Collapsing the funnel

5 minutes estimated reading time

I was prompted to write about collapsing the funnel as a trope that marketers and adtech salespeople tell each other after listening to Jon Evans Uncensored CMO podcast. Jon was interviewing Josh Feldman.

NBC Universal TV set (3D)

Josh Feldman

Feldman is CMO at NBCUniversal’s advertising and partnerships business. He has been a long-time NBCUniversal marketer. Prior NBCUniversal, Feldman started at Turner Broadcasting, where he took on various roles including national and regional advertising sales roles. He managed client relationships for a range of TV channels including Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, TBS, TNT and TruTV. Feldman’s sales orientation partly explains his collapsing the funnel perspective.


Mr Feldman is no longer just selling 30 second TV spots at NBCUniversal. NBCUniversal is a plethora of media properties:

  • Live events such as BravoCon
  • Five theme parks
  • 1 billion reach across more than 150 countries
  • 200 networks
  • 350 digital properties

Here’s the way the podcast broke down:

  1. 00:35 – Josh’s Career Story
  2. 02:50 – How does being creative help with sales
  3. 04:17 – B2B strategies that make NBCU successful
  4. 09:41 – NBCU’s iconic programming
  5. 11:05 – The secret to building strong client relationships
  6. 14:21 – Funnel marketing and the importance of end of funnel <—–
  7. 16:34 – The popularity of Bravo
  8. 17:46 – BravoCon
  9. 21:00 – The best brand activations at BravoCon
  10. 22:51 – How brands can work with talent
  11. 24:49 – Being a media partner for the Olympics
  12. 27:59 – Josh’s advice on creativity and landing your message
  13. 31:39 – Helping smaller brands

Two aspects to collapsing the funnel

Josh’s comment about collapsing the funnel was emblematic of two separate trends going on that he encapsulated in this one segment of the show.

  • The first is that performance marketers are waking up to the fact that brand matters.
  • The second trend is the fusion of sales and marketing functions in the business-to-business through account-based marketing or what used to be a sales support function now being lionised as a ‘strategic approach’.

Brand matters

A classic example of what happens if one focuses exclusively on performance marketing is the plateauing of growth that occurred in ASOS. The ASOS story is now often cited by marketing media mix experts as an example of what happens when brand building isn’t used to support performance marketing.

In the noughties and 2010s ASOS was a purveyor of trendy clothing for young people. It started as a copycat brand over time became a competitor to Urban Outfitters and an Etsy-type platform for small vintage clothing and design boutiques.

ASOS review

ASOS took a performance marketing approach to growing its business. Over time it expanded to eventually ship to 197 countries, but 40 percent of its customer base was still in the UK.

ASOS customers and orders over time

Performance marketing drove the customer base, but didn’t drive a significant increase in the number of orders per customer over time.

ASOS basket size

When we look at the inflation adjusted average basket value, we see a steady decline each year, with a sharper drop from 2021 onwards.

Performance marketing failed to increase basket size, and each customer added was less valuable than the last. Especially when one factors in the complexity of global logistics required for customer deliveries.

This next bit is speculative, but the geographic expansion drove growth as performance marketing based growth in its established markets plateaued.

The business went into reverse after 2020. The reasons for this reversal are likely to be multi-variant including:

  • Performance marketing plateau.
  • The bifurcation of the market. At the bottom end, Shein, Temu and TikTok commerce. At the top end luxury brand websites and secondary market platforms like StockX.
  • Culture. Like other online properties including Buzzfeed and Vice News, ASOS had a millennial user base that has been somewhat aged out.
  • The cost of living crisis due to post-COVID inflation.

Let’s next think about advertising, in particular Les Binet’s explanation of how advertising really works. In this explanation summarises the conclusions of decades of Ehrensberg-Bass Institute research, alongside marketing science work by the likes of the IPA into a six line explanation.

Advertising increases / maintains sales and / or margins


Slightly increasing the chance that people will choose your brand


Making the brand easy to think of and easy-to-buy


Creating positive feelings and associations


Broad reaching ads that people find interesting and enjoyable


Targeted activations that they find relevant and useful

Les Binet – How advertising REALLY works | YouTube

ASOS failed to maintain sales and margins because they focused on targeted activations – that consumers found useful. But the utility seems to have changed over time.

This happened despite ASOS using data science to optimise their marketing with a particular focus on geo-experimentation in performance marketing rather like trialing TV ads in different TV company regions, which marketers have done for the past 70+ years.

This isn’t because Lilia and Clara are bad data scientists, indeed I think they are good marketers using data to inform their decisions. The problem was that the focus was nearly exclusively on performance marketing.

ASOS are an example that has started to persuade performance marketers that brand advertising helps performance too.


Account based marketing is a strategic approach to business sales. It depends on account intelligence and analysis. This insight is used when an organisation considers and communicates with each prospect or customer account as markets of one.

Target selection becomes important and the criteria is usually focused on the most profitable business.

In existing accounts it is focused on upselling or cross-selling products and services to the customer. The main focus is alignment of marketing tactics with sales management. This moves the focus from individuals as targets to groups of people within an organisation.

ABM isn’t about collapsing the funnel per se but about melding it and reshaping it in the service of the salesforce rather than short term and long term brand with sales.

More marketing-related content here.

More information

The Josh Feldman podcast episode.

ASOS Revenue and Usage Statistics (2024)

ASOS-related coverage on Financial Times