In marketing circles, we see a lot of time, money and effort dedicated to SEO, paid traffic, graphic design, video production etc. but less so for brand awareness. It seems strange that companies often neglect this aspect of their marketing strategy.
What is brand awareness in marketing?
In the most simplistic terms, brand awareness is how recognizable a company brand is. It involves the personality portrayed by a brand and results in increased and repeat business through people trusting and recognizing that brand.
Brand awareness has a long history in marketing, stretching much further back than the digital era, with decades of research to show its merit such as ‘Effects of Brand Awareness on Choice for Common, Repeat-Purchase Product’ published in the Journal of Consumer Research, 1990. The results showed that brand awareness was ‘a dominant choice heuristic’ and that ‘building brand awareness is a viable strategy for advertising aimed at increasing brand-choice probabilities’.
According to marketing experts Hubspot, brand awareness is the level of familiarity that consumers have with a particular brand, its name, characteristics, logo and anything else strongly associated with it. They also emphasize that when a company is starting up, brand awareness is a particularly important enabler of business growth in the early stages.
How to create a brand awareness strategy
Creating a brand awareness strategy starts with identifying what you want your brand to convey, or what personality you want it to have. Do you want people to find your brand humorous? Or do you want to be seen as exclusive? Elements like the logo, brand colors and language used in content are all part of this. Once you have a clear idea of how you want people to perceive your brand, you can develop a strategy that enables you to raise brand awareness. This should take your target audience into consideration when deciding which methods, channels and tone to use.
Like any other business strategy, your brand awareness should be measurable and have targets to enable you to monitor progress.
5 ways you can increase brand awareness
Raising your brand awareness will need its own strategy and should typically include some of these methods:
An effective brand awareness strategy involves quite a lot of work and is certainly not a quick-win option. One of the most successful methods used to grow brand awareness is to form partnerships with other brands. In a sense, it involves ‘piggybacking’ onto the recognition of another brand to increase the awareness of your own. There are different ways of approaching this; you can pay a brand, or you can offer something unique that will in turn be good for their own brand awareness, perhaps providing access to an audience demographic that they struggle to engage with.
Successful brand partnerships include BMW and Montblanc, two luxury brands with similar values and a shared custom base. The partnership works because BMW customers are highly likely to want to buy the upscale luggage offered by Montblanc.
2. Content marketing
This part involves effective content marketing that creates a buzz, goes viral and stays memorable. This can mean creating content that displays your logo that people feel compelled to share because it is either funny, useful, emotional, or engages in another powerful way with consumers.
The effectiveness of content marketing is dependent on a variety of factors that you are probably already more than familiar with; it requires high quality, focused content, delivered at the right time and using the most effective channel(s).
Harnessing the power of social media is a great way of building brand awareness, especially if you can react quickly to a current piece of big news and be creative with it. Alternatively, sometimes responding in a humorous way to a customer on social media can grow brand awareness. Forbes compiled a list of the top marketing campaigns of 2017 and Wendy’s #NuggsforCarter twitter excitement is a fine example of how a brand managed to increase their awareness in a simple way. A basic request for free nuggets in exchange for 18m retweets turned into a global mission to get Carter free nuggets, whilst displaying Wendy’s twitter handle and brand logo in all 3.7m plus retweets that were achieved.
For content marketing via social media, creating a hashtag name for your brand and using it when you promote your business on social networks will help to grow brand awareness. This should be unique to your company to ensure that other companies are not getting the benefits of your campaigns. It does not have to necessarily be your actual name but could be something related to it like KitKat using #HAVEABREAK
Events are another good way of getting your brand name out there. This could be in the form of a workshop that helps attendees with something related to your brand, or even a cocktail party. You will need to gauge the type of event that would attract your target audience whilst being newsworthy so that people go away talking about your brand, or you could arrange for the press to run an article on it.
Another highly effective method of raising brand awareness is for your company to sponsor something high profile, like an event, a sports team, or an award – basically anything that will allow you to display your brand in the public eye. Sponsoring a team that is regularly televised to large audiences is going to do wonders for raising the awareness of your brand.
A prime example of a successful sponsorship partnership is Pepsico and NFL, using a variety of effective techniques to raise the awareness of their brand with sports fans, not only through TV coverage but retail promotions, in-stadium messaging etc. Of course, this is an example of a large corporation with a huge marketing budget but the same principle applies for local/lower key sponsorship deals if you do not have the luxury of spending millions of dollars.
Your online reach is an important factor in brand awareness, so a tweet that is seen by 100 people won’t have the same power as one that is seen by 100,000. So being able to get someone with a huge number of followers to mention your brand is a great way of raising awareness. This applies offline as well, for example if an influencer mentions your brand at a conference or networking event.
Can brand awareness generate measurable ROI?
As marketers, we all know the importance of being able to generate measurable ROI to justify our budget. We mentioned content marketing earlier and this area is one of the simpler methods to measure; for example, you can easily get the information that shows how popular a social media campaign has been through the simple social network dashboards, without the requirement to buy specialist tools – although these tools do have their benefits. Measuring brand awareness is much easier with the advanced digital metrics we have available compared to the pre-digital era.
ROI for a campaign can be measured using the difference between stats before and after the campaign is launched. This can include:
- Web traffic fluctuations
- The number of followers gained on Twitter
- Or even the number of shares on a specific content item like an infographic
A recent article published in Forbes covers the concept of ROI for brand awareness, stating:
Companies shouldn’t be viewing branding spend in a vacuum; instead they should see it as an investment vital to making a brand successful.
The article writer also goes on to say that branding ‘may not be the big splashy ad that gets people in the door, but it’s the essence that makes the brand recognizable.’
They also point out that it is hard to calculate the ROI of brand awareness.
How brand awareness is measured
Whilst calculating the ROI of brand awareness can be difficult, you first need to establish how you will measure its growth.
We have just mentioned some of the most commonly used brand awareness metrics in terms of website traffic, social media followers and content shares but there are a lot more ways to measure awareness of a brand in addition to these. For example, customer surveys are a great way to gauge what people understand about your brand or whether they have even heard of it. Not only will this approach help you to measure brand awareness, you can also glean vital data that will help you to adapt your brand awareness strategy to get better results.
The analysis of online search using your branded keywords will tell you how often your company is being searched for in Google. If a potential customer is able to search for your brand using your company name then that is a clear indicator that they are aware of your brand and can remember you.
Using stats pulled from website usage, particularly in relation to your homepage will be a good measure of new people becoming aware of your brand. Google Analytics is an excellent tool for discovering how people have arrived at your website, so use data like direct traffic wisely.
The same applies for increased numbers of followers across all of the social media platforms that you use. If you use a hashtag with your brand name in campaigns, you will be able to view how many people use your hashtag as well.
Getting news coverage or any form of media mention is also a key metric in the effectiveness of your brand awareness strategy. This is often described as ‘earned media’ as you have not created the media yourself; they have mentioned you because they want to write about you.
To conclude, brand awareness is difficult to measure in monetary terms but the power it has for your business in undeniable. A strong brand will help a company to survive negative press and can help a startup business to become a competitor in their industry.