and they are open to all sources of inspiration, whether those be brand sponsored or consumer generated. In this context, brands are welcome additions within the community, and the visual nature of Pinterest’s search engine opens up vast possibilities for advertisers.

Because mid-funnel consumer activity revolves so heavily around content, tracking impact in this realm has been historically difficult. To date, lower-funnel ad platforms have been the beneficiaries of this opacity when it comes to claiming credit for conversions. But with Pinterest, a new standard for return-on-investment has been brought to influential mid-funnel activity.

Pinterest offers a deep understanding of the effects of a brand’s efforts and that translates directly to ROI. It’s doing this with a smart diversity of ad products that extend across the consumer lifecycle. First and foremost, it captures interest and influence via its Promoted Pins placement, but then it goes further to expand its strength into the upper and lower funnels via high-impact branding vehicles like Promoted Video and direct-response-focused offerings like Shopping Ads.

Pinterest is putting the rest of the industry on notice: Brands require greater transparency across the customer journey — particularly within the mid-funnel, where Pinterest shines. There are plenty of reasons to get excited about Pinterest, but it’s the company’s ownership of the mid-funnel opportunity and expansion to full-funnel that makes it a true advertising gamechanger.

Aaron Goldman is CMO of 4C Insights.

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