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Brad VanAuken Branding: Just Ask...

Building Brand Awareness

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Today, another question from the BSI Emailbag. Gard, a marketer from Oslo, Norway asks:

“Brad, I am working (and studying) within the field of marketing and am an avid reader of Branding Strategy Insider. I have not seen you discuss brand awareness. What insight can you share? Can you recommend literature on the topic?”

Gard, thanks for asking. As you point out, it is time that we write something about brand awareness. Awareness is generally viewed to be one of the two most important drivers of strong brands (the other being relevant differentiation). Past research has shown brand awareness to have a high correlation with purchase intent, market share and other important brand equity and business metrics. I have found top-of-mind unaided brand awareness for the product/service category in question to be the awareness measure most correlated with other relevant metrics and behaviors.

If your company has created a superior product offered at a price that delivers an outstanding value and supports the product by unparalleled service, but no one has ever heard of your company or its products, how many of those products are you likely to sell? Zero. That’s why awareness is so important. It is the cornerstone of strong brands.

Research indicates that the primary impact advertising has on brands is to build awareness for those brands.

What, in addition to advertising, can one do to build strong brand awareness? – (a) any form of repeated exposure to the brand and (b) a strong brand identity consistently presented. Any of the following can lead to repeated exposure:

•    Extensive distribution
•    Publicity and brand-related stories/articles
•    Publicity stunts
•    Product placement in movies, games, etc.
•    Direct marketing
•    A strong web (Internet) presence
•    Customer referrals
•    Word of mouth marketing
•    Frequency programs
•    Insignia merchandise
•    Brand licensing
•    Online and other viral marketing techniques
•    A strong presence at trade shows and in trade magazines
•    Thought leadership in the industry – white papers, speeches, roundtable discussions, user conferences, best practice benchmarking, etc.
•    Branding on employee uniforms, sides of vehicles, in front of buildings, etc.
•    Brand signature on all email messages
•    Programs promoting product trial
•    Brand-related contests

A strong identity requires a strong icon, a tagline that reinforces the brand promise, a highly functional identity system and guidelines and a champion (“identity police”) to ensure consistent use. Digital asset management systems are excellent in driving consistent use.

Another area of interest related to brand awareness is the use of MRI and CT Scan technologies to monitor brainwave activities while a subject is exposed to brand advertising. These technologies have been used to determine if information is being encoded or retrieved from memory centers and whether they evoke pleasurable or painful experiences.

I would read the Journal of Brand Management, the Journal of Product & Brand Management, the Journal of Advertising Research and the Journal of Marketing Research to identify areas of interest for academic papers on the subject.

I wish you the best with your marketing efforts.

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3 Comments

Bill Herring on August 14th, 2009 said

Keep in mind that corporate sponsorships can also drive awareness in a significant way. Done well, sponsorships should also increase brand preference and directly lead to sales.

Research your customer’s interests and activities, what competitors are doing for sponsorship, then find that sweet spot where you can “own” an event or program for your product category and target audience.

Realize that the sponsorship is just getting your foot in the door. Activation programs that build awareness and allow for interaction/relationship-building will drive preference and sales.

Burak Babacan on August 14th, 2009 said

In my mind, before the purchase, brand awareness should be linked to differentiation and “reason to buy”. Of course, once a relation has been established, you don’t need to stress the “reason to buy” but focus on “brand personality”. Still, awareness is important both before and after situations.

Adam Banfield on August 18th, 2009 said

Let’s not forget however that awareness without a healthy dose of consumer engagement leaves you with a brand everyone knows, but doesn’t love. Enter Nokia and the battle it’s currently facing against the iPhone, Levis and its continued demise at the hands of a number of European denim labels. A brand resting on awareness alone is a house made of sticks waiting for the big bad wolf to come along and do what he does best!

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